More ISP Stories

New evidence of capacity building in ISP programs

28 December, 2018

A new ISP study looked at where the 250 PhD's graduated from ISP supported groups and networks between 2014 and 2017 currently are working, and with what. The aim was to see if graduates are contributing to increased competence at their academic institutions or if they are making use of their skills in other sectors or other countries.

The study shows that 95% of the PhD graduates currently are working in their home countries and regions, a large majority (94%) at universities or research institutes. Some graduates are working in their home countries but outside the academic sector at research councils, ministries and national authorities. A few graduates are working outside their home countries and regions, most employed at academic institutions.

These results are in line with the findings of previous ISP tracer studies and indicate that ISP is contributing to building capacity at academic institutions in supported countries.

Read the report Pdf, 1012 kB.

Professor rescued student from war zone

13 December, 2018

ISP chemistry reference group member Prof Charlotta Turner and Lund University did the unthinkable when they sent armed security forces into an ISIS controlled war zone in Iraq to rescue PhD student (now Dr) Firas Jumaah in 2014. The operation succeeded and Firas and his family was brought safely back to Sweden.

- What was happening was completely unacceptable, I got so angry that IS was pushing itself into our world, exposing my doctoral student and his family to this, and disrupting the research, Professor Turner told Lund University Magazine.

Read the whole story

Professor Rune Liminga in Memoriam

25 September, 2018

It is with great sadness we have received information that our predecessor, Professor Rune Liminga, on 14 September 2018 has passed away, at an age of 85.

In the early 1960’s, Rune became engaged in the support in X-ray crystallography provided by the Department of Chemistry, Uppsala University, to Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, given within the framework of the recently started “International Seminar for Research and Education in Physics.” To facilitate support in chemistry in a wider sense, Uppsala University 1966 proposed SIDA to launch also a seminar in chemistry. Rune was entrusted the task to plan the activities, and was later assigned to lead the “International Seminar in Chemistry”, from its start 1970. He stayed in that position until he left the program in 1997.

The aim of the Seminars was to “initiate the creation of research groups or to provide assistance to already existing research groups at universities or national laboratories in developing countries”. Rune was one of those who realized that long-term support was needed to fulfil this. Furthermore, he realized that fellowships for research training in Sweden needed complementary contributions for equipment, support for MSc and PhD program, etc. He was pushing for such discussions, which finally, in 1978/79, resulted in a five-year agreement with the Swedish Agency for Research Cooperation with Developing Countries (SAREC). Now, the realization of the visions could commence, with “project support” tailored to needs and starting conditions.

An important component was the cooperation with strong research teams predominantly in Sweden, but also in the regions, and postgraduate education was an essential feature. At an early stage, Rune realized that PhD students spending all their training in the North faced difficulties in returning to their home countries, regarding both their professional and social life. He was therefore among the pioneers to promote “sandwich” training programs, where periods with a host institution in the North were layered with periods at the home institution. This contributed to a continuous transfer of knowledge, and profoundly reduced “brain drain”. Sandwich programs are operated still today, by ISP and Sida, and by other organisations.

Rune worked energetically to develop the program, and his vision stretched far beyond the “seminar” concept. To mirror the development of activities, he initiated the organization in 1987 of the two seminars under the common name “The International Science Programme” (ISP), and the Chemistry Seminar became “The International Programme in the Chemical Sciences” (IPICS).

Besides the support to viable research teams, Rune realized the importance of forming connections between scientists in the South in thematic, scientific networks. He was personally engaged in the initiating of several such networks, many of which are still active today.

In many respects, Rune’s visions, philosophy, and hard, persistent work to develop IPICS became a model for what ISP still is today, and many hundreds of researchers and graduates in Africa, Asia, and Latin America have benefited from the implementation of his visions. After retirement, Rune still followed the development of the program with great interest.

Rune, for us it has been a great honour, challenge, and pleasure to continue operating IPICS – and ISP – along the path you did lay out. Rest in peace.

