Small sample of latest Ethiopian scientists honored in foreign lands by foreign gov’ts & institutions

26 Dec

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

There are many Ethiopian experts and scientists around the world, who are shining light to others: Not all of them are as known or have had the opportunities to be so: Nevertheless, they are all fulfilling their callings with dedication to others and themselves.

We would have liked to tell about their journeys in life and their successes, as our small effort to honor them. Unfortunately, such information has not been within the reach of this blog.

Certainly, we have heard the names of so many distinguished Ethiopian professors and researchers in diverse fields. We would like readers to appreciate that the only thing lacking is their data and information.

Therefore, in putting the names and stories of these few icons here, we wanted the young to be inspired. The example of the scientists mentioned hereunder says personal aspiration, hard work and time management pay handsomely in driving those trying to the pinnacle of personal glory.

Dr. Segenet Kelemu, Agricultural Scientist

Dr. Segenet Kelemu (Credit;

Dr. Segenet Kelemu (Credit;

Dr. Segenet Kelemu is the Director General of the International Center for Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) Nairobi, Kenya. She is the fourth Chief Executive Officer, and the first woman to lead icipe.

Dr. Kelemu ((a native of Ethiopia) is a molecular plant pathologist with emphasis on elucidation of molecular determinants of host-pathogen interactions, development of novel plant disease control strategies including biopesticides, pathogen population genetics and dynamics, endophytic microbes and their role in plant development. She has experienced the challenges and successes associated with African agriculture first-hand, from tending the field to directing a world-class laboratories.

Following her post-doctoral work at Cornell University, USA, Segenet joined the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) as a Senior Scientist in 1992. She was later appointed Leader of Crop and Agroecosystem Health Management at CIAT until her departure in August, 2007, to become Director of BecA. CIAT recognized her numerous contributions to the centre and its mission with the Outstanding Senior Scientist Award.

Dr. Segenet Kelemu, biology and plant pathology—Representing Africa and the Middle East, Kelemu is director general of the International Center for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in Nairobi, Kenya. The first woman from her region to attend what was then Ethiopia’s only university, Kelemu is being honored for her research on how microorganisms living in symbiosis with forage grasses can improve their capacity to resist disease and adapt to environmental and climate change. Her work is providing new solutions for ecologically responsible food crop production, especially by local, small-scale farmers. After having studied in the U.S. and worked in Colombia, she returned to Africa and is now at the heart of an impressive international scientific research network.

After twenty-five years of studying and successfully applying cutting-edge science outside of Africa, Dr. Kelemu returned from the diaspora to contribute to Africa’s development. In 2007, she became the Director of the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA) Hub at the International Livestock Research Institute, Nairobi, Kenya. Under her leadership, the BecA initiative has transformed from a contentious idea into a driving force that is changing the face of African biosciences. BecA’s research capacity, staff, facilities, funding, partners and training programs have expanded at an ever accelerating pace. She has assembled and inspired a scientific and technical team bound by a common passion for using science to enhance Africa’s biosciences development.

/Source: The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

Dr. Yeshitila Degefu, Agricultural Scientist

Dr. Yeshitila Degefu (Credit: MTT(Maa-ja elintarviketalouden tut)

Dr. Yeshitila Degefu (Credit: MTT(Maa-ja elintarviketalouden tut)

Dr. Yeshitila received his award from President Sauli Ninistö in December 2014 in recognition of the high impact research and development work he has carried out in modern molecular diagnostics of plant pathogens of potato.

This work is done, the Ethiopian scientist says, via processes safeguarding the high-grade seed potato production from emerging diseases, which in the past had been threat to food security.

Since he left Ethiopia about 23 years ago, the focus of Yeshitila’s research has rested on trying to understand the mechanisms of how plant pathogens attack plants and how plants defend themselves against such attacks.

In that context, he observes, “Over the last decade I have been more focused in the development of technology to detect pathogens in seeds and planting materials before they increase in number or are able to cause infection and damage.”

