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Biography of Shem WANDIGA

Kenya > Science : Shem WANDIGA

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Born on 22/09/1939 (format : day/month/year)

Biography :

Shem O. Wandiga (b. September 22, 1939) in Simbi village (Kenya), is a Kenyan chemist.

Family situation : Married, 5 children
Dr. Shem O. Wandiga is professor of Chemistry at the department of Chemistry, University
of Nairobi  and also directs the Centre for Science and Technology Innovations in Nairobi. Professor Wandiga's research interests lie in studying sources and sinks of biogenic gases; persistent organochlorine pesticides in the tropics; trace metals concentration in various environmental media; and complexes of Group VB metals with sulfur and oxygen binding ligands; climate change and health. He is the author of several papers in these areas.
He has a Ph.D. from the Case Western Reserve University, U.S.A. Professor Wandiga was
also Deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration and Finances) of the University. He was subsequently appointed as the Co-coordinator of the Policy and Planning Task Group of the Ministry of Education (1991), a US$60.million credit to Kenya Government, which he successfully help negotiate and manage; elected as Kenya's representative to the Executive Board of UNESCO (1995), President of the External Relations and Program Commission of the Board (1997), member of the General Committee and the Advisory Committee on Environment of the International Council for Science (ICSU). Fellow: World Innovation Foundation (2002); IUPAC Fellow (2004) and Chair: Kenya Chemical Society (2004); Member: The International Jury 1999-, UNESCO Kalinga Prize for the popularization of Science; 2005, L'Oreal-UNESCO Award for women, Condensed Matter Science (Physics and Chemistry); 2004, UNESCO's International Basic Sciences Programme (IBSP) Board.
Author of a large number of publications in scientific and educational fields, he has chaired several national committees on university education and been a consultant on World Bank, UNESCO and UNEP projects undertaken in Kenya and eastern Africa. Professor Wandiga was Chair of the Kenya National Academy of Sciences from 1992 - 2002, and Chair of the Pan African Committee of START (2001-) as well as past chair of the National IGBP Committee. Awarded Certificate by Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Government of Kenya (2004), for outstanding work on hazardous and toxic chemicals and pesticides. 

He credits his success to the opportunities provided to him through the Africa Airlift project which was organized by the late and notable Tom Mboya (prominent Kenyan politician) . In 1959 Mr. Mboya organized the Airlift Africa project, together with the African-American Students Foundation in the United States, through which 81 Kenyan students were flown to the U.S. to study at U.S. universities. One of them was Barack Obama's father. In 1960 the Kennedy brothers joined this project, after Mboya visited them for that purpose, and Airlift Africa was extended to Uganda, Tanganyika and Zanzibar (now Tanzania), Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and Nyasaland (now Malawi). Some 230 African students received scholarships to study at Class I accredited colleges in the United States. He often says that without such an opportunity it would have been difficult for a young boy from rural Kenya to experience the world and gain valuable knowledge which he has used to help his country.

Selected Publications :

Wandiga, S.O., M. Opondo, D. Olago, A. Githeko, F. Githui, M. Marshall, T. Downs, A.

Opere, P.Z. Yanda, R. Kangalawe, R. Kabumbuli, J. Kathuri, E. Apindi, L. Olaka, L. Ogallo,

P. Mugambi, R. Sigalla, R. Nanyunja, R. Baguma, and P. Achola. 2005. “Vulnerability to

climate induced highland malaria in East Africa .” In N. Leary, C. Conde, A. Nyong and J.

Pulhin, eds., Dimensions of vulnerability in a changing climate, case studies from the

developing world .

International University-Industry Cooperation: Camomile Project. (2001). B. Boh, D.N.

Kariuki, A Kornhauser, J.O. Midiwo, S.O. Wandiga . In: University Industry Government

Cooperation. How to make it work? Teaching Learning Manual based on examples of good

practice in research, teaching and management from chemistry and related disciplines. UNESCO-ICCS 2001, Littera Picta Ljubljana , pp. 360-388


Biomass Burning in Africa : Role in atmosphere change and opportunities for emission

mitigation. E. Kituyi, S.O. Wandiga, M.O. Andreae and G. Helas. (2005). In: Climate

Change and Africa . Pak Sum Law. (ED). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge . p79-89.


Capacity Building and Institutional Development in Higher Education in Kenya . S.O.

Wandiga, (1997) International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) UNESCO 1997.

Research Training: The Kenyan Experience. S.O. Wandiga. (1996). In: Research Training

for Development - Proceedings of conference on Research Training for countries with

limited Research Capacity. Eds. Erik. W. Thulstrup and Hans D. Thulstrup. Roskilde

University Press p.145-152.


Environment and Development : Proc. of a Public Lectures series of Kenya National

Academy of Sciences (KNAS). S.O. Wandiga and N.L. Abuodha (Eds.) Kenya National

Academy of Sciences Press, 1996.


Shem O. Wandiga and Eric Odada (2001). SCIENCE AND SOCIETY: Africa’S

PERSPECTIVE, in Science and Technology Policy ( OFW ) from Encyclopedia of Life Support

Systems (EOLSS) , Developed under the Auspices of the UNESCO, Eolss Publishers, Oxford,

UK, []



1976 to 1999 Co-ordinator of the Eastern and Southern African Environmental Chemistry

Network Workshops of the Association of Faculties of Science of African Universities

(AFSAU), Chemistry Committee.

1980 Vice-Chairman of the organizing Committee of the Regional Chemistry Conference in

Africa, The First International Chemistry Conference in Africa, July 28 to August 1, 1980. I

was responsible for the planning and organization of the conference which was cosponsored

by several international organizations and Kenya Chemical Industry Firms. The

conference brought together participants from 32 African and European countries.

1982/83 Chairman, Organizing Committee, Second International Chemistry Conference in

Africa , June 28 to July 2, 1983 .



Member, University Senate, the highest academic body 1973 - 1995. Chairman, Faculty of

Science Brochure and Calender Sub-Committee, Housing Allocation Committee.

1983 Founder Member and Fellow of the Kenya National Academy of Sciences and

Chairman of its Awards Committee.



Member, Board of Directors, Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute.

Member, Natural Science Advisory Research Committee; Mt. Kenya Baseline Monitoring

Station Advisory Panel to the Kenya Government; Chemical Industry Training Committee,

the Ministry of Labour, Kenya Government; Inter-Ministerial Committee on Solving a

Tanning Industry Firms Pollution to Thika Town; Several Advisory Committees to the

Environmental Secretariat.

Education :

June 1967: B.Sc. - Chemistry, Howard University, Washington DC, USAJanuary 1972: M.Sc. - Chemistry, University of Maryland, USAJune 1972: Ph.D.-Chemistry, Case Western Reserve University USANational Honour: EBS- December, 1986. Awarded Order of the Elder of Burning Spear,Second Class

 Achievements & Merits :

Research Interests :


My research interest lies in the design, synthesis and characterization of metal chalets

which have apparent utility as chemotherapeutic agents and as models for metal binding

dynamics in biological systems. Second interest is the design, synthesis and characterization of metal chelates with unique structural features, stereochemistry, optical activity and electronic properties. In all of my research interests the use of most analytical instruments are involved. A third interest is in Environmental Chemistry. In this project the analysis of trace elements at ppm to ppb by polarography and AAS is being studied. Dissipation and degradation of persistent pesticides in the tropics is also being studied. The biogenic emission sources of trace atmospheric gases research has also been conducted, as well as dissipation of organochlorine pesticides in the tropics.






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