Case Study: Askwar Hilonga
“I’m giving back to my community and this is now inspiring many young engineers in Africa… it pays more to use our education, to use our innovation, our engineering, endeavours and success to solve the real challenges in our communities.”
From poverty to PhD
Hilonga was born in Gongali, a village near the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. Growing up was challenging: the village had no electricity, and with limited access to clean water people struggled with waterborne diseases. Hilonga is the youngest of 9 siblings and he is thankful that his parents encouraged him to go to school and made sacrifices for him to get an education:
“I did my best to put all my attention in studies, particularly in science because I loved science …”
After graduating from secondary school Hilonga got a loan from the government which allowed him to study chemical engineering at university. He decided to keep investing in his education and completed a PhD at the university of Hanyang in South Korea.
Tackling waterborne diseases
Hilonga saw an opportunity to help his local community tackle their problems, in particular access to clean water.
“I wanted to make my PhD meaningful. If none of my studies will help solve problems in my local community then they are useless!”
He studied the water filters people were using, he observed water samples looking for contaminants, and talked to local hospitals about which waterborne diseases were affecting his community. With all this information, Hilonga quickly concluded that the water filters were not fit for purpose.
“There is a serious problem here and we need a solution. This is an opportunity for me to provide [that] solution!”
Water can be contaminated by many different types of bacteria or microorganisms, or by heavy metals such as copper. This makes it hard to find one approach to filtrationg which works for every situation. Being imaginative, Hilonga created a nanofilter which can be easily adapted to local communities and their water supplies. After observing and identifying different contaminants from water samples, Hilonga changes the shapes of nano-materials made of sodium silicate and silver so that these can trap different types of contaminants. This is often a trial and error process, so Hilonga needs to be tenacious.
The technology is so advanced that the filters can be adapted to cater for different types of water from local communities. Hilonga can also predict how long will it take for the contaminants to saturate the filters, so he can also advise on how often the filter will need replacing.
Supporting local communities
Hilonga has also spent some time creating his own business model which values local communities. He is the director of startup business Gongali Model, which currently employs 127 local people. The nanofilter is developed by local people, using local materials and can be repaired locally as well: a huge advantage in terms of sustainability and keeping costs down.
“The local people gain a lot from this business [….] There is a lot of win-win with job creation while we are solving the inherent challenges in our community like the waterborne diseases”
Hilonga wants to roll out the technology more widely, and has launched the campaign Thirst for Life. He aims to get 1,000 nanofilter water stations across Africa, from Egypt to Cape Town, over the next few years. This will bring clean water into the lives of 5 million people. One of his favourite quotes is:
“I want to be a millionaire. Not in terms of money, but in terms of impacting millions of lives!”
He hopes one day he gets to be a billionaire, impacting not millions but billions of lives!
Hilonga’s nanofilter technology has received several awards including – from the UK – the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation 2015 sponsored by the Royal Academy of Engineering, and the Royal Family’s pitch@palace Innovation Award in 2016.
Chemical engineer, Director of Gongali Model
imaginative, observant, tenacious
Case Study: Emma Meehan
Emma is Senior Science Technician for Boulby Underground Screening facility (BUGS) which is part of the Boulby’s Underground Laboratory.
Not every journey into STEM is the same
Emma didn’t follow the typical pathway into a STEM career because she didn’t take an apprenticeship or go to university. Instead, she found her job through her curiosity and desire to learn. Emma joined Boulby laboratory as a part-time cleaner where she met the scientists and started asking lots of questions.
Initially, she didn’t know a lot of science but she had an interest in physiology and biometrics. From asking lots of questions she developed a passion for Physics and even asked to help work on the equipment.
“I started to learn all about Dark Matter and physics and fell in love with it …I became very good at looking after different types of detectors and experiments. So much so that I ended up getting a full-time position and promotion to senior science technician.”
A Laboratory in a mine
Emma works in an unusual environment: a working mine over a kilometre deep underground! She works with astronauts, scientists, engineers, technicians and people who love science from all over the world including NASA and ESA.
