Rsif scholars recognized for their research contribution to a sustainable future

During global talks on climate change mitigation and adaptation at the recently concluded COP28 in Dubai, Rsif scholars Christelle Arielle Mbouteu Megaptche and Rehema Mrutu were recognized for their research contribution to a sustainable future. Christelle (28 years) is a Cameroonian national pursuing a PhD in renewable energy at the Department of Physics, University of Nairobi (UoN), Kenya with research placement to the Korea Institute of Energy Research in Korea and Rehema (33 years) is a Tanzanian national pursuing a PhD in Natural Resource Management and Climate Change at the Centre of Dryland Agriculture at Bayero University Kano, Nigeria with research placement at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in USA. Rehema was selected as a winning candidate at the Climate, Food and Farming Global Research Alliance Development (CLIFF-GRADS) award at the COP28 in Dubai.  CLIFF-GRADS is a joint initiative of the Mitigate+: Research for Low Emissions Food Systems of the CGIAR and the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA).

Rehema is developing a CRISPR engineered strain to cut down methane emissions in cows and improve meat and milk production.  The award aims to advance one of her research objectives on developing cheap and efficient means to divert the key substrate “hydrogen” in methane production to acetic acid, which is a by-product that can be used by the cow to improve meat and milk production. Rehema believes these data are urgently needed for researchers to decide on which microorganisms in the rumen needs manipulation to both develop long term methane mitigations measures and ensure food security. The CLIFF-GRADS award comes with a grant of USD 14,000 for a 4-6 months research stay at The University of Connecticut, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology in USA.

Christelle on the other hand received a Best Paper Award for outstanding contribution to the 12th Asia-Pacific Forum on Renewable Energy (AFORE), held in Jeju, South Korea from 7-11 November 2023 with Theme: Pathways to Carbon Neutrality 2050. Her presentation was on Techno-Economic Comparative Analysis of Photovoltaic Panel/Wind Turbine/ Hydrogen Storage, Photovoltaic Panel/Wind Turbine/Battery Systems for Powering a Simulated House including Hydrogen Vehicle Load at Jeju Island (published in MDPI’s Energies journal here). Christelle is financed by the Government of Korea through a PASET-Rsif scholarship, and her research placement is at the Korea Institute of Energy Research (KIER) in South Korea.

Christelle’s PhD research work has also been published in the Journal Energy Conversion and Management (Impact factor of 10:4) here. One of the causes of frequent power outages in developing countries is the global mismatch between supply and demand, which can have devastating effects. The study highlights the techno-economic and environmental significance of using a supercapacitor (SC) as a backup in contrast to a diesel generator (DG), as well as the validation of its compatibility with storage batteries because of the provision of a robust energy management approach.

Christelle hopes that her research will provide insights into reducing frequent load shedding in Cameroon, which often leads to power surges that destroy equipment, cause fires, disrupt education services and the proper functioning of health care services.

“In Africa, our journey towards clean energy is not just a possibility; it’s an imperative. Our rich natural resources are the key to sustainable, accessible energy for all, shaping a greener, brighter future. I believe we can do it. Christelle Arielle Mbouteu Megaptche, Rsif scholar in Energy including renewables.

Christelle’s PhD supervisory team includes Prof. Bernard Aduda (UoN), Dr. Hanki Kim (KIER), Prof. Sebastian Waita (UoN) and Dr. Peter Moses Musau (South Eastern Kenya University).

Korea contributes to the Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund (Rsif) of the Partnership for skills in Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology (PASET), since 2018. Its contribution of USD 9 million is to train Sub-Saharan African PhD students and to provide grants for research and innovation projects in strategic high potential sectors. Through PASET-Rsif Korea builds strong institutions and future science leaders to drive a science and technology-led growth and development to the mutual benefit of Africa, Korea and the world. The strong partnership between the Government of Korea, universities and PASET-Rsif contributes to boost exchange between African and Korean universities, researchers and faculties in the science and technology area.

Rsif combines intra-Africa academic exchange and international partnerships for world-class doctoral training. Research placement at an advanced institution gives exposure to cutting-edge technologies and nurtures connections with global research networks.  Moreover, Rsif promotes Africa regional integration, strengthening centers of excellence and innovation ecosystems. The design of Rsif as a Pan-African partnership and a jointly pooled science fund gives better economies of scale and is professionally managed by the Rsif Regional Coordination Unit at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe).

