News

News
9 May 2014

In Tanzania, connecting geology with people

New TWAS Fellow Evelyne Mbede, a volcanologist, is making a difference in people's lives in Tanzania.

Evelyne Mbede grew up in a town called Makambako in the southwestern highlands of Tanzania with her father, Mwalimu Esau Isikaka Alatanga Mbede, a local elementary school teacher. "When I was growing up it was during the Apollo mission, and my father used to tune into BBC radio and I used listen a lot about going into space," said Mbede. "I used to love that one day I could be able to go into space."

When she entered the University of Dar es Salaam, she found that the university did not have a space-related programme, but it did have geology, which was still close to her dreams. She may have never been to space, but her understanding of Earth and other planets has at least partly fulfilled her dream, and she enjoys the vigorous field work that comes with being an Earth scientist.

She is now the director of science and technology within the Tanzanian Ministry of Communication, Science and Technology in Dar es Salaam, and a member of the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD). And she was recently elected as one of 52 new TWAS Fellows.

Volcanology and seismology are important in Tanzania because it sits on an active tectonic belt where some volcanoes are active. The mountain Ol Doinyo Lengai, which means 'Mountain of God', is an active Tanzanian volcano in the East African Rift. It is one such place where universities and the government monitor tremors in an effort to discern when the volcano is on the verge of eruption. They also warn locals of the dangers present, as well as tourists who come to see the Tanzanian mountains, such as Mt. Kilimanjaro, which is dormant but in a neighbouring region of Ol Doinyo Lengai.

Part of Mbede's work means going to villages and talking with local citizens to help them understand volcanism and seismicity, and instructing them on what they need to do should an earthquake or eruption strike and how to be prepared. This is an effort that began after a series of earthquakes hit Tanzania's Rungwe region in 2000 and 2001, leaving more than 2,000 people homeless.

"Most of the people of the current generation were building houses as if they lived in the non-seismic part of the country," she said. "Basically, we have to raise awareness about distinguishing houses built in seismic zones."

Mbede said being elected a TWAS member is a great honour. "I'm really grateful to have been elected a TWAS fellow," she said. "I really feel that this is an opportunity for me to interact with scientists from all parts of the world, to be able to contribute to the society as a whole."

* * *

Every year TWAS elects dozens of scientists who have taken great strides in advancing their chosen fields as TWAS members. Some of them live and work in the developing world and some are researchers in developed countries whose efforts contribute to scientific growth the South. Candidates for membership are nominated and evaluated by established members, and then elected from a short-list each year by panels of members at the TWAS General Meeting.

At the 2013 General Meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, they elected 52 new members, raising the total membership to 1,110. Of the new members, 12 are from India, 11 are from Brazil, nine are from China, four are from Taiwan, China, and two are from Vietnam. One each was elected from Australia, Azerbaijan, Benin, Ethiopia, France, Japan, Kenya, Pakistan, South Korea, Tanzania, Thailand, the United Kingdom, the United States and Venezuela. Six of the 52 new members are women. Regionally, 29 are from developing countries in Asia, 11 from Latin America, 3 from Sub-Saharan Africa, and none are from the Arab Region.

  • Section 1, Agricultural Sciences: Ricardo Antunes de Azevedo of Brazil; Zeyaur Rahman Khan of India; Papa Abdoulaye Seck of Senegal; and Zhu Yuxian of China.
  • Section 2, Structural, Cell and Molecular Biology: Soo-Chen Cheng of Taiwan, China; Takashi Gojobori of Japan; Tao-Shih Hsieh of Taiwan, China; Helena B. Nader of Brazil; and Jayant Udgaonkar of India.
  • Section 3, Biological Systems and Organisms: Anwar Gilani of Pakistan; Jitendra Paul Khurana of India; Luiz Drude de Lacerda of Brazil; Lee Sang Yup of Republic of Korea; and Raman Sukumar of India.
  • Section 4, Medical and Health Sciences including Neurosciences: Abraham Aseffa of Ethiopia; Mauricio L. Barreto of Brazil; Kathryn Song Eng Cheah of Malaysia; Yuk Ming Dennis Lo of China (winner of TWAS's 2012 Ernesto Illy Trieste Science Prize); Narinder Kumar Mehra of India; and Viswanathan Mohan of India.
  • Section 5, Chemical Sciences: Christian Amatore of France; Vanderlan da Silva Bolzani of Brazil; Pratim Kumar Chattaraj of India; Xiao-Ming Chen of China; Song Gao of China; Martyn Poliakoff of the United Kingdom; and He Tian of China.
  • Section 6, Engineering Sciences: Ali Abbasov of Azerbaijan; Chennupati Jagadish of Australia; Anurag Kumar of India; Ranjan Kumar Mallik of India; Mei Hong of China; and Bhim Singh of India.
  • Section 7, Astronomy, Space and Earth Sciences: Eduardo Luiz Damiani Bica of Brazil; Alexander Wilhelm Armin Kellner of Brazil; Shaw Chen Liu of Taiwan, China; Evelyne Isaack Mbede of Tanzania; David Ruffolo of Thailand; and Sreedharan Krishnakumari Satheesh of India.
  • Section 8, Mathematical Sciences: Artur Oscar Lopes of Brazil; Quoc-Khanh Phan of Vietnam; Hoang Xuan Phu of Vietnam; and Ivan Shestakov (Chestakov) of Brazil.
  • Section 9, Physics: Nathan Berkovits of Brazil; Adalberto Fazzio of Brazil; Anamaría Font of Venezuela; Shih-Chang Lee of Taiwan, China; Juan Martin Maldacena of the United States; Deepak Mathur of India; and Bao-Gen Shen China.
  • Section 10, Social and Economic Sciences: Kaushik Basu of India; and Jikun Huang of China.

– Sean Treacy

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