By Mary Hearty
Dr. Sheila Ochugboju, Africa’s top plant biochemist has been chosen as the new Executive Director of the Alliance for Science, a global communications initiative dedicated to promoting access to scientific innovation as a means of enhancing food security, improving environmental sustainability, and raising the quality of life globally.
Dr. Ochugboju is a leader in science communication and has been a global advocate for science technology and innovation for more than 20 years.
“I’m excited by the challenge of leading a truly global communications program and finding new synergies and opportunities to maximize the impact of the Alliance as a thought leader in an increasingly complex world,” Dr. Ochugboju said in an interview with Alliance for Science.
She wants the Alliance for Science to live up to its name by forming partnerships with other scientific institutions and organizations to help restore and balance the political processes that lead to systems changes. A key role for the Alliance will be linking research, training and policy making while showing how it all fits into the big problem – food security.
Dr. Ochugboju sees Alliance for Science becoming the go-to source for resources related to climate change, environmental restoration, biodiversity protection, food security and above all, ending poverty. “Leaving no one behind becomes the over-arching goal,” she says.
“When you look at food security in Africa, biotech is absolutely a part of that,” Dr. Ochugboju explains. “We see technology as an enabler to leading better lives across the board. If you can’t secure your food systems, you can’t do anything. I saw that as key with the work of the Alliance.”
She envisions the Alliance creating a bridge between the micro scientific work being conducted at research centers like the Boyce Thompson Institute, which hosts the Alliance, and its macro application in resolving global challenges, like ending hunger, reducing poverty and addressing climate change, especially in developing nations.
Most recently, Dr. Ochugboju was the Head of Strategic Communications at the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), supporting vaccine delivery communication across Africa and advocating for vaccine equity.
She is also a founding member of the Network of African Women Environmentalists (NAWE), leading in the development of flagship initiatives and products such as the Earth Science Cafes, The Youth Earth Guardians and Landscape Mentors network and the Earth Reflections Podcast, which was rated amongst the leading environment podcasts in Africa in 2020.
Dr. Ochugboju graduated with a degree in Medical Biochemistry and then received her Ph.D. in Plant Biochemistry from Royal Holloway, University of London in 1996. She was awarded the Daphne Jackson Trust Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship, based at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, St. Hilda’s College, and University of Oxford in 1998.
She has lived and worked in Africa, Europe and the Middle East. In 2016, she received a WINGS WorldQuest Women of Discovery Award for developing and leading pioneering African science, technology and innovation projects. Ochugboju was also appointed as a Global Roving Ambassador for the county government of Kisumu, Kenya, in charge of the portfolio for Transformative Science and Urban Resilience.
Ronnie Coffman, Professor of Global Development at Cornell University and Interim Director of Alliance for Science intimated: “After a comprehensive executive search, we are thrilled to have found someone like Dr. Ochugboju, who has the knowledge and ability to broaden the horizon of the Alliance for Science and bring resources to counter misinformation across a more substantial expanse of scientific endeavor, especially including climate change.”
The story was originally published in Alliance for Science Newsletter.