ISP Stories

ISP´s Leif Abrahamsson honoured in Uganda

1 August, 2023

Makerere University, Uganda, honours Leif Abrahamsson for his contribution to the development of mathematics in East Africa.

As part of establishing the everlasting memories of Dr Abrahamsson, Makerere University will establish the Leif Abrahamsson permanent chair for supporting mathematics in the Eastern Africa Region.

This news was announced in the beginning of August during the opening ceremony of the four-day Joint African-Nordic conference in mathematics, an event organized to share research findings and take stock of the Nordic support for mathematics in the region in the past 20 years.

ISP started support to mathematics in 2002, and Leif is the founder of the ISP mathematics program.

Congratulations Leif!

Leif Abrahamsson at Makerere University, Uganda.

Photo from left: Prof Barnabas Nawangwe, Vice-Chancellor of Makerere University, HE Dr Monica Musenero, Ugandan Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation, and Leif Abrahamsson.

Sida funding of ISP drastically reduced!

1 March, 2023

In late February 2023, ISP was notified that Sida will cut the funds to ISP from the agreed 35 million SEK to only 15 million SEK!

The expected Sida contributions to ISP in 2024 and 2025 are 10 and 7 million SEK, respectively.

This drastic reduction is ultimately an expression of the changed view on development cooperation adopted by the new, conservative Swedish government.

Immediate effects on ISP are profound, and will severely affect already awarded grants to research groups and scientific networks. For example, ISP can not undertake to support any new PhD or MSc students. As far as possible, highest priority will be given to on-going students, in particular those in sandwich mode.

The regrettable development constitutes an immense challenge for us all. For the coming years, ISP intends to intensify its fundraising efforts, with the aim to secure better financial solidity.

Angry faces


27 February, 2022

UN has proclaimed 1 July 2022 to 1 July 2023 as the International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development (IYBSSD).

The IYBSSD will show the ways in which curiosity-driven research is vital to ensure good health for all, to overcome hunger, to fight climate change, to preserve terrestrial and marine biodiversity, but also to increase world peace and fight inequalities.

Together, scientists from all fields will reach out to the general public and to decision-makers, both public and private, to support the development of the basic sciences, especially in parts of the world where they are still insufficiently developed.

In addition, 2022 marks the centenary of two important international scientific unions, IUPAP (Physics) and the International Mathematical Union (IMU).

IYBSSD puts the spotlight on the basic sciences, and since ISP focuses on the basic sciences, it is easy to understand that ISP strongly supports this event.

ISP arranges scientific webinars during 2022. ISP is also part of the International Advisory Committee of IYBSSD2022.

Logo for the International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development

ISP Alumnus rewarded by Gates foundation

November 2021

ISP Alumnus Prof Collen Masimirembwa has been awarded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Calestous Juma Science Leadership Fellowship!

The award of 1 million USD over a 5-year period will enable Collen to promote drug and diagnostics innovation across Africa through centres of excellence in Zimbabwe, Kenya and Nigeria, using Pharmacogenomics as a flagship program.

Professor Collen says:

As a long time ISP Fellow, from my PhD studies, through to over 10 years of research & training support, I wish to thank ISP which obviously contributed to the recognition of the work we do here at AiBST over the years.”

Professor Collen founded the African Institute of Biomedical Science and Technology (AiBST) in 2002. At the time, Prof Collen was working for a leading global pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca, in Sweden as a Principal Scientist.

In the beginning AiBST organized courses on the science and technology of drug discovery and development. The courses generated tremendous interest among African scientists resulting in forming the African Society for Drug Metabolism and Development and the African Pharmacogenomics Consortium.

With support from pharmaceutical companies and funding organizations, AiBST established state-of- the-art biomedical research laboratories and a Phase I Clinical Trial Unit in Harare, Zimbabwe. The AiBST biomedical laboratory was officially opened in 2005 by the Zimbabwean Minster of Science and Technology Development. AiBST has also established satellite laboratories, one at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and another at the University of Nairobi, Kenya. During the Covid-19 pandemic, AiBST is a designated SARS-CoV-2 testing laboratory in Zimbabwe.

Today AiBST has a postgraduate training program at Master´s and PhD level to produce the next generation of African biomedical scientists.

AiBST has established itself as both a pioneer and champion in the fields of Genomic and Pharmaceutical Medicine, Forensic Science and Molecular Diagnostics.

One of the discoveries Professor Collen and his group have made is that a genetic variance very common for African people, explains why Africans show more side effects to anti-HIV-drugs.