“This information is very crucial for farmers,” he pauses to stress and adds, “in order to evaluate their risks and avoid disease and crop losses and thereby avoid heavy use of agricultural chemicals, which is damaging to human health and the environment.”

His PhD dissertation dealt with the molecular mechanism of pathogenicity of the fungus causing serious disease of maize in Ethiopia and other maize growing parts of the world.

At the Helsinki University, Dr. Yeshitila Degefu continued his engagement in research work and teaching through 2004, following which he assumed the post of Senior Research Scientist at Agrifood Research Finland, connected with Oulu University in north Finland.

In 2008, he was further honored as Doctor primus (honor of Highest Ranked Doctor) on the occasion of the 2008 Solemn Conferment of Doctor’s Degrees (Promotion of Doctors), Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Helsinki.

/Source: The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

Dr.Azage Tegegne, Animal Scientist

Dr. Azage Tegegne (Credit: ILRI News)

Dr. Azage Tegegne (Credit: ILRI News)

Azage Tegegne, a senior scientist working with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Ethiopia has received recognition from Australia’s James Cook University for his outstanding contributions to agricultural research in Africa.

Tegegne, an Ethiopian, was one of 12 recipients of the 2013 James Cook University Outstanding Alumni Award given on 26 Jul in Townsville, Australia. The award pays tribute to graduates of the university who ‘have made an outstanding contribution in their field of endeavour and to the community’.

This year’s winners include lawyers, health workers, a school principal, an engineer, a wildlife conservationist and a businessman and represent citizens from Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Northern Ireland and the Philippines.

‘I accept this award and honour in the name of my beloved wife, Tsehay Azage, who passed away on 17 Jul 2013’, said Tegegne.

Tegegne was honored by his alma mater for his more than 25 years of work, including being a founder member of the Ethiopian Society of Animal Production and a founding fellow of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences. Tegegne has authored or co-authored more than 280 scientific and professional articles in journals, proceedings volumes and book chapters and has supervised and coached more than 65 PhD and MSc/DVM students.

Tegegne, who is deputy representative for ILRI’s director general in Ethiopia, manages one of ILRI’s largest research projects in Ethiopia, called ‘Livestock and Irrigation Value chains for Ethiopian Smallholders (LIVES)’. The project works to support millions of Ethiopian smallholder farmers who depend on livestock and irrigated croplands for their agricultural livelihoods.

Tegegne is a recipient of several other awards, including an honorary doctorate degree of sciences given to him in 2012 by Ethiopia’s Bahir Dar University in recognition of his contributions to agricultural research and ‘the betterment of farmers’ lives’ in his native country. Earlier this year, he was appointed representative of the Australia Awards Ambassador Initiative of AusAID to help better bridge development efforts between Africa and Australia.
/Source: The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

Dr. Solomon Bililign, Physicist

President Obama has named Ethiopian American Physicist Solomon Bililign as one of the nation's "Outstanding Science, Math, and Engineering Mentors." He received his award at a White House ceremony later that year. (Photo credit: Solomon Bililign and official White House photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama has named Ethiopian American Physicist Solomon Bililign as one of the nation’s “Outstanding Science, Math, and Engineering Mentors.” He received his award at a White House ceremony later that year. (Photo credit: Solomon Bililign and official White House photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama has named Ethiopian-American Physicist Solomon Bililign as one of the nation’s “Outstanding Science, Math, and Engineering Mentors.” He received his award at a White House ceremony later that year.

“Through their commitment to education and innovation, these individuals are playing a crucial role in the development of our 21st century workforce,” President Obama said. “Our nation owes them a debt of gratitude for helping ensure that America remains the global leader in science and engineering for years to come.”

Dr. Bililign said he followed in his parents footsteps to be trained as a high school teacher and joined the Prince Bede Mariam Laboratory School in grade eleven. “ I graduated as a physics teacher from Addis Ababa University (AAU), but ended up as a graduate assistant at AAU and taught there as a lecturer for several years,” he said.