On behalf of current and previous ISP co-workers and Board members

Peter Sundin (ISP Chemistry Director since 2006, and Head of ISP since 2007)

Malin Åkerblom (ISP Chemistry Director 1997-2006)

Lennart Hasselgren (ISP Physics Director 1982-2007, Head of ISP 1998-2007)

Rune Liminga
Front page of publication

ISP report on phased out activities

28 December, 2017

ISP has followed up on the 57 groups and networks phased out of ISP support between 2003 and 2014. The aim was to find out if they are continuing their activities and how they experienced the ISP support and the phase out period.

The report shows that a large majority (82%) of the phased out groups and networks are still active. Many have been able to secure grants from both international and national funding agencies, and have continued to publish papers and graduate postgraduate students after ISP's support ended.

Most groups and networks were satisfied with the phase out period given (ranging between 1-6 years) and were ok with the reasons given for ending support. However, some improvements were suggested, including better communication from ISP's side, provision of proposal writing and research grant management courses, and better utilization of the capacity in phased out groups and networks.

Read the full report here Pdf, 2 MB.

Front page of publication

ISP in Sri Lanka and Thailand

31 August, 2017

A review of ISP´s former long-term engagement with research groups at universities in Sri Lanka and Thailand is now available!

The book includes a historical overview, developments and effects of over 30 years of research cooperation. The experiences and present whereabouts of former PhD students and collaborators are also covered.

Read the book

Hans Corell new ISP board member

21 June, 2017

ISP warmly welcomes Ambassador (ret.) Hans Corell as a member of the ISP Board.

Hans Corell is an Uppsala Alumni with a long experience of working for the United Nations as Under-Secretary General for Legal Affairs and the Legal Counsel between 1994 and 2004. Before that, he served as Ambassador and Under-Secretary for Legal and Consular Affairs at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs between 1984 and 1994.

He has been a member of Sweden’s delegation to the United Nations General Assembly and has had several assignments related to the Council of Europe, OECD and the CSCE (now OSCE). Besides serving as a member of the Advisory Board of the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life at Brandeis University and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, he has also been Legal Adviser to the Panel of Eminent African Personalities, chaired by Kofi Annan.

Hans Corell
Front page of publication

ISP supported network essential for math development in Eastern Africa

18 April, 2017

ISP has supported the Eastern Africa Universities Mathematics Programme (EAUMP) since its inception in 2002. In 2016, ISP commissioned an evaluation of the network to assess its activities and progress, and to provide EAUMP and ISP with an independent review of future directions.

In summary the Evaluation Team concluded that:

The EAUMP network has played an absolutely essential and transformative role, at a reasonable and proportionate cost, in building mathematics research and teaching capacity throughout the Eastern African region, introducing new areas of mathematics and strengthening existing ones. There are signs of consolidating and emerging research groups, regular activities becoming embedded and finding additional support, as well as new types of activity.

The continuing support, in a suitable form and shape, and taking into account the recommendations below, of mathematics, the most fundamental of enabling sciences, in the East African region is a worthwhile endeavour fully in accordance with the aims and objectives of ISP and its main funder Sida.

Read the full report Pdf, 9 MB.

ISP partner in Nature

10 April, 2017

The prestigious journal Nature highlights the work on precision medicine made by the ISP supported research group at the African Institute of Biomedical Science and Technology (AiBST), headed by Collen Masimirembwa.

AiBST research has gained attention following a public health scandal in Zimbabwe, where many HIV patients in public health programs stopped using the drug efavirenz due to heavy side effects. Masimirembwa’s research group has shown that a gene variant carried by many Zimbabweans slows their ability to break down efavirenz, thereby causing side effects such as hallucinations, depression and suicidal tendencies for those carrying the variant. These side effects can be reduced by precision medicine – where the diagnostic and treatment is tailored according to the needs and genes of individual patients.

As a result of the Nature article, HIV patients and relatives of patients experiencing the challenges of using efavirenz-based drugs are contacting AiBST for assistance.

Article in Nature

ISP friend Hans Rosling in Memoriam

9 February, 2017

Professor Hans Rosling, Uppsala, tragically passed away earlier this week. He was a dear friend of ISP and formerly closely associated with ISP Chemistry (IPICS).