Professor Collen was an ISP funded sandwich PhD at Karolinska Institute. ISP has also supported his organization AiBST from 2008. AiBST is now self-sufficient and ISP support has been phased-out.

Thank you, Collen, for being part of the ISP family! We are looking forward to hear more about your and AiBST´s groundbreaking research in the future.

Read more about AiBST (African Institute of Biomedical Science and Technology)

*Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) launched the Calestous Juma Fellowship program earlier this year to meet the need for strong science leadership in communities around the world.

Collen Masimirembwa

Anders, Hugo and Maria

31 January, 2021

In the first sentence of his inaugural speech Uppsala University Vice-Chancellor Anders Hagfeldt mentioned his ISP supported PhD students Hugo and Maria from Peru. But what are Maria and Hugo doing today? What do they think about Uppsala University´s new Vice-Chancellor and about ISP?

Professor María Quintana, what do you do today?

- After finishing my postdoc with Anders´ solar cells group, I came back to my country, Peru. I started working at my former university, National University of Engineering, as researcher and teacher. I got a position as Professor teaching thermodynamics.

My research on renewable energy allowed me to obtain a new position in another university, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, where I am the Director of Studies of Environmental Engineering.

I work in both universities researching and teaching.

What kind of research do you conduct?

- My research group is “Urpunano”, quechua word that means “Make nano”. I'm advisor of master and doctoral students, who works on dye solar cells, light emitting diodes and in the last years making graphene for environmental applications.

What did ISP support mean to you as a PhD student?

- It was crucial. Without the support of ISP I couldn’t have started my PhD studies. In my country, it was so difficult get a scholarship for doctoral studies, specially being a married woman with children.

Some comments about Professor Anders Hagfeldt as your supervisor?

- He is an extremely talented professional and an amazing person. He always had great input to help my work, but with the right words to make it easy to understand from the very first explanation. He was always really helpful and willing to listen when the time was there, and I couldn't be more grateful for all the help he gave me.

Something you would like to add?

- I think ISP, gave me the opportunity to go to Sweden to start my PhD studies, something I could not have done in my country at that moment. I'm sure there are many foreign students that took this opportunity ISP was giving, and now are working in their own countries.

I appreciate a lot the help Pravina and Hossein (ISP staff; editor´s note) gave me every time I went to Sweden.

I think If I went to another country to do my doctoral studies I might have failed or maybe I wouldn't have finished. In Sweden, not only did I learn about science, I learned about equality, about being environmentally conscious, about helping others in disadvantage, and about to sharing knowledge with everybody, just like Anders Hagfeldt did.

Thank you for your time, Professor Quintana!

Professor Hugo Alarcón Cavero, what do you do today?

- I am a principal professor of the National University of Engineering in the Department of Chemistry of Faculty of Science, where I give lectures about physicochemistry and materials science at undergraduate and postgraduate level. Furthermore, I am the leader of GISMA (Synthesis research of advanced materials) group which are made up by Master and Doctoral students.

What kind of research do you conduct?

- Nowadays, my research is focused on the synthesis of novelty materials, with particular focus on metallic oxides by electrochemical methods, Sol-gel, dip coating among other techniques for applications in: water treatment by electrochemical methods, hydrogen generation by water splitting and reduction of CO2 for the generation of alcohols.

What did ISP support mean to you as a PhD student?

- The support given by ISP was very important and it meant for me a take off at a professional level, especially as a researcher. Indeed, it allowed me to know a different way of conducting a research, being part of a group in Uppsala with Prof. Anders was incredible because I was able to establish direct communication with high level researchers, with which I gained a lot of experience with their knowledge as well as experience with the lab equipment. On another side, an important aspect was the social part that allowed me to know a different country with a different culture to generate good friends.

Some comments about Professor Anders Hagfeldt as your supervisor?

- Professor Anders, was and continues to be a good person and an excellent researcher, he was always attentive to the discussions and needs to carry out the project in such a way as to culminate with the objectives set in the research project. Besides, I always had the best attention to any detail that I needed for being a foreign student guiding me in the courses that I could take in such a way to efficiently complete my studies. I am very grateful to both Prof. Anders and the research group for the way I was treated academically and personally.

Something you would like to add?

Unfortunately, the support provided by ISP was cut short in 2007, which led to the culmination of the academic exchange that was held. Perhaps it could be resumed in some way through some agreements that allow students from Peru to access in some way to carry out exchange studies or short stays.

Thank you for your time, Professor Alarcón Cavero!

