Barton’s Dr. John K. Dogbe Awarded Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship

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Dr. John K. Dogbe at Barton College

WILSON, N.C. — March 18, 2021 — Barton College is pleased to announce that Dr. John K. Dogbe, associate professor of chemistry at Barton College, has been awarded a Scholar Fellowship by the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program to travel to Ghana to work with the University of Cape Coast and host scholar Dr. Raymond Edziah on a collaborative research project to establish a Computational Energy Band Structure Calculation Infrastructure.

“Though Barton is a small college focused on student learning, among its faculty are people like John, whose scholarship and relationships extend around the globe,” notes Dr. Gary Daynes, provost, and vice president for academic affairs, student engagement and success. “The fellowship is a recognition of John’s excellence, and that of our faculty. It is evidence, too, of Barton’s commitment to building partnerships, whether they be with the local schools, or with institutions far away, like the University of Cape Coast in Ghana.”

The Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program, now in its fourth year, is designed to reverse Africa’s brain drain, strengthen capacity at the host institutions, and develop long-term, mutually-beneficial collaborations between universities in Africa and the United States and Canada. It is funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York and managed by the Institute of International Education (IIE) in collaboration with United States International University-Africa (USIU-Africa) in Nairobi, Kenya, which coordinates the activities of the Advisory Council. A total of 527 African Diaspora Fellowships have now been awarded for scholars to travel to Africa since the program’s inception in 2013.

“I am thrilled that the Computational Project has been accepted by the CADFP,” Dogbe shares. “Barton’s Chemistry Program in the School of Sciences has been fortunate to secure and maintain several analytical instruments, thanks to the generosity of college donors. This project now provides further opportunities for our students to participate in a distinctive international research program. I’m proud that Barton College is included in this distinguished list of colleges and universities represented.”

The main project goal is to establish a computational cluster for Energy Band Structure calculations. The use of computational methods will substitute for the instrumental methods. Dogbe explains that it is difficult for most institutions in Africa to acquire and maintain critical instrumentations for research as a result of their costs. Using computational methods provide a more affordable alternative.

The full title of the accepted project is “Research Collaboration on Establishment of Energy Band Structure Calculation Computational Infrastructure and Mentoring of Graduate Students on How to Integrate Computational Physics Techniques into Graduate Research.”

“This was a project that I had in mind years ago to use computational techniques in both physics and chemistry for research, Dr. Dogbe continues. “As a matter of fact, it is a project I have hoped I could implement at Barton. I wrote the initial project proposal and asked the host scholar, Dr. Raymond Edziah, to tailor it to the needs of the University of Cape Coast in Ghana. This initial project includes my proposed design on the cluster, the hardware, and selection of computational software, all of which I will be implementing.”

Dogbe went on to explain that the motivation for the proposal is the recognition that Experimental Physics and Chemistry are expensive for most African Universities because of the expense involved in the kinds of modern instruments required. “With advances in computers, one can design and build a computational cluster at a cost, which is a fraction of the cost of instrumentation,” he continues. “Also, maintaining the computational cluster is relatively inexpensive as well. Therefore, I will be able to utilize my years of experience in computer cluster design and installations to implement a system that the Department of Physics at the University of Cape Coast can use for both teaching and research.”

In layman terms, Dogbe’s role will be to implement the design of up to a 10-node computational cluster. He further explains that this cluster is essentially several server-type computers, which will be networked in such a way that a simulation can be performed that will generate scientific data like what an instrument will generate. The data can then be analyzed, and basic scientific extrapolations can be made from such analyses.

Dogbe will perform the hardware and software installations in Ghana and will provide the initial trainings on the use of the cluster. He will also provide training on the use of the Computational Cluster and its maintenance. He noted that once these tasks are accomplished, the remainder of his work can be accomplished remotely. Among those initiatives will be the development of introductory Computational Physics (and possibly Chemistry) courses targeting undergraduate and graduate students, which, in turn, will lead to the development of an advanced graduate level course.

Another key goal in this collaboration between Dogbe and Edziah will be the development of a curriculum to introduce Computational Physics at the graduate level. This course will provide a practical approach to running simulations, visualizations, and analysis of the simulated data. Further collaboration activities will include supervision of graduate research projects and dissertations in the areas of Computational Physics (and possibly Chemistry). In addition, the expectation is that the initial collaborative activities will lead to students from Barton College engaging in summer research as part of the College’s study abroad program.

Dogbe says Edziah will provide the support needed to carry out the project goals and will help guide the curriculum development to fit into the environment at the University of Cape Coast. Furthermore, some of his ongoing research projects will be redesigned for computational work. The expected impact is to help provide alternatives to research and graduate students. This infrastructure will give Cape Coast students more opportunities, and the collaborative effort will also provide opportunities for Barton’s students to fulfill their desire to participate in research abroad.

“Barton’s School of Sciences is excited to celebrate Dr. Dogbe’s recognition as a Scholar Fellow by the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program,” shares Dr. Kevin Pennington, associate provost and dean of the School of Sciences. “John is a fantastic mentor to students, and has helped several go on to doctoral programs in analytical chemistry.  This highly competitive fellowship recognizes his gifts in using complex equipment and computer analyses to teach students. We’re excited, too, for the research opportunities this fellowship affords our students.”

When asked what strengths each scholar brings to the collaboration, Dogbe explains that his expertise in building and configuring computational clusters, as well as his knowledge and experience in Computational Physics and Chemistry, will provide a significant contribution, and his many years serving on Barton’s Curriculum and General Education Committees will provide him keen insight in the development of the new curriculums at the University of Cape Coast. Dogbe emphasizes that Edziah has years of experience as a researcher, which will provide a tremendous advantage as Edziah designs relevant research topics and modifies his current research for computational work. Dogbe also notes that Edziah’s current knowledge of the environment in Ghana will provide an added advantage to completing the initial project goals and maintaining the project’s progress in the future.

When asked how COVID has affected his plans for the collaboration, Dogbe says that COVID has certainly changed the timing of some aspects of the project, as the CADFP is not allowing any scholar fellows to travel at this time. All scholar fellows also have been asked to consider virtual collaboration. “Unfortunately for my project, a physical presence is required to install and configure the cluster for use,” Dogbe further explains. “Remote administration and running simulations are possible once the cluster up and running. So, I will have to wait until the ban on travel by Fellows is lifted to begin my work on the Ghana campus.”

Ghana’s University of Cape Coast project is one of 56 projects that will pair African Diaspora scholars with higher education institutions and collaborators in Africa to work together on curriculum co-development, collaborative research, graduate training and mentoring activities in the coming months.

Fellowships match host universities with African-born scholars and cover the expenses for project visits of between 14 and 90 days, including transportation, a daily stipend, and the cost of obtaining visas and health insurance.

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