UCL News


Spotlight on Professor Ijeoma F. Uchegbu, Pro-Vice-Provost for Africa and the Middle East

14 January 2016

This week the spotlight on Professor Ijeoma F.

Ijeoma F. Uchegbu Uchegbu, Pro-Vice-Provost for Africa and the Middle East.

What is your role and what does it involve?

I am the new Pro-Vice-Provost for Africa and the Middle East, one of seven new Pro-Vice-Provosts appointed to assist the Vice-Provost (International) deliver on the Global Engagement Strategy.

What does this mean in real life? We are all about ensuring that the excellent work colleagues do at UCL has an impact at an international level.

Whether this is by ensuring that the most talented individuals choose to study at UCL, that UCL alumni are well equipped to show leadership in all societies, communities and workplaces, or that the research that we do at UCL makes a difference to lives around the globe; we want to make sure that the university's voice is heard and respected in all parts of the planet.

Specifically, I chair UCL's Africa and Middle East Network, receive overseas visitors from the region, am interested in student recruitment from key markets and help to facilitate research relevant to the geographical region, by connecting people with people and people with sources of money.

This month, we've invited some prominent academics from Africa to London for a series of public events discussing a range of issues. We'll also be launching our African Studies Research Centre, so it's an exciting time

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I have been at UCL for four years and am still a Professor of Pharmaceutical Nanoscience within the School of Pharmacy and the Chief Scientific Officer of Nanomerics Ltd, a UCL spin-out company. In a previous life, I was a professor of Pharmaceutical Nanoscience at the School of Pharmacy, prior to its merger with UCL.

I enjoy being busy, as you can see. Boredom is the thief of time.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

I was only appointed to the Pro-Vice-Provost role two months ago and so, alas, I have not acquired any achievements yet. Really sorry about that - but we have some exciting plans for the network and for the relevant communities at UCL. So ask me in a year or so and I should have something more concrete to say.

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of you to-do list?

One of the things that we are doing is establishing an interactive database of UCL talent relevant to the region, just so that we know about all the really smart things that are going on at UCL.

We also want to establish an African Scholars Studentship Fund and I had a great meeting with our fundraising colleagues at the end of last year to kick this off. We are anxious to meet folk with deep pockets and a desire to change people's lives in a meaningful and positive way.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

Oh dear, I have not read a novel in ages as I prefer non-fiction really, but I did recently read Thomas Picketty's Capital. This book illustrates the lopsided nature of our world and starkly makes the point that the world is not configured for the poor. Yet where would the wealthy be without the poor? It got me thinking.

At the moment I am listening to Adele's 25 on Repeat Album mode on the iPhone. I consume music in a very repetitive and binge-like fashion.

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

My favourite jokes are all really filthy.

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

I was featured in a Spotlight piece about four years ago and in that piece I talked of a nice long dinner with Nelson Mandela and others. Well, I recently visited the Atlanta Civil and Human Rights Museum and was moved to tears.

I sat on the simulated Lunch Counter - just as those black students did many years ago trying to get served - years after the segregation laws had been repealed, and listened to the abuse and beatings going on around me. It was horrific and I was left shaking.

So, as well as Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, I would like to have dinner with any one of the hundreds of lunch counter sit-in activists. I probably would sit in absolute silence after humbly shaking every one of their hands. So, in essence I would be a rubbish dinner guest, but would enjoy listening to their conversations.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Well, when I was doing my PhD, 25 years ago, I was a single mother with three young children and I often worried about money, experiments not working and having enough time to fit life in. So I would simply say to my younger self, "enjoy your children," as I think that I could done a little more of that.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

I am too afraid to drive on the motorway.

What is your favourite place?

Without a doubt, London. You cannot beat it for confidence, aspiration, fully evolved attitudes and shouting cabbies. Oh, and there are the parks as well.