The MUST-IUC Partnership titled “University as a Facilitator for Community-Based Sustainable Solutions to Demographic Challenges in South-Western Uganda” hereafter referred to as UCoBS is a 10-year (2022-2032) collaborative partnership project between Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST), Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium) and other Flemish Higher Education Institutions funded by the Flemish Interuniversity Council (VLIR UOS) with a strong niche of improving the household livelihoods of the Most at Risk Populations (MARPs) in South Western Uganda. There are two sub-projects under the MUST-IUC UCoBS partnership that seek to support 03 PhD candidates in various disciplines of environment and renewable energy. Preference will be given to candidates that are already members of staff (or collaborators) of Mbarara University of Science and Technology. Female candidates are strongly encouraged to apply.
The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) scholarship Scope
The selected PhD candidate will be funded within the stipulated training period for not more than 4 years duration. The candidate will also benefit from funding for short research stays of 3-6 months annually in a Flemish University. The full PhD funding is conditional on the successful defense of a PhD proposal and obtaining sufficient course credits at MUST and during the first months of stay in Belgium. The candidate will receive support for the PhD research activities and fieldwork. The selected candidates will be part of an interdisciplinary and international research project and will contribute to addressing development-relevant issues in collaboration with Ugandan stakeholders. The scholarship funding will be compliant with the official scholarship schemes of VLIR-UOS and the existing policy guidelines of MUST and implementing institutions. The candidates are expected to serve a pre-contract period upon which a scholarship award letter and contract will be given. The PhD candidates will be supervised and or promoted by a team of Flemish and Ugandan faculty and defend the thesis at Mbarara University of Science and Technology or a Flemish institution where the candidates are registered. The PhD candidates will interact with other PhD students from Uganda and Belgium. The candidates may have their PhD registered at two Universities for a Dual or Joint PhD if interested.
Sub-Project One: Improved Conservation Practices for the Environment and Natural Resources
The sub-project focuses on improved conservation practices, environmental restoration and natural resource governance which are central in stimulating sustainable demographic solutions in SWU. The scope will be limited to River Rwizi and River Ruhezamyenda for the river systems, Bwindi Impenetrable and Lake Mburo National Park for the Protected Areas (PAs) and integration of Batwa and Bahima indigenous knowledge.
- PhD Project Theme: Vegetation change and wetland area threshold for effective sediment reduction and enhanced discharge for Rivers Rwizi and Ruhezamyenda (1 candidate)
PhD Focus and activities
The PhD theme focuses on determining the socio-ecological drivers and extent of degradation of the five river systems to inform their restoration. The study will specifically focus on wetland conservation alongside the two rivers of Rwizi and Ruhezyamyenda to inform protected area conservation.
Tropical papyrus wetlands are very important ecosystems and provide a range of ecosystem services, including water purification, and carbon sequestration. Situated at the border between the terrestrial and aquatic environment, and where rivers mouth into lakes, they trap, process and release elements and nutrients. These water purification properties of wetlands are considered important in Uganda, but are nevertheless in rapid decline, as encroachment and destruction happen almost on a daily basis throughout the country.
The extent to which wetland destruction and degradation is happening is not known, nor are the exact effects on water quality been quantified. These research gaps will be tackled during this PhD. In a first stage, a literature study on the role of papyrus wetlands will be made along with a GIS analysis of the evolution of papyrus wetlands in recent Ugandan history. In a second stage, this study will have two case studies to demonstrate the benefits of papyrus wetlands on rivers in relation to National Parks they flow through and in relation to the people benefiting from it. The candidate shall work on two case studies to complete this study.
Case 1: papyrus wetland where River Rwizi flows into Lake Mburo. This wetland is particularly important to process nutrients (mainly N and Si) and sediments from upstream urban areas like Mbarara city and prevent them from flowing into lake Mburo.
Case 2: papyrus wetlands along River Ruhezamyenda. These wetlands are important to purify heavy metals and or other properties from the river, which originate from mining industry, vehicle washing and poor agricultural practices before they enter Bwindi NP or further downstream in Lake Mutanda. In a final stage, recommendations in terms of wetland protection and conservation that inform protected area conservation in Uganda need to be formulated. An important part of the PhD will be field work (e.g. taking samples) which requires a talent for planning and practical arrangements. In the laboratory, chemical analyses need to be done (both in Uganda and in Belgium) and working with precision is key in this context.
The candidate will use GIS mapping, hydrological assessment, multi-stakeholder engagement, participatory mapping and policy arrangements approaches among others to generate evidence and for policy engagement.
The PhD applicant’s Profile
- Aged between 20-40 years
- Hold at least an honors Bachelors and Masters degree of Science in Biology, Physical Geography, Hydrogeomorphology, Natural Resource/Environmental Management, Environmental Sciences, Hydrology, or any related scientific discipline;
- Should demonstrate a very good level of English knowledge, both in speaking and writing.