Emma is observant because she prepares and checks samples which are used to detect rare particle events. She needs to be tenacious as the samples take time and sometimes don’t work. Emma also works on projects looking for life on alien planets, designing and testing space technology like Mars Rovers and special tools and cameras that go on them.
“My job is absolutely amazing. I get to do so many things that I love, and I learn new things every day … I love working underground, it can be hot, dirty and hard work but it really is a brilliant and exciting place to be.”
During her time at the lab she has fallen in love with Physics, Astrophysics, Geology and more.
Guided tours and awards
Before working at Boulby, Emma used to be a horse-riding instructor. She has always loved teaching people and learning about the way animals think and act. Having this curiosity and passion to share her expertise makes her extremely successful at her job.
“The main thing I brought from that to my job at Boulby is my insatiably curiosity and desire to learn”
Emma imaginative as she creates and gives science tours of the mine where she works to visitors. Her hard work is noticed by others and in 2019 she was awarded a Technician Award from the Institute of Physics!
Family, Animals and Adventure
Emma loves animals and has three horses, four dogs, ferrets, hens, ducks, turkeys and sheep! She enjoys being around animals and wonders about how we can communicate with them based on their ways of thinking. She also enjoys days out with her family!
Senior Science Technician
imaginative, observant, tenacious
Case Study: Katy Ellis
Katy is a computing liaison for the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment at CERN.
A long road to CERN
Katy took A-levels in Physics, Maths, Economics and business studies and Music. At university she studied Physics and took part in an exchange year in France on a programme called the Erasmus. After this she did her PhD in experimental particle physics on the ATLAS experiment which included a year at CERN.
Computing liaison: getting physics and computing talking the same language
Particle physics experiments need a lot of large computing centres for running simulations and processing lots of data from detectors. Katy works in a computing centre in the UK where she communicates between computing and physics experts. She looks out for problems with the computing jobs, and thinks of ways to make improvements..
I like when I can make a change to the computing system and see an improvement
In the past Katy has used lots of different types of simulation software for physics experiments and processes. Before her PhD she worked at Qinetiq on materials and EM waves as a stealth scientist. After her PhD she tested simulation software for an oil reservoir and for nuclear fusion power software.
Teamwork is essential
Essential to her job is to work in a strong and supportive team. She enjoys working as an environment where everyone can give and receive support for each other. That said Katy also has to collaborate with other teams from other projects, all over the world! This means she is also able to travel to a lot of different countries as part of her job to attend conferences and meetings.
“I like being part of a team. I like bringing people together and helping them understand each other’s point of view.”
Fun times and friends
Outside of work, Katy enjoys taking exciting trips with friends and getting together for frequent catch ups. She is also really involved in sports and has been since a young age. Two of the sports that she took up at a young age are Taekwon-Do and skiing.
Computing liaison for CMS experiment
hard-working, observant, tenacious
A-Levels, Degree, Masters, PhD
Stewart is an Environmental Engineer who studies ways to protect people from floods, droughts and fires. He uses computers to understands how the climate changes over time. Stewart helped other engineers to develop an app to monitor the water supplies in big cities, like Sydney. Stewart enjoys football and he used to coach a local club.
Stewart is an Environmental Engineer who studies ways to protect people from floods, droughts and fires. He uses computers to understands how the climate changes over time. Stewart helped other engineers to develop an app to monitor the water supplies in big cities, like Sydney.
Stewart enjoys football and he used to coach a local club.
Stewart’s most magnificent thing
Rainfall is very important natural resource for communities that undergo drought periods. You can make a rain gauge using everyday materials and record rainfall levels in you local area. Have look below:
collaborative, creative, tenacious
Paula is a Civil Engineer who has designed and built many large projects. Her current work is to look after the A19, a major road which runs from Seaton Burn and Cramlington in the North, through the Tyne Tunnel, past Nissan in Sunderland, down through Thirsk and York, to Doncaster. Thousands of people use it daily, and Paula’s job is to make sure the road can get them where they need to go safely. Paula enjoys the variety of her work and particularly likes working in teams, and seeing things get finished. She talks to lots of pupils about engineering, hoping that in the future we’ll have lots of new engineers helping to build a better world. Paula also enjoys travelling, with work and for fun.