Anders, Hugo and Maria

ISP Partner - IUPAC Fellow

May 2020

ISP is proud to announce that Professor Sagarika Ekanayake has been appointed as a Fellow of the International Union of Pure & Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).

Professor Ekanayake is a renowned researcher in the field of biochemistry in Sri Lanka and she is serving as a Senior Professor at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura. Professor Ekanayake has published over 65 research articles in international and national peer reviewed journals and over 190 abstracts on topics related to Food Chemistry, Applied Nutrition, Bioactivity studies and Clinical Biochemistry.

The research group initially led by Professor E R Jansz and then by Professor Ekanayake was until 2007 one of the beneficiaries of the ISP support in Sri Lanka.

- ISP support to my department tremendously helped me and many other young researchers who were working under very resource limiting conditions to be trained in advanced research and obtain postgraduate qualifications. ISP funds were utilized to develop a research laboratory with many up-to-date equipment which are still being used. Also many young researchers got opportunities to be trained at centers of excellence outside Sri Lanka under eminent researchers which enabled us to continue conducting research contributing to the development of the country and also to continue training more students both undergraduate and postgraduate.

- Personally I attributes all my success as a researcher to the training obtained through ISP funding during my postgraduate work which enabled me to be trained under eminent scientists in various research institutes in Sweden.

Professor Ekanayake highly appreciates the support by Directors of ISP, starting with late Professor Rune Liminga who initiated supporting the SRI:07 project with Professor Jansz as the leader in 1996, Professor Malin Åkerblom during whose time she undertook the leadership of the project and current Director Dr Peter Sundin and all staff of ISP office for the continued excellent support throughout 1996–2007 and beyond.

ISP support to Sri Lanka and Thailand

ISP phased out groups and network Pdf, 1012 kB.

Sagarika Ekanayake

AiBST and the Covid-19 pandemic in Zimbabwe

19 October, 2020

The African Institute of Biomedical Science and Technology (AiBST) is a private organisation (partly sponsored by ISP) and located at the Wilkins Infectious Disease Hospital in Zimbabwe. It is a center of excellence in drugs and diagnostics research and innovation in Genomic Medicine. AiBST is one of the Government of Zimbabwe designated SARS-CoV-2 testing laboratories in the fight against Covid-19.

Through the leadership of Dr Justen Manasa, a Medical Virologist at AiBST, a team of qualified volunteers from different sectors was assembled. The team comprises of medical laboratory scientists (Takudzwa Marembo, Frank Chinowaita, Prosper Chimbunde, Donald Vhanda, Solomon Mukwenha and Lovemore Hlamalo) and medical laboratory technicians (Alice Pedzisai, Frank Mangongo and Tinashe Mandisvodza). The volunteers came from the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Harare City Council and Private sector laboratories. The team was activated in response to increasing demands for testing, which the National Microbiology Reference Laboratory was not going to be able to cope with.

Currently the AiBST lab is receiving samples from Wilkins hospital (one of the two infectious diseases hospitals in Harare), Rapid Response Teams serving Harare, quarantine facilities in Harare, hospitals, as well as other centres. Using 8-hours shifts, the lab has a capacity to test up to 200 samples per day, with a turnaround time within 72 hours.

Apart from testing, the AiBST team has been providing technical support to the National Coordinating team for the laboratory response to Covid-19. They have also been providing training on new testing protocols to ensure optimal utilisation of all testing consumables.

Professor Masimirembwa, the President and Chief Scientific Officer of AiBST and ISP alumnus, had this to say about AiBST’s contribution:

In times of national disasters such as this Covid-19 pandemic, it is both a responsibility and opportunity for science, scientists and research institutions like AiBST to rise to the challenge in service of humanity. I therefore highly commend Dr. Justen Manasa’s leadership and the selfless commitment of the young scientists who have volunteered their expertise and time to fight the Covid-19 pandemic through diagnostics testing services.

AiBST infrastructure and technical capacity has been established through support of many organizatons including the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science Technology, Innovation Development (MHTESTID), EDCTP, GHPP, ISP, SPARK GLOBAL, to name a few. This support is here acknowledged as a clear demonstration of the value of capacity building projects that have broader impact on society when confronted with health challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic.

Staff at AiBST

New network support in 2019 - a push for gender equality

January, 2019

We are happy to announce that ISP will support the newly initiated Eastern Africa Network for Women in Basic Sciences (EANWoBAS), started by ISP graduate and mathematician Dr Betty Nannyonga.