- Should demonstrate basic knowledge and skills of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and good scientific knowledge of aquatic ecology
- Have experience in quantitative analytical techniques;
- He or she should have a strong interpersonal relationship of working in teams and with a good record of good conduct and discipline;
- Highly motivated to undertake academic research in an international context and commit to quality research outputs;
- Hard-working and able to manage a project independently, taking initiative and meeting deadlines and finishing the PhD training within the stipulated time;
- Able to develop a detailed concept note (pre-proposal) and demonstrate his/her ability to finish it and produce a fully researchable and competitive proposal;
- Demonstrate creativity, uncovering hidden issues that will benefit the project, science, and local livelihood in general;
- Frank and willing to respect agreements; believe in project confidentiality and proper data handling and processing;
- Demonstrate a willingness to contribute to the administrative management of the project;
- Demonstrate academic leadership and willingness to supervise Masters students;
- Demonstrate good interpersonal skills to interact with other project partners and stakeholders;
- Willing to develop the research at Mbarara University of Science and Technology and continue to contribute to the teaching and research mission of MUST beyond the project’s lifetime
Sub-Project Three: Increased Access and Utilization of Affordable Energy Technologies
This PhD position is framed in the context of the sub-project titled “Increased Access and Utilization of Affordable Energy Technologies”. The project-specific objectives are to; (i) develop and adapt affordable and environmentally friendly energy technologies for gender-responsive outcomes; and (ii) transfer and up-scale new low-cost input and affordable energy technologies. This sub-project is part of six sub-projects under the MUST-IUC UCoBS partnership.
PhD Project Theme: Increased Access and Utilization of Affordable Energy Technologies (Solar Energy and Biomass Options)- (1 candidate for each option)
PhD Focus and activities
Access to affordable and environmentally friendly sources of energy remains a major challenge in SWU. The project proposes to develop affordable renewable energy technologies and processes using solar and biomass resources. These proposed interventions under this project fit into SDG 7 which emphasizes reliable, affordable, and sustainable energy for community well-being and socio-economic transformation.
The existing energy technologies such as solar and hydropower being promoted in communities remain costly and therefore not well adopted. Biomass (fuel wood, charcoal, crop residue) remains the main energy source for rural households, putting pressure on the environment and human well-being. This puts pressure on the environment and compromises human well-being.
For the solar energy option, the PhD focuses on the development of solar cooking and heating technologies. The project will involve developing solar cooking technologies, training of communities on the use of the technologies, and integrating sustainable use of the technologies into the communities.
For the biomass option, the PhD focuses on improving the quality of briquettes, developing alternative raw materials for briquettes, and fostering the adoption of briquettes as an energy source in communities. These projects are intended to improve access to energy for cooking and heating in Southwestern Uganda.
The PhD applicant’s Profile (Solar Energy and Biomass options)
The project will offer scholarships to two candidates-one for the solar energy option and one for the biomass option. The applicant should indicate clearly which option he/she is interested in and develop a concept in the stated field.
The ideal candidate should have a background in social sciences and/or humanities.
- The applicant should be aged between 20-40 years.
- Should hold at least an honors degree in Physics or engineering.
- Have a master’s degree in the above-mentioned fields or related disciplines.
- Have research experience in the field of renewable energy research and/or applications.
- We require highly motivated candidates to undertake academic research in an international context and commit to quality research outputs.
- Should be hard-working and able to manage a project independently, take initiative and meet deadlines and finish the PhD training within the stipulated time.
- Should be able to develop a detailed concept note (pre-proposal) and demonstrate his/her ability to finish it and produce a fully researchable and competitive proposal.
- Should demonstrate creativity, uncovering hidden issues that will benefit the project, science, and local livelihood in general.
- The candidate is expected to be frank and willing to respect agreements; believe in project confidentiality and proper data handling and processing.
- Should demonstrate a willingness to contribute to the administrative management of the project.
- Should demonstrate academic leadership and willingness to teach and/or supervise Masters and undergraduate students.
- Should demonstrate good interpersonal skills to interact with other project partners and stakeholders.
- Should be willing to develop the research at Mbarara University of Science and Technology and continue to contribute to the teaching and research mission of MUST beyond the project’s lifetime.
General Submission Procedure
The application should include:
- A concept note of no more than 5 pages for PhD. The Concept note must include a title for the proposed study, brief background highlighting key literature, research problem, main research question(s)/objectives, methodology and a list of key references.
- A CV (2 pages)
- Certified copies of academic degrees documents and transcript of records.
- A statement of motivation – why you think you are the best candidate for the PhD (1 page).
- A letter of recommendation from the current employer/immediate supervisor (1 page) – if applicable.
- A letter from an academic referee supporting your application
- A digital copy of your Masters thesis.
Sub Project One; The applications should be addressed (and submitted) to Dr. Medard Twinamatsiko (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Tel: +256751892953), Prof. Dr. Stefaan Smis, (Email: email@example.com) and Annah Amwikirize (firstname.lastname@example.org) . Hard copies should be submitted to the MUST-IUC UCoBS Programme Support Unit offices at MUST City Campus. For more information, contact Ms. Annah Amwikirize, (Email: email@example.com; Tel: +256 775888001).
Sub Project Three; The applications should be addressed and submitted to Dr. Johnes Obungoloch firstname.lastname@example.org; Tel +256775646496), Prof. Dr. Ir. Maarten Vanierschot (maarten.vanierschot@kuleuven) and Annah Amwikirize (email@example.com). Hard copies should be submitted to the MUST-IUC UCoBS Programme Support Unit offices at MUST City Campus. For more information, contact Ms Annah Amwikirize, (firstname.lastname@example.org; Tel +256775888001)
The selection process will involve two stages – a pre-selection phase between May 20th and 21st 2023. Pre-selected candidates will be contacted for an interview to be held on May 23rd, 2023. The successful candidates should be ready to start their PhD studies by June 2023. All applications should be submitted by 19th May 2023, 5:00 pm.