The IAU OAD welcomes its new fellows who will be working remotely from Armenia, Uganda, Spain, and Romania.
The Office of Astronomy for Development welcomes four, new fellows who will be contributing to its mission of ‘Astronomy for a better world’. The IAU OAD Fellows will be working remotely for most or all of their fellowship due to restrictions posed by the pandemic.
The fellows were selected through a call for applications announced in July 2021. They are: Armine Patatanyan from Armenia, Sandra Benitez Herrera from Spain, Tom Mutabazi from Uganda, and Dana Ficut-Vicas from Romania. More information on the fellows and their projects is provided below.
Armine joined OAD in October 2021 as a mental health project fellow. She has a background in International Relations, Human Rights and Conflict Management with experience in development and humanitarian settings. She has worked with UNDP Armenia on women and youth empowerment, and with KASA Swiss Humanitarian Foundation on integration of asylum seekers and refugees in Armenia. In parallel, she has become an active supporter for the advancement of astronomy, by organizing as well as supporting several outreach and education projects, and currently serves as NAEC Armenia. During her fellowship, Armine will explore the empowerment potential of astronomy to prevent mental health problems and to enable the fulfillment of human potential.
Tom studied Mathematics and Physics at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST), Uganda and he is currently a lecturer in the Department of Physics. At MUST, Tom is involved in the training of secondary school science teachers especially those offering Mathematics and Physics combinations. He has played a pivotal role in curriculum development for the Department of Physics as well as teaching basic programming skills using Python computer language. Before joining MUST as a lecturer, Tom obtained his PhD in Astronomy at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. At the OAD, Tom will use astronomy skills to explore the changes in land-use and vegetation cover in Uganda and assess how these affect the quality of water and moisture content in the soil.
Dana joined the OAD Team in October 2021 to work on the impact analysis and communication of OAD projects. She has a background in astronomy- Bachelors in Astronomy at the University of Nanjing, China, Masters at the Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca and PhD at the University of Hertfordshire, UK. She also has a masters in Educational Sciences, Curricular Management and experience as a member in the OAD Review panel. In her OAD project, she will be studying the funded OAD projects, organise, categorise and analyse them to improve on communicating this rich database of projects and their impact with both stakeholders and the larger public.
Sandra Benitez Herrera
Sandra Benitez Herrera studied Physics at the Complutense University of Madrid, Spain, and obtained her PhD at the Max-Planck for Astrophysics and the Technical University in Munich, Germany. She also has a specialization in Science Communication and Education, which she studied while she was working at the Museum of Astronomy and Related Sciences of Rio de Janeiro. Currently, Sandra works at the Outreach Department of the Astrophysical Institute of the Canary Islands in several astronomy outreach projects. She is a member of the GalileoMobile voluntary program since 2011 and has organized educational initiatives in rural schools of India, Brazil, Ecuador, Chile, Uganda, Bolivia & Algeria. Since 2018 she is the coordinator of the “Amanar: under the same sky” project to support the Sahrawi refugee community. Within the OAD, Sandra will be part of the Astronomy for Mental Health Flagship, trying to assess the restorative effects of Astronomy and its potential to improve the mental well-being of vulnerable communities, such as refugees.