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Eldridge KgaswaneEldridge Kgaswane: Seismologist and Ph.D. Student

Every September for the past four years, Eldridge Kgaswane, a Ph.D. student at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and staff seismologist at the Council for Geoscience, South Africa, has spent four months at Penn State working on his thesis research.

“This is a rich academic environment—people are encouraged to think quite innovatively about what they are doing and to pursue individual interests,” said Kgaswane, who stays in the U.S. through December. “Being here, I get to learn new computer programmes and skills for data analysis and hear and meet expert speakers from around the world.”

Kgaswane is among a cohort of young geoscientists supported by AfricaArray, an innovative programme to promote, strengthen and retain a workforce of highly trained African geoscientists for the natural resource sector. Founded in 2004, the programme offers talented African geoscience students and postdocs the opportunity to pursue education and research at affiliated universities across the globe.

Kgaswane’s dissertation topic—the crustal structure of southern Africa—is among the research interests of his adviser, Andy Nyblade, professor of geosciences. But until he met Nyblade in South Africa in 2004, Kgaswane hadn’t considered studying in the U.S. After he received his M.Sc. from Wits in 2002, he began working for the Council for Geoscience (formerly the Geological Survey of South Africa).

Then he learned of AfricaArray’s “sandwich programme,” which enables master’s and doctoral students at Wits the opportunity to spend up to six months each year studying and conducting research with a professor at an affiliated university in the U.S. or Europe. Kgaswane was the first Ph.D. student to take advantage of the programme which has now supported 13 B.Sc. honors, 13 M.Sc. and 10 Ph.D. students as well as five postdocs.

“I’m interested in research—maybe at the university level or on industrial projects,” said Kgaswane, who expects to complete his Ph.D. in 2009.

When he graduates, he will be in the first in his family to have a Ph.D.