Best paper award ceremony

Photos: (1) Rsif scholar Christelle Arielle Mbouteu Megaptche (on the right) received a Best Paper Award at the 12th Asia-Pacific Forum on Renewable Energy (AFORE) in Jeju, South Korea; (2) Rsif scholar Rehema Mrutu (in the lab) received a CLIFF-GRADS award during COP28 in Dubai. PhD student in the lab










RSIF Scholar Mabwi Humphrey desires to use his PhD to find solutions linked to food, nutrition and health

Mabwi Humphrey’s journey to his PhD studies began with his desire to join academia as a teaching and research -scientist. Upon completing his MSc degree in Molecular Biology & Biochemistry from the Northeast Normal University in China in 2015, Mabwi took up a teaching/research assistant role at his alma mater, Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology in Kenya. This is the same university where he had completed a bachelor of science degree in Biology/Chemistry. However, one of the key requirements for being a teaching/research assistant was to pursue a PhD. Fortunately, this was in line with his long-term goal of becoming a full time academic and researcher. However, despite this zeal, he lacked the funding to purse a PhD. His dream became closer to reality, when he came across the PASET RSIF PhD Scholarship in 2018! Since 2018, a total of 184 PhD Scholarships distributed across 20 countries in Africa, have been awarded. The first cohort in 2018 had 15 students and one of them is Mabwi Humphrey a Kenyan.

Mabwi busy in the Laboratory

Mabwi, who was part of the first cohort of 15 PASET RSIF students, is currently at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), Gangneung Institute of Natural products undertaking his research as part of his PhD in Biotechnology at Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania.

Managed by icipe, The Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund (RSIF), one of PASET’s flagship programs is the first Pan-African science fund that provides doctoral scholarships for African scientists aimed at catalyzing the training of 10,000 PhDs in Applied Sciences Engineering and Technology (ASET) fields. Priority is given to contributing member countries, the faculty of universities who lack Ph.D. Because funding for PhD training in Africa is very rare, RSIF has provided an excellent opportunity for them  to pursue their PhD training and advance research careers.

Joining the PhD Program

Mabwi started his PhD journey in 2018 when he received the RSIF Scholarship and he expects to graduate in 2022 and became RSIF’s first cohort of Alumni. Sokoine University (SUA), his host University in Africa, academically enjoys a good reputation in Tanzania, especially because its curriculum features comprehensive professional training in agriculture courses in diverse fields, ranging from veterinary medicine, food processing, food bioengineering, to food quality analysis courses. However, the PhD curriculum lays special emphasis on research and there is less emphasis on coursework, as part of the PhD training. The Southern African Centre of – Infectious Disease Surveillance (SACIDS-ACE) at SUA, which hosts the RSIF program at Sokoine university has exposed Mabwi to various practical laboratory and transferrable skills training opportunities.

Mabwi’s PhD thesis is on Functional Foods against Gut Microbiome Dysbiosis. Dysbiosis is associated with a number of diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, colon cancer and diabetes mellitus – modern-day Lifestyle diseases. The purpose of his research is to discover novel functional foods against dysbiosis. Because of the exposure at SACIDS-ACE, Mabwi initially developed his study on Bovine microbiomes with a purpose of tracking pathogens in beef industry. However, upon joining the sandwich program at Korea Institute of Science and Technology, he felt the need to amend his proposal from bovine microbiomes to study human microbiomes in order to align it with requirements of both his supervisor at Sokoine University and at Korea Institute of Science and Technology. To-date, he has published a paper in computational and structural Biotechnology journal and submitted his second paper for publication.

Catching the Dream

Upon completion of his PhD study, Mabwi would like to pursue a postdoctoral research to build his nascent career in academia and research and prepare him for leadership and management roles. He is glad for the funding from RSIF as well as the opportunity to study at both Sokoine University of Agriculture and the Korea Institute of Science and Technology. He also appreciates the RSIF seminars, webinars, courses and soft skills coordinated by icipe which equipped him with various important skills not only academia but also for careers in biomedical research, food biotechnological, pharmaceutical/nutraceuticals industries and management positions with the aim of improving food and health systems in Africa.

He admits that Covid 19 has greatly impacted on his academic and social life. It has changed how he works and spend his extra time, which inevitably has impacted his studies. Delivery of some of his laboratory reagents have been delayed. He has also been required to work from home or in the laboratory in shifts. More recently he was forced to quarantine for almost two weeks after a lab mate tested positive for Covid 19. Further, opportunities for conferences and seminars to present his research findings are now limited.  The limited time with his supervisor, having fitness rooms closed and sports activities cancelled has had a toll on him and many other students. These have delayed his experiments and changed his day-to-day routine hence impacting on my PhD progress.

Based on his experience, he would advise the more recent RSIF scholars to ensure that they commence their matching discussions with IPIs as soon as possible, i.e. when the student joins the RSIF funded PhD program to eliminate major proposal amendments upon transitioning to the IPI.

Contact Mr. Humphrey Andalo Mabwi