Hans Rosling was a deeply appreciated tutor, student supervisor, and scientific cooperation partner particularly in the ISP supported research network on cassava safety, which he coordinated between1993 and 2001.

In 2011, Hans Rosling contributed with his famous enthusiastic presentation approach to the 50th anniversary seminar of ISP, when he put the development and operational mode of the program in a proper, global perspective with his presentation “ISP and the World”.

We are immensely grateful for Hans Rosling’s past contributions to the program and for the time he has devoted to ISP.

Hans Rosling

Gender Equality Workshop in Uganda

25 October, 2016

On the 25 October, the Makerere University main hall was filled with about 300 undergraduate students participating in the second workshop on “Gender Equality in the Basic Sciences – Bridging the Gap”. The workshop was organized by ISP Gender Equality Grant winner, Dr Betty Nannyonga, and is part of her project aiming to strengthen and support the success and retention of women in basic sciences at the university.

Female senior researchers in mathematics and physics from Stockholm University (Professor Lovisa Sumpter) and University of Nairobi (Dr Alix Dehayem) gave lectures on the reasons behind, and problems with, the low number of women in science, and Makerere University staff and students shared their experiences on the issues. Ugandan TV and radio was present to cover the event.

I am very satisfied with the well-attended workshop! The media coverage is good, it creates awareness of issues facing women in academia at our university”, said organizer Dr Nannyonga (picture to the left).

Betty Nannyonga







MFS-students looked into obstacles women in science face

MSc students Ida Essner and Sara Hesse from the Sociotechnical Systems Engineering Program at Uppsala University carried out their Minor Field Studies at University of Nairobi, Kenya.

They did a local context analysis of ISP-supported departments at the Institution of Nuclear Science and Technology (INST) and the Department of Physics at the university, looking at the obstacles women in science face when pursuing higher education, hoping to answer why there are fewer women than men in technical higher educations, from MSc level and up.

Their main conclusion is that one factor hindering women from pursuing science and technology education is cultural expectations. Science is considered to be a masculine subject reserved for men, something that appear to emerge in the attitudes of boys and girls at an early age. They also concluded that early childbirth commonly hinder women from continuing to higher levels in academia, because they often have the dual work load and responsibility of family and household. The cultural norms and expectations of the Kenyan women also favours marriage and family before self-fulfillment and own interests such as higher education.

Read the thesis

Interview with Ida and Sara

Group photo of participants

Gender Summer School at Uppsala University

2 September, 2016

Between 15 and 26 August five female scientists from ISP supported groups in Kenya and Uganda visited Uppsala University to take part in the gender summer school named "Diversity in the Cultures of Physics". The school has been jointly organised and by the Department of Physics and ISP at Uppsala University, and the Department of Physics at Freie Universität Berlin, Germany.

The main goal of the summer school was to promote mentorship and networking between young and senior (female) scientists, to improve non-academic competences and increase awareness about the gender biases present at universities and in academia in general.

In total the summer school involved 21 participants from Germany, Kenya, Sweden and Uganda. The two-week intense program at Uppsala University included several lectures and workshops, with scientific, communication and gender equality contents. The participants also visited research groups in Stockholm and Uppsala.

ISP acknowledges the UU Vice-Chancellor and “Rådet för Lika villkor” at Uppsala University for the grant which allows the successful organisation of the summer school.

Participant Priscilla Muheki, is one of the first two female PhD students at the Department of Physics at Mbarara University of Science and Technology in Uganda.

According to you, what are the main issues facing women in Sciences in Uganda?

- Basically, it is about lack of opportunities for women. Because of cultural reasons, women have the main responsibility to take care of the home and the family which often are stopping them from pursing their studies and careers. If you are a woman, it is more important for your family that you get married than continue to study. And once you get married and have kids, continuing studies is even harder because of the dual work load. In addition, the tuition fees are high and there are a limited number of scholarships. There is also a lack of female mentors and role models in science, especially at the tertiary levels. We are the first two female PhD students in physics at our university, and in general there are very few female doctors in physics in the country.

What do you take with you back home from the two weeks in Uppsala?

