Go back

Kwame Nkrumah University researchers win awards

Samuel Nii Odai and Esi Awuah from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) have won first and second place in Ghana’s inaugural Best Research Scientist awards.

Odai, who heads the water research group in the KNUST civil engineering department, came in first in the Best Research Scientist awards.

Esi Awuah, who did her undergraduate degree at KNUST and later became an associate professor in the university’s civil engineering department, came in second.

KNUST, a public university established in 1952, is located in Kumasi. KNUST is among the top fifteen African universities in the Webometrics rankings run by Spain’s Cybermetrics Lab.

The awards were announced at the first Ghana Research Science Congress.

The awards were instituted this year by the Ghanaian ministry of environment, science and technology, led by Sherry Aryeetey.

Odai also directs the university’s water and environmental sanitation centre and is the editor-in-chief of the Ghana Journal of Science and Technology, available through African Journals Online (AJOL).

Odai received 15,000 Ghanaian Cedi (US$ 9,839) and a laptop. He was also given an additional grant from Vodafone Ghana worth 10,000 Ghanaian Cedi (US$ 6,557) to undertake further research.

“The award is in recognition of my various contributions to knowledge development and research output in the water, environment and sanitation sector,” he said.

Odai said he was also working “on the productivity of water in small reservoirs and irrigation technologies in the semi-arid region of Ghana” and “on heavy metal contaminations in vegetables irrigated with waste water from urban drains.”

Odai told Research Africa that the awards “bring some recognition.’’

‘‘More is expected of an awardee, hence one works hard to maintain a good standard,” said Odai, who also heads the KNUST quality assurance and planning unit.

Odai said the awards were important as “there is no special opportunity to attract funding from government and institutions for further research anyway.”

Odai’s exploratory research uses mathematics to understand and predict the unstable movement of water.

He relies for much of his work on the Burgers’ equation, named after Dutch physicist Johannes Martinus Burgers, the co-founder of the International Union of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics (IUTAM) in 1946.

Odai also uses the shallow water open flow equations first developed by a French mathematician in the early 1800s – equations which became the foundation of modern hydraulic engineering.

Odai graduated from Hohai University in China where he graduated with his initial undergraduate degree in irrigation and water conservancy engineering. He then obtained his master’s and doctoral degrees at Japan’s Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology.

His area of specialisation is in computational hydraulics and water management.

His research findings have been published in the Journal of Hydraulics, published by the American Society of Civil Engineers; the Journal of Hydraulic Engineering, published by the International Association for Hydro-Environment Engineering; and Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, an Elsevier journal.

Odai’s KNUST colleague, civil engineering lecturer Esi Awuah, received 10,000 Ghanaian Cedi (US$ 6,557) and a laptop for coming in second place.

The award “is a very big encouragement for young scientists who are coming into the sector, that research is very rewarding,’’ Awuah said.

Awuah said such awards showed academics that ‘‘they should make a research plan and try to solve some of the problems in the sector for development.’’

She said that raising funds for research was a significant contributor to the award, in addition to her self-funded research into diseases related to water development projects.

“I was awarded based on my research publications in environment, water and sanitation, and the numerous contributions toward the raising of funds for research in the university,’’ Awuah said.

Her interests are in environmental impact, water quality management, natural treatment systems, and water supply and sanitation.

She also noted her involvement in projects which translate research into practical benefits.

Such projects included “the construction of latrines in a community near the university and providing training for artisans in latrine and hand-dug wells construction,” Awuah told Research Africa.

‘‘I also serve as a role model for several female science and engineering students in the secondary and tertiary institutions to emulate.”

She also noted her work in ‘‘serving on very progressive environment and sanitation improvement boards locally and internationally.”

Awuah directs the Scientists Networked for Outcomes from Water and Sanitation (AfricanSNOWS) project, funded by the UK-based Wellcome Trust charity.

She also works on the Accra section of the international Managing Water for the City of the Future (SWITCH) project. SWITCH is a major research partnership funded with over twenty million Euros by the European Commission with a budget exceeding €20 million over the period 2006 to 2011.

Awuah obtained her undergraduate degree in biological sciences from KNUST, and an MSc in environmental science from the College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse University in New York, US.

In 2006 she obtained her PhD in wastewater treatment from the largest water education facility in the world, the Institute for Water Education, located in the Netherlands.

The institute falls jointly under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Netherlands’ University of Wagenigen.