2018 Africa Award for Research Excellence in Earth or Ocean Sciences Winner
Ahzegbobor Philips Aizebeokhai received the Africa Award for Research Excellence in Earth Sciences at the 2018 AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held 12 December 2018 in Washington, D. C. The award recognizes an early-career scientist from the African continent “for completing significant work that shows the focus and promise of making outstanding contributions to research in Earth sciences.”
Carrying out innovative research in an environment without adequate infrastructure, ranging from electricity and Internet access to research equipment, could be challenging and demotivating. This has often been the story for most young geoscientists who studied and worked in Nigeria or most other sub-Saharan African countries. They have had to quit research, resolve to do only “desktop research” and teaching, or emigrate to a developed country. This, however, has not been the case with Dr. Ahzegbobor Philips Aizebeokhai. In spite of having studied in and currently working in Nigeria, he has chosen to defy the setbacks due to the lack of research facilities and resolved to work hard making use of available resources, mining collaborative opportunities when possible, and, above all, maximizing available learning opportunities. Dr. Aizebeokhai’s recognition with AGU’s Africa Award for Research Excellence in Earth Sciences for his contributions in applying hydrogeophysical methods to solving groundwater and environmental challenges in Nigeria is highly deserved and serves as motivation not only for him but also for other young scientists defying the odds and tasking their innovation to solve societal challenges, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa.
Dr. Aizebeokhai obtained his M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in applied geophysics from the University of Ibadan and Covenant University, respectively, in Nigeria. During his doctoral research, he worked closely with Prof. Olayinka of the University of Ibadan and Dr. Singh at the Groundwater Research Group of the National Geophysical Research Institute in Hyderabad, India, where he developed 2-D and 3-D field electrical resistivity designs for groundwater investigations in southwestern Nigeria. Since completing his Ph.D. in 2010, he has remained committed to his research on applying geophysical methods for hydrogeological, engineering, and other environmental investigations and has published over 30 scientific papers in both local and international journals. In addition to his research, he is deeply committed to teaching and capacity development for young geoscientists.
In recognition of his research excellence, demonstration of high self-motivation, and commitment to teaching, he was recently promoted from the position of a senior lecturer to a full professor at Covenant University. Prof. Aizebeokhai’s research, teaching, and service contributions show great potential for contributing to effective management of water and environmental resources in sub-Saharan Africa.
—Kennedy O. Doro, Science for Development Research and Teaching Initiative, Lagos, Nigeria
I express my profound gratitude to AGU’s Honors and Recognition Committee for finding me worthy of the AGU Africa Award for Research Excellence in Earth Sciences. My sincere appreciation goes to my mentors, Prof. A. I. Olayinka of the University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria, and Dr. V. S. Singh, Scientist Emeritus of the National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI), Hyderabad, India. They are the giants on whose shoulders I stand tall and strong; they taught me the art and science of near-surface geophysics. I thank Covenant University for giving me the platform to teach and conduct research in near-surface geophysics. I thank my students, who have always assisted in the field survey. I am grateful to my wife, Uyoyo Anita Aizebeokhai, for her encouragement and support over the years.
Each time I attend a Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) Annual Meeting, when I consider the volume and quality of research work presented by geoscientists across the globe, my heart bleeds because only a handful of the presentations are from Africa. At the 2016 SEG Annual Meeting, for example, out of the several thousands of papers scheduled for presentation, I was the only Nigerian living in Nigeria who made a presentation; the other Nigerians who presented at that conference are living in the United States, Canada, or Europe. The situation is the same in most geoscience international conferences. This shows that Africa is not contributing much in terms of research output to the geoscience world. This may be due to a number of constraints that characterize the research climate in Africa; the most important constraints include inadequate research infrastructure, poor training in the art and science of research, lack of motivation due to poor research incentives from government and institutions, and poor funding. Most researchers in Africa either are not aware of existing funding opportunities or are unable to write competitive research grant proposals to fund research.
I have been faced with all of these challenges; apart from the fact that I was lucky to win a TWAS-CSIR Postgraduate Fellowship at NGRI in 2008 and an SEG Foundation Travel Grant in 2009, I have practically been funding my research from my salary. This naturally poses limitations to the kind of research I am able to conduct. My main motivation for research is born of a strong desire to help raise a new generation of geoscientists with the right paradigm in Africa.
—Ahzegbobor Philips Aizebeokhai, Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State, Nigeria