STEaPP Spotlight on... Associate Professor Julius Mugwagwa
6 July 2020
How long have you been at STEaPP? What does your role involve?
I have been at STEaPP since September 2017. My role involves teaching and research in the areas of innovation and development. I co-lead the MPA in Development, Technology and Innovation Policy, and lead the elective on Science Funding and Governance. My areas of interest, which go to the core of my teaching and research roles - are the governance and development implications of technologies and innovations. In other words, my interest is in exploring, challenging and furthering understandings on how tools from science, technology and innovation can best be harnessed to address societal challenges, and the role that public policy can play in making that happen.
I have other roles within the wider UCL, as Global Health Thematic Director at the Global Governance Institute, and as part of the Working Group for the UCL School of Health of the Public. Connections between global and local discourses and challenging the techno-economic paradigm of contemporary conceptualisations of innovation are at the core of my different roles.
What drew you to STEaPP and UCL?
I have always seen myself as an ‘applied academic’, and the opportunity to join STEaPP was a perfect fit for my desire to think, write, talk and take action on issues of innovation and development. Contributing to the nurturing of new generations of practice-oriented scholars, as we do through our MPA and doctoral programmes, was, and remains, a key motivating factor for me being here.
How does your research feed into your teaching (and vice versa)?
My research is integral to my teaching, as is my teaching to my research. I have done, and still do most of my research in developing countries, especially Sub-Saharan Africa. This is in addition to the research I do in developed countries. This has allowed me to be able to inform, enrich and interrogate different theoretical and conceptual configurations with empirical evidence from different parts of the world, and to illustrate that development is a global issue, not just a matter for certain regions of the world.
Context is a key factor in shaping what technologies and innovations can do to address societal challenges. My research allows me to anchor my teaching in on-going research. In-class discussions with students on the research process and outputs strengthens the research while equipping the students with research skills. Research by our doctoral candidates, and by our MPA students in their client-oriented group projects, is also highly important for our teaching, as of course, is the research being done by colleagues here in STEaPP and UCL broadly.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by the possibilities that technologies and innovations have brought and continue to bring to societies globally. Being able to contribute to the shaping of trajectories for technologies, innovations and governance mechanisms around them sustains my inspiration.
What achievements are you most proud of?
Being a past recipient of a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship and an ESRC Future Research Leaders’ Fellowship.
Who influenced you?
Many people and events have influenced my journey of transformation from the life sciences to the science-technology-policy interface. I will single out my parents for teaching me to value knowledge from different sources from an early age, and my PhD supervisors at The Open University for always reminding me to ‘build from my strengths’ and ‘not get lost in the intellectual crowd’.
If you could give one piece of advice to your teenage self, what would it be?
I probably wouldn’t change my inclination towards the natural sciences, but I would tell myself that History matters, and that I need to take that subject seriously!
What piece of advice would you like to give to a student?
If you are looking for a place where you will develop, grow and challenge your understanding of how different disciplines and actors come together for the good of the real world, UCL STEaPP is where you want to be.
What three words would you use to describe STEaPP?
Inspiring. Challenging. Dynamic.