Prof. Esther Murugi Kahangi who has for the past ten years served the University as the Deputy Vice Chancellor in Charge of Research, Production and Extension Division (RPE), has finally called it a day!
Kahangi – who has served for a maximum of two terms – made the announcement of her exit at the helm of RPE Division during the exit seminar she hosted at the University, Wednesday, April 12.
During the seminar, titled: Ten-year Tenure as Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research, Production, and Extension (2007-2017), Prof. Kahangi gave a kaleidoscopic panorama of the RPE Division; sketching the historical journey, the achievements made, present state of affairs as well as forecasting the university’s future prospects as a vibrant crucible for training, research and innovation.
Illuminating on the role of a research university in the context of a knowledge-based economy, the Professor of Horticulture contended that “universities have emerged as key elements in the innovation systems, both as human capital and as seedbeds of new businesses,” adding that “the emergence of an entrepreneurial university is a response to the increasing importance of knowledge in national and regional innovation systems and the recognition of the university as critical player in the process of invention and technology transfer.”
A leading researcher renowned for her pioneering groundbreaking research on the development of Tissue culture banana seedlings in 1991, Prof Kahangi remains a household name in local and regional circles for being the brains behind the Ksh. 3 billion tissue culture banana enterprise in Kenya, which has elevated JKUAT on a venerated research and training pedestal.
Kahangi whose teaching, research experience spans over three decades having served in various capacities including as the Dean, Faculty of Agriculture; Director, Institute of Biotechnology Research (IBR), and Chairperson, Horticulture Department – has raised over 4000M USD in research grants, recognized locally and internationally: Fullbright African Scholar (1991), 2004 Eve Woman of the Year (Eve Magazine), Elder of the Burning Spear (EBS, 2005) among others.
In his address to the university community, University Chancellor Prof. Geoffrey Ole Maloiy termed the exit seminar as “a signal that we have a friendly and healthy academic environment in JKUAT,” noting that a good environment was conducive for high quality academic and scholarly work that is key in attracting research funds.
Prof. Maloiy challenged university researchers to publish their papers in globally reputable high impact journals. He also called for the creation of a university grant body that would be charged with ensuring the university benefits from research grants that are coming up.
Prof. Imbuga, characterized Prof. Kahangi as her contemporary and recalled the first day they met at JKUAT during professorial interviews in the mid 80’s and congratulated her for the great work and distinguished service she has rendered to the university particularly in providing leadership on research issues and wished her a productive and engaging life after her tour of duty in RPE.
A major highlight of the seminar was the presentation of the inaugural Chancellor’s Awards, that saw the University recognize outstanding researchers with Dr. Daniel N. Sila bagging the Award for the Researcher who has Leveraged Most Research Funds through various projects amounting to KES 850 million, which include – soliciting funds for setting up of the JKUAT Legume Center for Excellence for Food and Nutrition Security funded by the VLIR-UOS Belgium to the tune of KES 400 million, as well as receiving a further KES 400 million from the European Union to build a reference laboratory for food fortification in Kenya. “Dr. Sila is a team player, very good in proposal writing and has grown to be an internationally acclaimed scientist with partners all over the world. He is a young scientist with vision and an example to many JKUAT researchers,” read the citation.
The Institute of Energy and Environmental Technology (IEET) led by Prof. Robert Kinyua, through its research groups (IEET, Engineering and Science) clinched, the Most Notable Contribution to the Field Study Award for having “… brought visibility to the area of renewable energy research, innovation and training…collaborated with external universities (the Stony Brook University ,US, Ashikaga Institute of Technology and Osaka City University, both of Japan) to improve research and training through procurement of equipment, development of training curricula and training manuals. Training courses and training manuals in solar Photovoltaics, small wind and biogas technologies have been developed through collaboration with various stakeholders.”
Individual researchers, who have attracted research grants of over Ksh.50 million were also recognized and awarded: Prof. John Wesonga, Prof. Bancy Mati, Prof. Christopher Kanali, Prof. Robert Kinyua, Prof. Judith Okoth,Prof. Bernard Ikua, Prof. Robert Gituru, Dr. Stephen Dianga, Prof. Willis Owino, Dr. John Kinyuru and Dr. Judith Okoth.