Skip to main content

NMSU engineering professor helps organize international forum in South Africa

  • By Tiffany Acosta
  • 575-646-3929
  • Sep 30, 2019
A large group of people stand together outside.

Before the fall 2019 semester at New Mexico State University began, Abdessattar Abdelkefi, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, traveled almost 10,000 miles to discuss solutions to global challenges with students and researchers at the U.S.-Africa Forum on Nanotechnology Convergence for Sustainable Energy, Water and Environment.


The forum, which Abdelkefi organized with Mamadou Diallo, director of molecular environmental technology of the Materials and Process Simulation Center at the California Institute of Technology, was funded with a nearly $100,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. Abdelkefi, who was principal investigator, and Diallo, the co-PI, were among 17 faculty members, graduate students, NSF and World Bank representatives from the U.S. who participated in the forum in August in Johannesburg, South Africa.


“It is most important to note that this forum gave a chance to students and researchers from different sides of the world to come together to discuss problems that they want to solve together,” Abdelkefi said.


“Studying nanotechnology, nanostructure and nanomaterials is something that is really complex,” he said. “It takes a lot of people, resources and time to fully understand what is occurring at the nanoscale. When the problems are solved, the applications of nanotechnology grow. Nanotechnology has the chance to really transform and improve existing systems, structures and more.”


Abdelkefi said one of the motivations for the forum was to address issues for the sub-Saharan Africa region, where the largest share of the world’s poor lives. An estimated 25 percent of the world’s population by 2050 will live in Africa.


“A great challenge facing sub-Saharan Africa in the 21st century is the need to provide better living conditions to its people while managing and minimizing the impact of global climate change on the availability of basic necessities, such as water, energy and food,” he said.


“As countries from sub-Saharan Africa continue their substantial investments of about $300 million in the next five years in STEM graduate education, training and research to advance their development goals through the World Bank-sponsored African Centers of Excellence for Development Impact, U.S. and sub-Saharan Africa researchers, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty have a unique opportunity to build mutually beneficial collaborations to advance the implementation of a global and sustainable energy, water and environment nexus,” Abdelkefi said.


In addition to possible research collaborations and the development of a list of recommendations, another benefit of the forum will be a special issue of the Journal of Nanoparticle Research titled “Nanotechnology Convergence in Africa.”


Abdelkefi and Diallo will edit and publish the issue that will highlight and showcase nanotechnology research in Africa with a focus on convergence research that addresses global societal challenges in energy, water, food, health and environment resources.