- It was good and empowering for me as a woman. I learned so much from the different talks. The main thing I take with me is “If you can imagine it, you can make it. If you can dream it, you can achieve it”. It summarizes my experience in every way. Back home we still have a lot of work to do to encouraging more female students into doing physics. I believe that I also need to include more men in this work, because their efforts are very crucial in promoting this cause. In any case “two hands are better than one”.


Priscilla Muheki

Former Vice President of Tanzania joins the ISP board

11 August, 2016

ISP warmly welcomes Dr Mohamed Gharib Bilal, Chancellor of The Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology, as a member of the ISP Board. Nuclear physicist Dr Bilal was Vice President of Tanzania between 2010 and 2015 and Prime Minister of Zanzibar from 1995 to 2000. In addition, he served as Permanent Secretary of the Tanzanian Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education in the beginning of the 1990’s. From April 2016 and onwards his broad and long experience will come to use at ISP’s Board meetings.

Why did you choose to join the ISP board and what are your thoughts about ISP?

- I agree with the core mission of ISP that targets, among other things, building active research groups in developing countries. ISP is a unique program that promotes strengthening basic sciences and higher education in developing countries. Its approach is realistic and down to earth.

What do you believe to be the greatest challenges in supporting higher education and research in developing countries? How can we overcome them?

- The major challenges are how to build a critical mass of research scientists and how to get meaningful financial support. The best way to overcome these challenges are to a) unwavering commitment of developing countries to support higher education and scientific research and b) long term partnership and mentoring from established research groups. I have always wondered if such program could be expanded to include more institutions in other countries also.

Thank you and welcome!

Prof Bilal

ISP Publication in Scientometrics

8 June, 2016

Former ISP colleague Marta Zdravkovic in collaboration with Eren Zink and ISP alumna Dr Linley Chiwona-Karltun today published a paper on the “Experiences and Perceptions of South–South and North–South Scientific Collaboration of Mathematicians, Physicists and Chemists from Five Southern African Universities” in Scientometrics.

The study covers experiences from ISP supported departments in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Botswana and aimed to document and analyse the level of scientific productivity, collaboration patterns, scientists’ experiences and attitudes towards South–South and South–North collaboration.

Article in Scientometrics

Low brain drain in ISP programs

5 May, 2016

A brief report tracing PhD graduates from ISP supported groups and networks 2008-2013, show that a great majority (92%) of the PhD graduates remain in their home countries and regions after graduation, most employed at universities and research institutes.

Tracing ISP graduates Pdf, 1 MB.


ISP gender equality grants 2015 awarded

18 February, 2016

Dr Betty Kivumbi Nannyonga (Department of Mathematics, Makerere University, Uganda) and Dr Edward Jurua (Department of Physics, Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Uganda) have been awarded ISP's gender equality grants 2015.

Last fall, ISP announced two grants for activities targeting the underrepresentation of women in science education and research in supported groups and networks. In all, 18 high quality applications were received, making the final selection very difficult. ISP can now inform that Dr Betty Nannyonga, Makerere University and Dr Edward Jurua, Mbarara University, both in Uganda, have been awarded the 2015 Gender Equality Activity Grants.

ISP warmly congratulates and looks forward to the collaboration between Makerere and Mbarara University. The two projects include similar and complementary activities, targeting many of the crucial barriers for female students and staff members to continue their studies and/or establish a research career in science. The activities are designed and will be running in close collaboration with local gender researchers.

Read more about Dr Betty Kivumbi Nannyonga's and Dr Edward Jurua's research and gender project here:

Interview Betty

Interview Edward

ISP alumnus awarded honorary doctorate

2 December, 2015

On 2 December 2015, ISP alumnus Professor Vernon Cooray was awarded an honorary doctorate by University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.

His research focuses on electricity with special emphasis on transients and electrical discharges. Over the years Professor Cooray has authored and co-authored over 350 scientific papers, and has edited and authored six books.

Professor Cooray started his research career as a PhD student as part of the ISP supported research group in atmospheric physics and lightning at University of Colombo, Sri Lanka between 1978 and 1982. He did his PhD at Uppsala University Sweden, where he also became a staff member shortly after graduation. Today he has been employed at UU for more than 30 years.