EANWoBAS group photo

The network consists of female researchers in mathematics and physicist from universities in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia. With the belief and slogan “basic sciences for all” the network envisions to be leading in creating gender balance representation in the basic sciences, on all levels from primary to tertiary education in East Africa.

- We need to create a firm base of fast thinking female scientists, because when you train a woman, you train a nation. Cultural and social barriers are hindering girls from pursuing science, and the myth that math is hard and most suitable for boys is one that needs to be permanently killed, says network initiator Betty Nannyonga.

ISP is looking forward to following and take part of the network’s important work, starting with an awareness creating marathon for gender equality in Kampala in March 2019.

More about the network

- We need to create a firm base of fast thinking female scientists, because when you train a woman, you train a nation. Cultural and social barriers are hindering girls from pursuing science, and the myth that math is hard and most suitable for boys is one that needs to be permanently killed, says network initiator Betty Nannyonga.

ISP is looking forward to following and take part of the network’s important work, starting with an awareness creating marathon for gender equality in Kampala in March 2019.

More about the network

Betty Nannyonga

Betty Nannyonga

AiBST helps Ministry to identify cyclone Idai victims in Zimbabwe

12 April, 2019

The tropical Cyclone Idai has caused catastrophic damages in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe since it struck Southeastern Africa on March 14, 2019. In the eastern part of Zimbabwe, the storm has destroyed villages and communities, resulting in thousands of displaced people, hundreds killed and hundreds still missing. Researchers from the ISP supported group African Institute of Biomedical Science and Technology (AiBST) are contributing with their skills in DNA profiling to help the Government to identify victims.

The ISP supported African Institute of Biomedical Science and Technology (AiBST) is the first DNA testing center in Zimbabwe. AiBST has been called in as a technical partner to the Ministry of Health and Child Care in the country to assist with the identification of unidentified dead and start the process of looking for the missing by establishing a DNA database of their relatives.

- I have just spend 7 days with my team in the devastated communities collecting samples from the dead and from relatives, and have now brought them back to the lab for DNA profiling. There are still many trips to make back to the communities to collect samples as findings of the missing will be made. Whilst we are doing the little we can to help, the whole experience is beyond comprehension, says Professor Collen Masimirembwa, ISP alumnus, founder and President of AiBST.

Algae Paper filter could save lives

26 August, 2019

Researchers from Uppsala University, Sweden and Dhaka University, Bangladesh, have developed a paper filter from algae that can be used to prevent numerous potentially deadly water-borne infections in Bangladesh.

Access to clean and safe water is a critical issue in Bangladesh and affordable point-of-use water treatment strategies are therefore needed. Swedish and Bangladeshi researchers have now discovered that locally growing Pithophora algae in Bangladesh can be used for manufacturing affordable and efficient paper filters for water treatment applications. Lab experiments and real-life tests have demonstrated excellent pathogen removal clearance for both water-borne bacteria and viruses with efficiency above 99.999 percent.

Professor Khondkar Siddique-e-Rabbani, Bangladeshi coordinator and ISP group leader at Dhaka University, says: “Access to clean water will contribute strongly to improved health thus reducing poverty. We are optimistic that through future development of devices the filter paper produced from the locally growing algae will be useful to prevent potentially deadly water-borne diseases and improve the quality of life for millions of people”.

Prof Siddique e-rabbani

Book Partnership with Physics Today

31 October, 2019

The access to updated academic literature, both in libraries and online databases, remains an issue in many developing countries, due to poor ICT infrastructure and lack of funds. Since 1999, a collaboration between ISP and the magazine Physics Today has contributed to stocking libraries with newer and more current physics books.

Recently, the Department of Physics at Makerere University, Uganda received a book shipment.

The American Institute of Physics’ (AIP) member magazine Physics Today annually receives a large amount of books sent by book publishers for the magazine’s New Books list. Through the initiation of a collaboration between the magazine and ISP in 1999, these books are now donated to Physics Departments in developing countries. AIP packs and arranges the shipping of more than 100 books every few months, and ISP covers the shipping costs (amounting yearly to about $9,500).

Since the start, 76 book consignments have been arranged to 35 universities in 26 countries including: Antiqua, Bangladesh, Barbados, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Colombia, Ethiopia, Eritrea Ghana, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Kenya, Laos, Mali, Myanmar, Peru, Rwanda, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Togo, Trinidad & Tobago, Uganda, Zambia.

This partnership is a small but important contribution to improve students’ and researchers’ access to updated academic literature in physics.