A US-based Rwandan researcher, Prof. Aristide Gumyusenge, has been appointed as a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the department of materials science, making him the only black faculty member in the department.
The 29-year-old is a research scientist and materials science engineer with a background in polymer chemistry, having obtained his PhD in chemistry with focus on organic semiconductors from Purdue University in 2019.
"It is a great honour, generally speaking, a dream coming true! But as a black faculty member, as a Rwandan, it speaks great volume. It means that someone like me from extremely humble beginnings can work hard and make it this far. I hope it inspires many more, especially the youth in Rwanda and elsewhere, to believe in themselves, to believe they can go very far, as far as the best institute of technology in the world," Gumyusenge told The New Times in an exclusive interview.
His research interests are in the design and processing of novel organic materials for bioelectronics and neuromorphic computing devices.
As a tenure-track assistant professor, Gumyusenge will teach graduate and undergraduate courses in the materials science department, and will run a research group at MIT focusing on the development of new materials for biology-inspired electronics.
His research role involves securing research funds, leading cutting-edge research projects, and mentoring graduate and post-graduate researchers.
He also aims to utilize both his platform and expertise in materials science and engineering to pioneer sustainable solutions to global challenges such as clean water scarcity, clean energy, and advancing healthcare, especially on the African continent.
Gumyusenge in 2019 worked with his colleagues led by Prof. Jianguo Mei to discover polymers that can sustain extreme heat, higher than 220 Celsius.
Their discovery was published in one of the most prestigious US journals called Science Magazine.
"So far, my PhD research has opened a new direction of research for organic materials in high temperature electronics. It has allowed for better understanding on how these materials operate under harsh environments and has led to new electronic circuit designs. It has been great to see it continue to unfold. In fact, the original design was patented for technology development and I aim to further pursue that direction," he said.
More about Aristide Gumyusenge
Born on a small farm in Kamonyi District, Southern Province, his family survived the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Against all odds, he was a straight-A student right from primary level.
He joined Petit Seminaire St Leon in Kabgayi for high school where he majored in Chemistry, Biology, and Mathematics and scored distinctions in all subjects in the national exams at the end of high school in 2010.
He especially scored the second-best score in chemistry that earned him the Rwandan Presidential Scholarship to attend university in the USA.
He taught himself how to speak English by listening to BBC and VOA stations and as a result, passed the interview as part of the 18 presidential scholars that were received by Hendrix Consortium.
He then attended Wofford College in South Carolina and majored in chemistry with a minor in mathematics.
Besides MIT, Gumyusenge is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Stanford University's Geballe Laboratory for Advanced Materials (GLAM) Postdoctoral Research Fellow where he enrolled in January 2020.