August 30, 2011

Prize for AIMS-NEI Director of Academic Development

The Science Prize for Online Resources in Education (SPORE) is awarded to Dr. Carolina Ödman-Govender, director of academic development of the AIMS – Next Einstein Initiative (AIMS – NEI).

Ödman-Govender has worked in science for development for many years. Before joining the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) and the African Institute for Mathematical Science (AIMS) in 2010, she developed an international astronomy and education programme ‘Universe Awareness’ (UNAWE), for which she was awarded the prize. During the course of her work as UNAWE international project manager, she came to South Africa a number of times and was a frequent visiting scientist taking part in the SAAO’s outreach efforts.

Science Magazine introduced the SPORE award as a means to showcase the best educational resources that are available on the Internet and to bring them to a wider audience. UNAWE uses the beauty and grandeur of the Universe to inspire young children, particularly those from an underprivileged background. The programme uses astronomy to cultivate a sense of perspective, foster a global citizenship and stimulate interest in science at a crucial age in a child’s development.

ne of the key features of UNAWE is its openness. It is a form of crowd-sourced education; a vast network of educators contribute educational materials and resources, which are uploaded to the UNAWE website. They can then be distributed, adapted and translated for use in other countries”, says Ödman-Govender who is passionate about openness and availability of education.

AIMS in South Africa and in Senegal rely on lecturers from around the world to deliver a top-quality postgraduate education in the mathematical sciences to outstanding, fully funded students from all over Africa. AIMS – NEI seeks to open 15 such centres across the continent within a decade. The AIMS – NEI philosophy of making world-class science education available to the best young African minds echoes with Ödman-Govender’s passion for equal opportunities.

You can read more about Universe Awareness in the SPORE Series Winner essay published in Science Magazine on August 26, 2011.

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