Professor Cooray has kept close contact with the atmospheric physics research group at University of Colombo during all these years. Among other things he has been supervising most of the students from the group on a distance and through annual research visit to the university.

ISP warmly congratulates Vernon to the honor!

Vernon Coray

Article in UK Guardian by chemistry reference group member

5 October, 2015

Mauritian President and ISP Chemistry (IPICS) reference group member, Professor Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, has written a article in the UK Guardian, urgently requesting African governments to increase their investment in research.

Article in the UK Guardian

Chemistry group leader interviewed in web magazine

18 June, 2015

Curie, a a Swedish web magazine (in Swedish) devoted to the world of research, has published an article on aspects on Environmental Chemistry in Mali. Professor Cheick Dembele, interviewed in the article, is the group leader of the ISP-supported research group on "Physiochemical studies of clay raw materials".

This group at Department of Chemistry, University of Science, Techniques and Technology of Bamako (USTTB) has received ISP support since 2002.

Article in Curie (In Swedish)

Tedx Talk by ISP partner

12 March, 2015

On 16 February 2015 ISP partner, Professor Paul Vaderlind, held a Tedx Talk at Södra Teatern, Stockholm, Sweden on the importance of education in developing countries.

"While most of us in the western world have access to knowledge and advanced technology, how many talented children are given the chance for education in the developing countries? Mathematician Paul Vaderlind shares his way of spreading access to quality education driven by his love for mathematics and problem solving".

See the talk

Professor Vaderlind

Student scholarship agreement between ISP and TICA

3 February, 2015

On Tuesday 3 February, ISP signed an agreement with Thailand Research Fund (TRF) and the Thailand International Cooperation Agency (TICA) regarding PhD scholarships in chemistry, mathematics and physics.

In total, three scholarships will be awarded each year, to successful applicants from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, and Vietnam. The students will register at Thai universities. Two years of their PhD training will take place in Thailand, supported by TRF and TICA, and one year will be in Sweden, supported by ISP.

Signing of the agreement at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok. From left: Dr Peter Sundin (Head of ISP, Uppsala University), Ms Anne-Charlotte Malm (Head of Development Cooperation - Regional Asia and Myanmar, Embassy of Sweden, Bangkok), Ms Suchada Thaibunthao (Director-General, TICA), Professor Suthipun Jitpimolmard (Director, TRF)

Signing of the agreement at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok. From left: Dr Peter Sundin (Head of ISP, Uppsala University), Ms Anne-Charlotte Malm (Head of Development Cooperation - Regional Asia and Myanmar, Embassy of Sweden, Bangkok), Ms Suchada Thaibunthao (Director-General, TICA), Professor Suthipun Jitpimolmard (Director, TRF)

ISP supervisor receives John Wheatley Award

17 November, 2014

Professor Per Nordblad from the Division of Solid State Physics at the Dept. of Engineering Sciences has recently been announced as the recipient of the American Physical Society’s John Wheatley Award for 2015, for his strong and prolific collaboration with scientists in low-income countries. Per Nordblad’s collaboration with these scientists was in many cases supported by ISP.

Motivation: "For his enormous and sustained efforts of nearly three decades in nurturing physics research and education in several Third World countries, including Bangladesh, Vietnam, Thailand and Eritrea, leading to the establishment of several prominent groups pursuing internationally competitive physics today."

2015 Award Recipient

Professor Nordblad

Sri Lankan institute celebrates 10 years

20 September, 2014

On 12-12 September 2014, The Institute of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (IBMBB) at University of Colombo, Sri Lanka celebrated 10 years by hosting the International Conference on Frontiers in Molecular Life Sciences 2014.

ISP has a long standing collaboration with the scientists involved in IBMBB. ISP together with Sida/SAREC has supported the building of a laboratory and postgraduate program in molecular biology and gene technology at Department of Biochemistry, University of Colombo since the beginning of the 1980’s. In the beginning of the 2000's a soft lone was granted from Sida to build a research institute and in 2004 the Institute of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biotechnology was inaugurated.

