Romain Murenzi, a Rwandan physicist who helped shape his nation’s acclaimed science-for-development strategy, has joined the AAAS International Office as director of the Center for Science, Technology, and Sustainable Development.
The center should be a hub where developing nations, scientists, and development agencies and banks come together, Murenzi said in an interview. That could make it a catalyst that helps marshal science, engineering, and technology to address challenges ranging from hunger and a lack of drinking water to science education and environmental threats.
“Science cooperation with the developing world is a central element of AAAS’s mission, and in Romain Murenzi, we have an accomplished leader,” said Alan I. Leshner, chief executive officer of AAAS and executive publisher of Science. “He has a vision for how science and technology can help build even the poorest nations—a vision informed by his experience as a scientist, teacher, and policy-maker. We believe he will have a tremendous impact.”
Murenzi traveled a remarkable route to AAAS. He was born in Rwanda and taught math in the neighboring nation of Burundi. After receiving his Ph.D. in physics at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium, he joined the faculty at Clark Atlanta University in Georgia. In 1999, he became chair of the Physics Department.
In 2001, he returned to Rwanda to join President Paul Kagame’s efforts to help the impoverished nation recover from a 1994 genocide that left some 800,000 people dead, mainly ethnic Tutsis, as well as politically moderate Hutus.
Kagame saw science and technology as drivers of human and economic development. With Murenzi in ministerial posts overseeing education, scientific research, and communication technology, Rwanda made dramatic strides in school enrollment, health care, food production, and wireless and fiberoptic networks. Today, it is a key center in Africa’s increasingly vibrant economy.
Find a podcast with Romain Murenzi at www.aaas.org/go/murenzi.