GLOBAL: New director for developing world academy

TWAS, the academy of sciences for the developing world, has a new executive director. Physicist Romain Murenzi is credited with spearheading science-based programmes and development in Rwanda after years of civil war and genocide in the 1990s.

Murenzi replaces Mohamed HA Hassan, who is retiring after almost 30 years of service. He will be based at the academy's secretariat in Trieste, Italy, on the campus of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics, and will take up the post in the next few months.

TWAS, which promotes scientific excellence for sustainable development, has close to 1,000 scientist members from 90 developing countries. It runs capacity building programmes in the developing world, operating under the administrative umbrella of Unesco and receiving core funding from the Italian government.

Murenzi, a Rwandese raised in neighbouring Burundi, earned a bachelor degree in mathematics from the University of Burundi in 1982 and a masters in 1986. He obtained a PhD in physics from the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium in 1990.

That year he was named a postdoctoral researcher at the European Center for Advanced Training and Research in Scientific Computation in Toulouse, France. He moved to America two years later to become a principal investigator at the Clark Atlanta University Center for Theoretical Studies of Physical Systems in Georgia. He later became chair of the physics department and a full professor.

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame appointed Murenzi as Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Scientific Research in 2001, and in 2006 he became Minister of Science, Technology and Information and Communication Technologies.

During his tenure as minister, Murenzi contributed to the expansion and modernisation of Rwanda's education system and building of the country's scientific and technological capacity.

Rwanda has since became a model for science-based development in Sub-Saharan Africa spending 1.6% of gross domestic product on science and technology. Expectations are that science spending will rise to 3% over the next five year, according to TWAS.

Murenzi joins TWAS from the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington DC, where he has spent the past two years working on science and sustainable development. He has also served a Vice-president of TWAS for Africa, and serves on numerous international mathematics, science and environmental boards.

In a statement TWAS President Jacob Palis said Murenzi's successful career as a researcher, teacher, high-level administrator and policy official made him an excellent choice for the executive director of TWAS.