USIU-Africa observes the International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Science and gender equality are both vital for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Over the past decades, the global community has made a lot of effort in inspiring and engaging women and girls in science. Yet women and girls continue to be excluded from participating fully in science.

In order to achieve full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls, and further achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, the United Nations General Assembly declared 11 February as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science in 2015.

In celebration of this day, we feature some of the women making a significant scientific impact in their various fields.

Dr. Edith Amuhaya, Assistant Professor, Organic Chemistry

Dr. Amuhaya’s journey as a researcher started in her third and fourth years of her undergraduate studies at the University of Nairobi. She got the opportunity to work in a research lab under the mentorship of Prof. Midiwo and Prof. Yenesew. It was during this time that she interacted with both masters and doctoral students, and gradually, her interest in research grew.

She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry (First Class Honors), and soon after, she applied and got an admission into the PhD program in the Department of Chemistry at Louisiana State University (LSU), Baton Rouge, USA. While at LSU, she did my research work under the mentorship of Prof. Graca Vicente.

Upon graduation, she returned to Kenya, where she worked as a lecturer for two years, without doing any research. Her desire to go back to research saw her apply for a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Rhodes University, South Africa, where she worked under the mentorship of Prof. Tebello Nyokong. During her one-year stay, she not only got back to conducting research, but also learned how to supervise students and also how to manage a research lab.

Upon her return to Kenya, she continued working as a lecturer, but this time, she wrote research proposals and received research funds to conduct research. In 2017, Dr. Amuhaya joined USIU-Africa as an assistant professor of Organic Chemistry, a position she continues to hold till date. At USIU-Africa, she not only teaches chemistry courses to Bachelor of Pharmacy students, but also continues with her research activities, and has been fortunate enough to receive more research funds, which she uses to train Masters, Doctoral and Undergraduate students.

Her research focus area is in the design and synthesis of porphyrins and porphyrin-type molecules for application in Photodynamic Chemotherapy (PDT) and Photodynamic Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (PACT). PDT is a therapy used in treatment of cancer, while PACT is used in destruction of disease causing microorganisms like bacteria. Porphyrins and related molecules are simply dyes which have the ability to absorb light and these are collectively referred to as photosensitizers (because they are sensitive to light). Once these photosensitizers absorb light, they generate some toxic species which ultimately kill either cancer cells in PDT, or destroy microorganisms in PACT.

As a scientist, Dr. Amuhaya is passionate about the need to empower fellow women to help them not only get into science-based research and related activities, but also to stay in the programs. To this end, she makes it a point to always admit female students into her research group. Since 2017, she has trained 9 female students, which represents 56% of students in her research group.

From her research activities, Dr. Amuhaya has published several peer reviewed articles in international journals, in addition to being appointed to serve as a reviewer for a number of international journals. Recently, she was invited to serve on the Editorial board of ‘Frontiers in Chemistry’, one of the leading international journals in Chemistry. Additionally, as a way of acknowledging her contribution to Chemistry, she was also appointed as a member of the prestigious Kenya National Academy of Sciences (KNAS).

Prof. Naumih Noah, Associate Professor of Analytical/Bioanalytical Chemistry

Prof. Naumih Noah holds a Doctorate in Analytical/Bioanalytical Chemistry from the State University of New York at Binghamton, a Masters of Analytical Chemistry from the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa, Japan, and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Nairobi.

She is an Associate Professor of Analytical/Bioanalytical Chemistry in the School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences at the United States International University-Africa. She has a passion for teaching, research, and mentoring students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Her research focuses on the integration of green nanotechnology in healthcare in developing countries. Nanotechnology involves the manipulation of materials in the range of 1 to 100 nanometers (nm) and has introduced new avenues for drug delivery, biosensing and water sanitation among others. She is currently developing Nano-kits for rapid and sensitive diagnosis of Bilharzia which continues to be a burden in society especially in the developing countries like Kenya.

The nanokits are anticipated to improve the detection, timely treatment and control of bilharzia and as a result improve millions of lives across endemic countries, where the disease currently results in about 25 million disability adjusted life years (DALYs) lost. In addition, she is Fabricating Nano-filters for water filtration which is aimed at providing safe drinking water to millions of people and hence contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Her research work has been published in several refereed journals and she has written several book chapters on Nanotechnology.

She is one of the 2020 Organization for Women in science for the Developing World (OWSD) Early Career Fellows. She is also a member of the Kenya Chemical Society (KCS) and the Royal Society of Chemistry (MRSC).

Cynthia Adhiambo, Senior, Bachelor of Science in Applied Computer Technology, School of Science and Technology

My greatest achievement was when I received partial scholarship to study Bachelor of Science in Applied Computer Technology at USIU-Africa. It gave me a chance to pursue my dream and also get the best education.

During my studies at USIU-Africa, I got the chance to participate in a hackathon which was organized by Adanian labs in May 2021, enrolled for their mentorship program and eventually joined as an intern.

My project, Jua Kali Connect (JK Connect), connects Jua Kali artisans to the marketplace. The link of the interview with Adanian can be accessed through this link.

I was motivated to participate in the hackathon after my first experience as an intern at SIMELab under the supervision of Dr. Patrick Wamuyu and it challenged me to expand my knowledge since I realized that I did not have any job experience and was just coding without the smart business logic in mind. The hackathon exposed me to different aspects of the job market as the team from SIMELab coached us through the process. They helped us understand the importance of smart technology and solving problems and not just writing coding.

I am currently doing my internship at Adanian Labs as a backend developer working with Laravel and I have also received a full-time job offer at Ravenswood Technologies Kenya Limited as a Junior Field Technician and I will be starting training and induction at the end of this month in Nanyuki. My major is Applied Computer Technology with a concentration in Mobile Computing and Distributed Systems and I am also a representative of the IT club.

During my studies at USIU-Africa, I had the opportunity to go back to my former school Huruma Girls and mentored the form 4 students. I also mentor girls from Kibra Slum where I grew up especially at Wanawake kwa Wanawake Organization.

For more information on the International Day of International Day of Women and Girls in Science, click here.

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