Professor Malin Åkerblom, Director of the Chemistry Programme at the time, was the prime mover on the Swedish side in the facilitation of the birth of the IBMBB. Together with the current Chemistry Director, Peter Sundin, she participated in the 10 year celebration conference held in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Malin in Sri Lanka

ISP in Almedalen

1 July, 2014

On 1 July 2014 ISP organized a seminar called "What can Sweden gain from research cooperation with low-income countries? during the Almedalen week, Sweden.

  • What can Swedish universities do to build research capacity in low-income countries and at the same time gain from cooperating with these countries?
  • What are the obstacles and how can we overcome them?

Swedish universities and university colleges are increasing their focus on internationalization, as international collaborations create competitive education and high quality research. Economically expansive regions and resourceful universities are the main focus of today’s collaborations, but what incentives are there for an increased cooperation with low-income countries?

  • Can cooperation with low-income countries both increase the quality in Swedish education and at the same time build research capacity in these countries?
  • And what about the future?
  • Do universities and university colleges have the capability to develop the cooperation with low-income countries?

Susanna Wasielewski Ahlfors from Global Reporting moderated the panel consisting of:

  • Sten Rylander, elected chair of the Swedish NGO Forum Syd and former Swedish ambassador of several countries in Africa, most recently in Zimbabwe.
  • Mohamed Hassan ISP board member, co-chair of IAP, the global network of science academies, and chairman of the Council of the United Nations University.
  • Kerstin Sahlin professor at Uppsala University and Secretary General of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Swedish Research Council.
ISP in Almedalen

From left: Kerstin Sahlin, Sten Rylander and Mohamed Hassan.

Movie about ISP available

25 June, 2014

A short movie about ISP is now available!

It is starring Ms Stella Kioko, a sandwich PhD student part of a ISP supported research group in Physics at Eldoret University in Kenya.

Full length (10.29 min)
Trailer (1.37 min)

Stella from Kenya

ISP celebrates 50 years

27 September, 2011

A one-day seminar called "Experiences and Way Forward" was held to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the International Science Programme, at Uppsala University, on 26 September 2011.

Over the 50 years since then, the program has developed from a fellowship program into a capacity building program, not only in Physics, but also in Chemistry (since 1970) and Mathematics (since 2002). The program gives long term support to the establishment of viable research teams in developing countries. Regional cooperation and networking are also important parts of the activities.

The seminar aimed to highlight experiences drawn in the past 50 years from different perspectives, and to indicate the way forward. Invited speakers, as well as invited guest, were ISP collaborators from all over the world:

  • Professor Kerstin Sahlin, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Uppsala University.
  • H. E. Dr Mohamed Gharib Bilal, Vice President of the United Republic of Tanzania.
  • Professor Bo Sundqvist, former Vice-Chancellor at Uppsala University, and former Chairman of the ISP Board.
  • Professor C. N. R. Rao, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, India.
  • Mr Tomas Kjellqvist, Research Manager at Blekinge Institute of Technology, and former director of the Secretariat for Research Cooperation at Sida, Sweden
  • Professor Collen Masimirembwa, President and Founder of The African Institute of Biomedical Science and Technology, Zimbabwe.
  • Ms Betty Nannjonga, PhD student from Makerere University, Uganda.
  • Professor Jenny Ruales, Escuela Politécnica Nacional, Ecuador.
  • Professor Hans Rosling, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.
  • Dr Peter Sundin, Head of ISP.
  • Dr Anders Granlund, Head of the Unit for Research Cooperation, Sida, Sweden
  • Professor Sune Svanberg, Atomic Physics Division, Lund University, Sweden.
H. E. Dr Mohamed Gharib Bilal and Professor Romain Murenzi greets each other before the opening of the seminar. In the background Professor C.N.R. Rao (left) and Professor Mohamed Hassan (right).

H E Dr Mohamed Gharib Bilal and Professor Romain Murenzi greets each other before the opening of the seminar. In the background Professor C N R. Rao (left) and Professor Mohamed Hassan (right).