Éliane Ubalijoro, BSc(Agr)'92, PhD'01 has an incredible story. As a Rwandan college student, she was studying in Canada at the outbreak of the Rwandan civil war. She returned to Rwanda during the conflict to pursue agricultural research, but ultimately decided that the country was too unsafe to make progress in her career.
She was also stymied as a biotechnology researcher looking for drugs to counter human and agricultural pathogens. This was disappointing at first, but in the process Ubalijoro realized that she could make an equally strong impact by focusing on elevating the voices of African women, primarily fellow scientists and rural smallholders. “Even though we didn’t find our blockbuster drug,” she says, “we were able to train lots of African researchers.”
Ubalijoro is now a professor of practice at McGill University [Institute for the Study of International Development], the head of an international development consultancy, a member of Rwanda’s National Science and Technology Council, and an advisor to the International Digital Monetary Council. Clearly she wears a lot of hats. There aren’t many scientists who have published on both lettuce mosaic virus and the challenges of girlhood in Rwanda, but Ubalijoro is one.
Of course, these experiences can’t be replicated. Nor would anyone want to witness genocide—or, for that matter, admit to drug discovery failure. But there are lessons here for other innovators looking for a life outside the box.:
Read complete interview in Forbes Magazine.