Meet the 2020/21 Senior AfOx Visiting Fellows

Six researchers from Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Africa, Tunisia and Liberia have been awarded the 2020-21 Senior AfOx Visiting Fellowships. The Senior Visiting Fellowships programme allows outstanding African researchers to spend up to a year at the University of Oxford.  Find out more about the 2020/21 Senior AfOx Visiting Fellows below.

Professor Boutheïna Kerkeni


Boutheïna Kerkeni is a Professor of Physics at ISAMM University la Manouba, Tunisia. She is currently a Senior Visiting Fellow at the Physics Department, University of Oxford, as part of the Africa Oxford Initiative Senior Visiting Fellowship Programme.

Boutheïna holds a PhD from Paris VI University and a Habilitation (HDR) from Cergy Pontoise University, France. She is the head of an active research group in Physical Chemistry at the Faculty of Sciences Tunis, University Tunis El Manar.

Dr. Kerkeni has made extensive contributions to astrophysics and astrochemistry. Her research is computational-theoretical based. This means that she uses Physics and Chemistry laws and adapt them in computer codes to model interaction energies between atoms that form molecules. Her research aims to derive fundamental and molecule-specific data/parameters, like Infrared spectra, reaction rate constants, and energetic barriers to form the molecules detected by telescopes. Infrared spectroscopy is a branch of science concerned with the investigation and measurement of molecules’ emitted light when they interact with electromagnetic radiation shed by stars. Reaction rate constants reflect the speed at which chemical reactions to form molecules occur. The data she computes can be used in astrochemical models developed by astronomers to simulate specific species evolution, and track their molecular complexity.

Boutheïna has over 15 years of teaching experience in various subjects at Universities in France, the United Kingdom, and Tunisia. Besides the teaching opportunities, Boutheïna has supervised several PhD students and many masters’ projects.

Boutheïna has been awarded the National Centre of Scientific Research PhD scholarship, Paris (1998), a junior lectureship at Worcester College University of Oxford (2005), and the Framework Program 7 (FP7) Marie Curie-Actions, at the French Institute of Petroleum (IFPEN), France (2016). Boutheïna has also been awarded research grants such as the High Performance Computing HPC-Europa 2 and 3, the European Cooperation in Science and Technology COST CM1401 and a Senior African Oxford Initiative Visiting Fellowship at the University of Oxford.

Boutheïna’s joint-research project with the Physics Department at Oxford encompasses computational calculations of large molecules of interstellar interest, in order to diagnose their spectra by testing and extending the existing methodologies to reach large-sized molecules beyond what already exists in the literature. The infrared emission spectra of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon molecules is used to determine the star formation rate in galaxies, one of the key indicators for understanding galaxy evolution. The recent launch of the Nasa James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) offers a unique opportunity to detect molecules from a wide range of astronomical sources with unprecedented resolution. The proposed research is timely given what is inferred from the analysis of astronomical observations.  

Boutheïna’s visit to the Physics Department at the University of Oxford will help her foster further collaborations with her home institution in Tunis and will contribute to the transfer of a high-quality Physics education specifically to further develop astrophysics research activities in new master programs and PhD projects as well as organise high-level science meetings.


Associate Professor Godwin Ogbole

Picture of Associate Professor Godwin Ogbole

Godwin Ogbole is Associate Professor of Radiology at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria and a Senior Visiting Fellow at the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Oxford University, as part of the Africa Oxford Initiative's Senior Visiting Fellowship Programme. He is the lead Neuroradiologist of the NIH-funded Stroke Investigative Research and Educational Network (SIREN)  as well as  Secretary of the Faculty of  Radiology of the West African College of Surgeons(WACS)

Godwin's core expertise is neuroimaging of stroke, dementia and pediatric epilepsy. He holds Masters's degrees in epidemiology, clinical investigation and radiation protection from universities in Nigeria and the United States of America. He has contributed to advancing neuroimaging in Africa through his leadership role in the Consortium for the Advancement of MRI Education and Research in Africa(CAMERA). His recent interest is computational neuroimaging analysis using machine learning. He has co-authored three radiology books and has published more than a hundred scientific papers. He is the founding president of the Neuroradiological Society of Nigeria(NRSN).

