Calestous Juma: Africa rebooting

Calestous Juma‘s latest opinion piece in the April 2015 issue of NewAfrican Magazine:

We all know Africa is a continent full of innovation. Now policy makers at all levels must put this strength, along with scientific and technical development, at the centre of economic strategies. Fortunately, the African Union has recently adopted a strategy that seeks to do exactly that.

“The 10-year Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA-2024) recently adopted by the African Union (AU) embodies this vision. Its mission is to “accelerate Africa’s transition to an innovation-led, knowledge-based economy.” The strategy is part of the longer-term Agenda 2063 – the AU’s development vision and action plan.”


Kimani Toussaint led research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that demonstrates the first-ever recording of optically encoded audio onto a non-magnetic plasmonic nanostructure, opening the door to multiple uses in informational processing and archival storage.

To demonstrate its abilities to store sound and audio files, Toussaint and fellow researchers created a musical keyboard or “nano piano,” using the available notes to play “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” (listen below).

“The chip’s dimensions are roughly equivalent to the thickness of human hair,” he says.



Nano piano’s “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”


Toussaint-nano piano

Nano piano concept: Arrays of gold, pillar-supported bowtie nanoantennas (bottom left) can be used to record distinct musical notes, as shown in the experimentally obtained dark-field microscopy images (bottom right). These particular notes were used to compose ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.’

Carlos Castillo-Chavez, Diego Chowell, Sri Krishna, Xiangguo Qiu, and Karen S. Anderson report that the effect of early diagnosis of pre-symptomatic infections is strongly dependent on the effectiveness of isolation of infectious individuals in health-care settings:

“Our results suggest that a strategy that focuses on early diagnosis of high-risk individuals, caregivers, and health-care workers at the pre-symptomatic stage, when combined with public health measures to improve the speed and efficacy of isolation of infectious individuals, can lead to rapid reductions in Ebola transmission.”


Coco Fusco‘s commentary in The New York Times (12/15/2014) compares the recent protests over police aggression with Occupy Wall Street demonstrations: “Indeed, occupy activists are sharing tactics with organizers in Ferguson and elsewhere.”


André Taylor‘s latest paper on improving carbon nanotube electronics was highlighted by theAmerican Chemical Society’s Chemical & Engineering News. In “Role of HF in Oxygen Removal from Carbon Nanotubes: Implications for High Performance Carbon Electronics,” Dr. Taylor and his team report that hydrogen fluoride plus electric current purifies nanotubes, improves their electronic properties.


Carlos Castillo-Chavez on Ebola in Texas

Carlos Castillo-Chavez of Arizona State University and colleagues recently published “Temporal Variations in the Effective Reproduction Number of the 2014 West Africa Ebola Outbreak” for the National Academy of Engineers. The second edition of Dr. Castillo-Chavez’s book, Mathematical Models in Population Biology and Epidemiology (with Fred Brauer) is now available for purchase online in Mandarin. In September, he and Sergei Suslov were awarded the Leonhard Euler Prize 2014 in Homburg, Germany for their research contributions.



Dr. Castillo-Chavez and Randy Atkins of WTOP News discuss how a new mathematical model can assess the growth rate of an Ebola outbreak as it happens.


Jason Sello and his colleagues at Brown and MIT will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this month. The paper is entitled “Crystal structure of Mycobacterium tuberculosis ClpP1P2 suggests a model for peptidase activation by AAA+ partner binding and substrate delivery”. Sello’s co-authors are MIT’s Prof. Robert Sauer (Sello’s MLK faculty host) and Karl R. Schmitza, as well as Brown University’s Daniel W. Carneyb.

The research shows “new details about how a promising new class of antibiotics attacks the bacterium that causes tuberculosis” and “could provide a blueprint for developing drugs aimed at fighting TB.”


MIT News Q&A with Calestous Juma

How can Africa find new ways to spark economic growth? That was the focus of “Africa Rebooted,” a wide-ranging public symposium hosted by the Center for International Studies moderated by Calestous Juma on Sept. 24 at the Whitehead Institute.

MIT News: You have worked with the African Union as a high-level advisor to develop its new 10-year Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa, which is a focal point of tomorrow’s Starr Forum symposium. What are some of the distinctive features of this roadmap, regarding the contemporary challenges of growth across the continent?

Juma. The key distinctive feature of the strategy is the recognition that Africa cannot sustain economic growth and promote prosperity without significant investments in technological innovation…READ MORE

In his latest piece for Al Jazeera, 2014-15 MLK Visiting Professor Calestous Juma discusses how African universities will become irrelevant if they don’t focus on the role of science and engineering in development.

“To implement the vision, African organisations are exploring partnerships with leading science and technology universities around the world. An example of this is the Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation in Africa that will be host by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on September 24.”


‘At the intersection of gender, race and science,’ Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is showcased in L’Oreal Foundation’s Discover Her series along with four other amazing women astronomers who are making science happen.

“Yuri Gagarin, Neil Armstrong, Stephen Hawking… Some of the most well-known names in space exploration and astronomy. But let’s not forget about the inspirational women who have contributed to the field…”