This year's Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry workshop, bringing together young professionals from Africa, opened at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), on Monday September 2, 2013. The five-day workshop was held at the Chemistry Department of the University and was sponsored by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and the Pan Africa Chemistry Network (PACN).
The workshop was facilitated by Dr. Mathias Schaffer, a Senior Scientist at the University of Cologne, Germany, and Prof. Antony Gachanja, a professor in analytical/environmental Chemistry at JKUAT.
It was attended by 15 participants from Universities, Government Agencies and various research institutions from 11 sub-Saharan African countries. Out of this group, 5 were sponsored by OPCW while the rest got sponsorship from PACN as indicated below:
1. Dr. Vincent Madadi, University of Nairobi, KENYA (PACN)
2. Mr. Martin Wetungu, Moi University, KENYA (PACN)
3. Dr.Gilbert Ongera, Kabianga University ,KENYA (PACN)
4. Mr.Thomas Nyahanga, Maseno University , KENYA (PACN)
5. Ms. Anne Ngari,Karatina University, KENYA (PACN)
6. Dr. Marie Mbouga, University of Ngaoundere, CAMEROON (OPCW)
7. Dr. Genevieve Adukpo,University of Cape Coast, GHANA(PACN)
8. Ms. Zaahira Aumeruddy,University of MAURITIUS (PACN)
9. Mr. Merghani Ahmed Yousif, Agricultural Research Center, SUDAN (PACN)
10. Dr. Cathrine Chidewe, University of Zimbabwe, ZIMBABWE (OPCW)
11. Mr. Theogene Wiclef, Rwanda Bereau of Statistics, RWANDA (OPCW)
12. Dr. Adewale Adewuyi, Redeemers University, NIGERIA (PACN)
13. Mr. Aliapenda Mariki, Africa Institute of Science and Technology, TANZANIA (PACN)
14. Dr. Boniface Ralaibia, TWAS Research Unit, MADAGASCAR (OPCW)
15. Ms. Jane Beebwa, Government Chemist, UGANDA (OPCW)
A group photo after the opening ceremony
The workshop was opened by the Vice-Chancellor of the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), Prof. Mabel Imbuga. Dignitaries present during opening were, Professor Shem Wandiga, PACN Chairman, Professor Erick Okong'o, Dean, Faculty of Science, the two facilitators, Chemistry Department Chairman, Dr. Salim Ali Mohammed, and lecturers . All the participants were also present at the ceremony.
Prof. Wandiga addresses the workshop with Prof. Imbuga (Second left)
Professor Jacob Midiwo, the Secretary of the Local Management Committee of PACN in his closing remarks was grateful to OPCW and PACN for their support. He acknowledged the RSC for facilitating the development of the subject in the continent and especially for sponsoring the latter to arrange the workshop in a continuous annual manner.
He was impressed at the growth in the number of countries participating and was also impressed that this year, participants came even from Mauritius and Madagascar.
He also noted that while the expectations of the participants had been met during the week long training, they needed now to concentrate on the effective and practical usage of the skills acquired.
He also emphasized the need for continued collaboration amongst themselves and facilitators. They should also pressurize their institutions to acquire instruments for them to use.
He reminded them to take seriously the knowledge and skills they had gained during the training and impart to others for the realization of Africa's dreams not only for socio-economic development but also for contributions to the scientific bank of knowledge.
The week's long intensive training was closed on Friday the 6th Sept 2013 with a prayer from Dr. Marie Mbouga (a participant from University of Ngaoundere, Cameroon).
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Prof. Shem Wandiga urged the participants to take the training seriously since chemical weapons are prohibited but as the case of Syria has demonstrated, some governments or organizations still use them. "Training of GC/MS experts in every United Nations Member states is one of the reasons the OPCW which is the implementing body of the Chemical Weapons Convention, has agreed to be a co-sponsor of this workshop," explained Prof. Wandiga. He equally challenged the participants to engage in research and share the findings with the world in order to beef up chemical sciences literature from Africa. He however cautioned the participants to carefully select their publication outlets in order to remain visible. "Ensure you publish in high impact journals that will not only avail wider circulation of the information but also foster your visibility as a scientist," Wandiga exhorted.
Welcoming the participants to JKUAT, Prof. Mabel Imbuga noted that despite the endowments of the African continent, scanty scientific knowledge particularly in chemical sciences has considerably slackened the continent's bid to exploit beneficial resources. Prof. Imbuga added that JKUAT is currently working on international accreditation of all the laboratories which will make it possible for African scholars to conduct globally acclaimed research at the institution. "Besides Gas Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry JKUAT is considering additional instrumentation training in the area of High Performance Liquid Chromatography," Prof. Imbuga said.
The workshop covered, introduction to GC and MS instrumentation where participants learnt how to set up and tune the instrument effectively, basic maintenance like changing the injector liner, columns and source components like the filament, Electron Ionization Mass Spectrometry as well as running samples on the machine. In addition, Spectral Interpretation was also covered at great depth.
A section of participants during practical session with Prof. Gachanja (Facilitator)
Learning sessions were highly interactive right from the onset and at the end of the workshop in discussing the way forward, the participants appreciated the opportunity accorded to them through the sponsorship from PACN and OPCW. They requested that in future, the workshop be extended to 2 weeks or more to allow more time for hands-on experience.
Participants also established new collaboration amongst themselves and encouraged networking among their various research institutions, Government agencies as well as their Universities. Requests of similar training on other areas of instrumentation such as High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) were also made.