Dr. Bililign was born in Dessie, Ethiopia. He left the country in 1987 to pursue a PhD in Physics at the University of Iowa. “Both my parents were teachers,” he said. “They are actually the first graduates of the Debre Berhan Teachers Training program then run by the US Point Four program.”

He continued: “Their first assignment was in Mekele, Northern Ethiopia where they started school under a tree by collecting shepherds from the field… that modest start grew into a big elementary school where my father served as a Principal for over 10 years and my mother taught home economics, until they transferred to Dessie. I did all my school grades one through eleven at Atse Yohannes Elementary and Secondary School.”

But Dr. Bililign’s life-journey has not always been easy. He was imprisoned and tortured during the “Red Terror” era. His father died in a car accident on his way to visit his son in prison.

When Physicist Solomon Bililign was a young teacher imprisoned in Ethiopia during the “Red Terror” era, he never imagined that he would one day receive a Presidential Award in the United States.

“While no one had to go through [what I went through], I think I have turned that negative and hard experience to my advantage, where I spent most of my time teaching young prisoners during the day and prison guards during the night, trying to give hope in a seemingly hopeless situation, and keeping myself busy and overcoming negative feelings and bitterness,” he said. “The experience also gave me time to reflect on my life and see the bigger picture in life.”

And what is his advise to a new generation of aspiring scientists? “For the young people who are intimidated by the hard work needed in science, math and engineering, I say nothing in life is easy, it is all about deciding to do it with passion. Every thing will give up its secrets if you love it enough,” he said.

Now a professor at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, Dr. Bililign is one of nine individuals whom President Obama this week named recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring. The honorees will receive their awards at a White House ceremony later this year. The award recognizes the role that mentoring plays in the academic and personal development of students studying science and engineering. According to the White House, candidates are nominated by colleagues, administrators, and students at their home institutions.

“I am humbled by the honor,” Dr. Bililign said in an interview with Tadias Magazine following the announcement. “I am just one of thousands of mentors who happened to be nominated.” He added: I am sure there a lot more deserving mentors. The recognition would motivate me to do more.”
/Source: Tadias

Betsegaw Tadele:, Ethiopian Software Engineer & Mathematician

Betsegaw Tadele is a young Ethiopian who currently lives in the United States. He first arrived in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2009 to embark on a computer science degree with a minor in mathematics at Morehouse College – an all-male, historically black college.

Befikir Kebede (Credit:

Befikir Kebede (Credit:

Four years later, it was his graduation in May 2013 and because of his academic achievements, he was the Valedictorian of the college’s graduating class of 2013. At the graduation ceremony Betesegaw was introduced as a Morehouse student, who won the departmental awards in every math class he took. Winning the computer science department’s leadership and scholarship award was also among his achievements.

The college’s president presented the Valedictorian Betesegaw Tadele on stage with pride and broke the news to everyone that after graduation, Betesegaw would be moving to Seattle, Washington, where he had accepted a position with Microsoft Corporation as a software development engineer.

The attendees of the ceremony were also reminded of the fact that Betesegaw had served the college with distinction as vice-president and president of the Computer Science Club.

The icing on the cake came to Betesegaw when it was confirmed that the American President Barack Obama would give the commencement speech at his graduation.

And as the 129th commencement of Morehouse College got underway, attended by the new graduates and their proud families, the Valedictorian Betesegaw Tadele took centre stage to deliver what would be one of the most important speeches he would ever give.

President Barack Obama sat on stage to listen to what this young Morehouse College student from Ethiopia had to say on his graduation as the Valedictorian.

Betsegaw stood right behind the lectern carrying the seal of the President of the United States for five and a half minutes to say the following words:

Mr. President – illustrious leader of these United States, other distinguished members of the platform, faculty, staff, parents, guardians, and especially to my fellow classmates – Men of the Morehouse College graduating class of 2013.

