The role of scientific research and innovations in enabling social impact cannot be overemphasized. This however, cannot happen in isolation. Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) Vice Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Wambui Ngumi posits that proper dissemination of these research outputs is a critical game changer towards social impact.
Prof. Ngumi was speaking Wednesday, August 11, 2021, at the University Main Campus during the awarding of certificates to the best three scientific poster presentation winners in a competition organized by the Africa-ai-Japan project.
The award ceremony was a culmination of a competition whose organization dates back to April 2021, with a singular purpose of developing postgraduate students’ abilities in perceptive and concise scientific communication.
The competition attracted a total of 22 postgraduate researchers drawn from diverse fields of; Agriculture, Health, Engineering, Build Sciences, Information Technology, and Energy. The competitors were subjected to a rigorous evaluation by 18 evaluators drawn from different Africa-ai-Japan sub-taskforces. When the dust settled, the trio of Ariel Buzera, Evelyne Gikundi, and Lilies Kathumbi clinched the first, second, and third positions, respectively.
Buzera, a PhD student undertaking Food Science and Technology, wowed evaluators with his poster presentation of the research thesis he is undertaking; ‘Characterization of Potato Flour as Influenced by Pre-treatments and Drying Methods’. The student, who hails from the Democratic Republic of Congo, says, winning the poster competition was a serious litmus test, considering he comes from a French-speaking country.
“It was the first time I was interacting with the idea of coming up with a scientific poster, and in English, to say the least. It has boosted my communication skills. Back home I am a tutorial fellow, and this is something I will be keen to introduce to other researchers there,” said Buzera.
For Gikundi who is undertaking her MSc. Food Science and Technology, getting to network with other researchers from different disciplines during the competition was a major eye-opener, besides learning crucial skills for coming up with compelling scientific posters.
“As a Postgraduate researcher, you rarely get to interact with researchers from other disciplines. This opportunity opened my eyes to the possibilities of multidisciplinary collaborations, and how much more we can achieve when our diverse research efforts are synergized,” she said.
Kathumbi, undertaking her research in ‘Bioconversion of Organic Waste to Biodiesel Using Black Soldier Fly Larvae’ asserts that the experience from the competition illuminated how simplified dissemination of research results can be when done through proper scientific posters.
“The best part about this was when I got to explain to the evaluators what I was working on, and getting feedback and value addition to my research. These are evaluators drawn from different disciplines, and I initially worried that I wouldn’t be able to break down to them what I was doing,” she adds.
Ms. Kathumbi is undertaking her PhD studies in Civil Engineering, with a specialization in the Environment option. She is domiciled at the Pan-African University Institute for Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation (PAUSTI).
To the students who participated in the competition, the Vice Chancellor made an appeal for more ventures in multidisciplinary research collaborations, and making sure the skills gained through the competition are carried forward. She further reiterated the University’s commitment to the partnership with the Phase 2 of the Africa-ai-Japan project, pointing to the joint mission of producing research and innovation outputs that drive social impact.
In his submission, Chief Advisor, Africa-ai-Japan Project, Prof. Hiroshi Koaze intimated that the competition will be held annually, with a keen focus on mentoring young scientists to go beyond just their studies and venture into scientific communication.
His sentiments were echoed by Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research Production and Extension Division, Prof. Mary Abukutsa, who said that for a long time, the lack of proper dissemination of research outputs has been one of the weak points of research in Kenya and Africa as a whole.
“These efforts are notable to us as a Division, and we are encouraged to see this mentoring process of young researchers. This is a good precedent, and something that we’ll be keen on implementing across the University, as a way of inspiring other researchers to follow suit, and even encourage them to write more proposals,” said Prof. Abukutsa.
Also in attendance at the ceremony was DVC Administration and Finance, Prof. Bernard Ikua, Acting DVC Academic Affairs and Principal, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Prof. David Mburu, Dean, School of Food and Nutrition Sciences, Prof. Daniel Sila, and JICA Experts, Dr. Shohei Aoki, and Mai Toda.