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Two Austin Peay professors picked for prestigious Carnegie fellowship

Austin Peay State University chemistry professor Dr. Allen Chaparadza lectures during a chemistry class recently in the Sundquist Science Center on campus.
Austin Peay State University chemistry professor Dr. Allen Chaparadza lectures during a chemistry class in the Sundquist Science Center on campus.

Two Austin Peay State University professors have been chosen for the prestigious Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program.

They are among five from Tennessee and 51 from the United States and Canada who will travel to Africa this summer to help universities in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.

The Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program chose APSU chemistry professor Dr. Allen Chaparadza and geography professor Dr. Christine Mathenge to work with African counterparts on research, curriculum development and mentoring activities.

Other Tennessee professors in the program are Vincent Agboto, Vanderbilt University; Martha Michieka, East Tennessee State University; and Agricola Odoi, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

“My mind is blown that we have two faculty doing this,” Dr. Karen Meisch, interim dean of the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, said.

This is the second time the Carnegie program picked Mathenge, who visited Kisii, Kenya, in 2016 to help develop a geography program at the small university, where she’ll return to continue land law research she also started.


Chaparadza will join the University of Johannesburg’s Dr. Caliphs Zvinowanda on development of passive monitoring methods for detecting antiretroviral (ARV) drugs in South African surface waters. ARV drugs inhibit steps in the HIV replication process.

The provision of ARV drugs to more than 6.2 million people in sub-Saharan Africa has gone a long way to drastically decrease morbidity and mortality of HIV-positive individuals. South Africa has the largest ARV rollout program in the world with over 3.5 million people receiving ARV treatment in 2018.

“The use of ARV drugs comes with its own fair share of controversy and problems, particularly on the environment as it has led to their accumulation in terrestrial water bodies,” Chaparadza said. “When ARVs and their metabolites are excreted through urine and feces, they can enter the environment through wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) or sewage contamination, particularly as WWTPs only partially remove ARVs. The release of ARVs into the environment is a major concern, particularly due to the risk of development of viral resistances and potential toxicity to aquatic life.”

A news release from the Carnegie program notes little research has been done to quantify ARV drugs and their metabolites in Johannesburg surface water.

“Johannesburg, that’s where we’re going to start, but we’re going to expand it,” Chaparadza said. “This is brand-new stuff for the professor in South Africa; let’s see where this is going to take us.”

Chaparadza is thankful to have the opportunity.

“This is something that has always been dear to my heart,” he said. “I’m a firm believer that education should be able to transform lives in ways that are meaningful. I realize that with the little chemistry that I know, I have the ability to contribute something that is as fundamental as making sure at least people are aware of issues dealing with access to clean water.”


Austin Peay State University geography professor Dr. Christine Mathenge during her 2016 trip to Kenya during the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program.
Austin Peay State University geography professor Dr. Christine Mathenge during her 2016 trip to Kenya during the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program. 

Mathenge will join Kisii University’s Dr. Wycliffe Nyachoti Otiso, and she’ll continue the work she started in 2016.

“What I’m really excited about this time is I have a research component with one of their faculty,” she said. “We had discussions while I was there, so I came back and thought about it more, wrote a proposal, had a sense of where I wanted to go.”

Kenya recently reformed its property laws “after having 75 different systems that touched on land law,” Mathenge said. “They finally have one legal document that’s fairly comprehensive.”

Even so, “the interesting parts are out in the field, how the law plays out,” she said. “The law is new, so even if it’s in the books, it’s still quite a mess. People are unaware of the law and what the provisions are. It gets crazy when conflicts arise at the point of transfer. The courts are overwhelmed with conflict cases that will hopefully be resolved with the more comprehensive law.”

Mathenge too is thankful to be picked for the fellowship, especially getting to follow up on her first trip.

“Having done it once, I hope I’m making a difference,” she said. “In many ways, I’m driven to give back, while also getting some benefits: I’m going to be able to do some research plus I’m excited to work with a new collaborator.”


Other projects the Carnegie fellows will work with their hosts on include controlling malaria, strengthening peace and conflict studies, developing a master’s degree for emergency medicine, training and mentoring graduate students in criminal justice, archiving African indigenous knowledge, creating low cost water treatment technologies, building capacity in microbiology and pathogen genomics, and developing a forensic accounting curriculum.

The Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program is funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and managed by the Institute of International Education in collaboration with United States International University-Africa in Nairobi, Kenya. A total of 385 African Diaspora Fellowships have now been awarded for scholars to travel to Africa since the program’s inception in 2013.


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