Ladies and gentlemen!

We shall remember this day! Donning our gowns, straitening our caps, circling our necks with various representations of the excellence of our four-year journey, marching proudly across the campus that we have come to know and to love so well.

We shall remember this day! We came in as freshmen, marching together to be welcomed to the house, marching together to orientation sessions, marching together to divisional meetings and advisement sessions. And finally to that infamous parents parting ceremony where we said goodbye to our childhood and girded up our loins to engage the challenges of becoming men.

Today, as graduating seniors, we came into this place – again – marching together, brother to brother, but this time, to leave to go our separate ways, to blaze new trails, to ford new streams, to chisel new stones into masterpieces that will leave the place where they stand better than we found them.

We shall remember this day! As we leave to go out into a word that is sure to test our mettle, scrutinize our strong academic preparation and challenge our resolve to lead lives not for our glorification, but for service to others.

For we are world changers, because we do not hesitate to recognize that though the world has come a long way, we still dare to imagine a better world: free of poverty, free of corruption, free of social ills, free of debilitating disease and free of man’s inhumanity to man.

We dare to imagine a world where we are literally reaching for the stars.

We dare to image a world where we can all live harmoniously with one another. And yes, we dare to imagine a world where brotherhood and sisterhood characterize all human relationships.

We will remember this day because our parents and guardians, our teachers and mentors, our role models and trailblazers made it possible for us to achieve, encouraged us to excel in arenas never engaged before.

Today, we must say thank you!

We will remember this day! Because this commencement, this glorious day of celebration and exultation gave us the rare opportunity to be among the few graduates, anywhere, who will remember 50 years from now who was their commencement speaker.

We can never forget on this day, we, the men of the 2013 graduating class of Morehouse College were privileged and honored to hear words of indescribable inspiration from one who demonstrates everyday that there is no impossible and there is no unbelievable, and there is no unachievable if you have the audacity to hope – words that are lived out everyday by President Barack Hussein Obama.

It is this daring attitude, this willingness to challenge the naysayers and the scoffers that will take us, members of the dynamic Morehouse College graduating class of 2013, to places never dreamed before, all because we came to an institution called Morehouse College, all because we came to a place that enabled us to grow, develop, achieve, believe and excel.

And for this, our hearts will forever sing:

Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit
Make us steadfast, honest, true,
To old Morehouse and her ideals,
And in all things that we do.

Thank you!

Betsegaw was given a standing ovation for this inspirational speech and for the passion he showed delivering it.

Clearly impressed, President Barack Obama gave Betsegaw a handshake and a hug before affectionately describing him in his commencement speech as “a skinny guy with a funny name.”

Another highlight of the ceremony was when members of Betesegaw’s family, including his mother, father and sister, were asked to “please stand and be recognized.”

Added reason to put out the above information here and now

We are putting out the fascinating stories of these individuals for an added reason. That is, we are also educating the TPLF designated person in the office of the Prime Minister who less than three weeks ago belittled the Ethiopian diaspora as a bunch of liars and cheats, although more than the trade policies the regime pursues fund transfers by the diaspora to the tune of four billion annually exceeds the country’s export earnings.

Sadly, it appears and we have also seen it on occasions that the man does not have any inhibition. To start with, in this age and time he chose to rely on the his lack of sense of decency in referring to our sisters who are forced to seek life of labor for themselves and support for their families away from home as maids in foreign lands as “ገረድና ያበዱ ውሾች” – a derogatory description akin to slave-maid.

His arrogance of power and that of his colleagues is disease proportions and we wish them full recovery, at least, for our country’s sakes. But we could not comprehend, why a man in that position should choose to see these human beings or address them as “mad dogs”. (click here for the details).

We do hope that in reading the stories of the above histories and achievements of those scientists, he would realize that in most instances Ethiopians are decent people. They have sense of honor and self-respect, as the marvelous achievements of the following individuals has shown.

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