Spotlight of the week – Dr. Segenet Kelemu

January 28, 2022

Dr. Segenet Kelemu is an Ethiopian Plant Pathologist, known for her extraordinary scientific leadership. Dr. Segenet has contributed to addressing agricultural issues mainly in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and North America. She was born in 1957 to a family that lives based on farming. She sold her family’s products at the local market starting from her early childhood. She has had a passion for plants Since she was a little girl. She attended Addis Ababa University and graduated in 1979. She continued her studies at Montana State University, receiving her MSc in plant pathology and genetics. Right after that, She completed her Ph.D. in Plant Pathology and Molecular Biology at Kansas State University. Dr. Segenet conducted her postdoctoral research in molecular deterrents of pathogenesis at Cornell University.

Dr. Segenet was recognized by Bill Gates as a ‘hero in her field’ because of her high-class achievements that have improved crops of Africa in order to end regional hunger in areas having poor farming approaches. She observed the difficulties of producing crops from different perspectives – both productivity and profitability of the crops. She witnessed a swarm of locusts wiping the crops in her village which eventually led to a regional hunger. She has mentioned that she was a victim of it and that it triggered her to dedicate her life to improving the crops of Ethiopia and Africa in turn. This marks her life as a researcher in molecular plant pathology.

In November 2013, Dr. Segenet was appointed Director-General of the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology, the first woman to head the institution. Based in Nairobi, Dr. Segenet focuses on studying the microorganisms that exist in plants growing across the plains of Africa to understand how plants survive the often-harsh weather patterns, which can lead to floods and persistent droughts. Dr. Segenet has been nominated and received numerous awards and recognition for her work, including Outstanding Scientist of the Year (CIAT, 2013) and inclusion in Forbes’ Top 100 Most Influential African Women (2014). One of her most recent achievements was marked by the recognition she got from the Women of the Decade award given by the Women Economic Forum.

We appreciate Dr. Segenet for empowering Ethiopian women to solve problems starting from their house and progress to their country and the world. She is an iconic woman that has dedicated her life to a problem that has existed for decades.

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