Paula is a Civil Engineer who has designed and built many large projects.
Her current work is to look after the A19, a major road which runs from Seaton Burn and Cramlington in the North, through the Tyne Tunnel, past Nissan in Sunderland, down through Thirsk and York, to Doncaster. Thousands of people use it daily, and Paula’s job is to make sure the road can get them where they need to go safely.
Paula enjoys the variety of her work and particularly likes working in teams, and seeing things get finished. She talks to lots of pupils about engineering, hoping that in the future we’ll have lots of new engineers helping to build a better world.
Paula also enjoys travelling, with work and for fun.
Paula’s most magnificent thing
“I love where I live! Wherever I go I can see lots of interesting engineering all around me!
Walking along the River Tees you can see lots of unusual bridges as well as stop off at the Tees Barrage, white water rafting and AirTrail.
When on your next walk why not open your eyes and explore how things are made, and who has helped to make them?”
Links about the Tees
- Explore our Landscape: River Tees Rediscovered.
- Tees Newport Bridge. Visible from the A19 at the Tees Viaduct, this bridge originally lifted straight upwards to allow large ships through. The local firm who built it also built the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge as well as the Tyne Bridge.
- The Tees Transporter Bridge, pictured above, is extremely unusual, with only about a dozen bridges like it in the world.
- If you’re really getting into the ‘Bridges over the Tees’ vibe, you’ll love the Bridges on the Tees website.
- Fancy something a bit more active than looking at industrial heritage? How about the Tees Barrage, which has got you covered for canoeing, windsurfing, water-skiing, sailing, powerboat racing, white-water rafting, the Air Trail Paula mentions, and more.
- Are you a teacher or home educator looking for more information about the Tees Valley? Find more here.
communicative, hard-working, tenacious
A-Levels, Degree, GCSEs
Sports scientists require the ability to analyse physical and sporting performance alongside the ability to apply scientific ideas and principles. They work with sports coaches and sports therapists to improve the performance of individuals and teams, work with doctors to help people improve their health through exercise and work with hospitals and other health organisations in areas such as cardiac rehabilitation. When they are not directly working with athletes, sports scientists work on research projects to gather new information on a wide variety of sports-related topics. They use specialist equipment to measure the effects of things such as sports shoes, clothing and nutrition on an athlete’s body and offer advice on the design and manufacture of sports equipment.
Attributes: collaborative, tenacious, communicator
Biological anthropologists make comparisons between humans and other animals in order to understand human uniqueness. They compare species across time to unravel the evolutionary history of humans over the last 5 million years. They investigate variation in human development and health, exploring the differences in humans today and in the past.
Attributes: tenacious, hard-working, patient
- The Primary Science Teaching Trust has a downloadable slideshow (PDF) about Dr Kelsey Byers who is an evolutionary biologist. It’s part of their resource A Scientist Just Like Me.
Evolutionary biologists are specifically interested in knowing more about the evolution of plants and animals. They seek to discover more about the history of life on earth, how organisms have changed and developed over time and the causes of this evolution. They cover a vast range of work from looking at DNA in the lab to studying how individual species have evolved in a particular ecosystem.
Attributes: imaginative, open-minded, tenacious
Structural engineers are focused on all aspects concerned with buildings and built structures, such as houses, hospitals, office blocks, bridges, oil rigs, ships and aircraft. They work to understand, predict and measure aspects such as the strength, stability and how rigid buildings are. They also work to develop new designs or modify the designs of buildings or structures which are to be constructed and are responsible for choosing the appropriate materials, such as concrete, steel, timber and masonry, to meet design specification.
Attributes: observant, committed, tenacious
Aerospace engineers design, build and maintain aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and missiles. They may be involved in creating and testing prototypes, researching ways to make fuel efficient parts, developing weapons or navigations systems and supervising the fitting of aircraft or spacecraft and their components.
Attributes: creative, passionate, tenacious
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