While at Oxford, Godwin is working on expanding the application of automatic brain segmentation algorithms developed at oxford on imaging data from Africa. Godwin is also devoting his time developing collaborative networks to facilitate an educational Stroke exchange programme between Oxford and the University of Ibadan in Nigeria.


Dr Stephen B Kennedy

Picture of Dr Stephen B Kennedy

Dr Stephen B. Kennedy is a Senior Researcher at the University of Liberia-Pacific Institute for Research & Evaluation (UL-PIRE) Africa Center, an infectious disease research centre based at the University of Liberia. Dr Stephen B. Kennedy is currently a Senior Visiting Fellow at Merton College, University of Oxford, as part of the Africa Oxford Initiative’s Senior Visiting Fellowship Programme.

Dr Stephen B Kennedy is trained in general medicine and public health in infectious disease epidemiology, emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) research, international health and biomedical research, and research ethics in Liberia, the United States, and Zambia. Dr Kennedy has over 15 years of experience as a public health practitioner, infectious disease researcher, and medical doctor.

Previously, Dr Kennedy served as Commissioner for Programs & Policy at the National AIDS Commission of Liberia; Secretary-General of the Liberia College of Physicians & Surgeons, the country’s flagship postgraduate medical residency training programme; and Co-ordinator for Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) Research at Liberia’s Incident Management System during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Dr Kennedy also served as Liberia’s Co-Principal Investigator on the EVD Vaccine Clinical Trial for the Liberia-US Joint Partnership for Research on Ebola Vaccines in Liberia and for a four-country (Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, Mali) three-sponsors (NIHINSERMLSHTM) EVD Vaccines Clinical Trial Consortium.

While at the Merton College, University of Oxford, Dr Kennedy will be working on “strengthening research ethics committees in Liberia for genomic studies”. Dr Kennedy will also interact with our Fellows, staff and students, bringing his wealth of experience in global health and infectious disease and broadening the perspective of our community.


Professor Workineh Kelbessa

Professor workineh Kelbessa


Workineh Kelbessa is a Professor of Philosophy at Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia. Professor Kelbessa is currently a Senior Visiting Fellow at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics and the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford, as part of the Africa Oxford Initiative's Senior Visiting Fellowship Programme.

Professor Kelbessa has over 30 years of experience in teaching and research. His research interests include African philosophy, and indigenous knowledge, environmental philosophy, environmental ethics, development ethics, climate ethics, water ethics, globalization and the philosophy of love and sex. He has published extensively in a wide range of fields. His work tackles significant problems the world faces, especially pressingly in Africa's nations. His most recent publications include "African Worldviews, Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Development" (2021) and Philosophical Responses to Global Challenges with African Examples (edited with Tenna Dewo), due to be published by The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy in 2022.

In 2012, he was appointed a member of the World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST) by the Director-General of UNESCO, on which he served until 2019. He was a member of the International Panel on Social Progress (IPSP) and a Research Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Germany. He is currently a member of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences and serves as a member of several other international professional associations. Moreover, he was a member of the Editorial Board of Environmental Ethics and has served on the Editorial Boards of various journals, including Health Care Philosophy and Policy, the African Journal of Environmental Ethics and Values, and the Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics.  

While at the University of Oxford, Professor Kelbessa will examine water ethics and its contribution to sustainable water resources management. He will explore different ethical principles (indigenous and modern) that can play an important role in managing water resources.

You can find more information about Professor Kelbessa at Workineh Kelbessa | College of Social Science

Professor Kalpana Hiralal


Kalpana Hiralal is a professor of history in the School of Social Sciences at Howard College at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), South Africa. Professor Hiralal is currently a Senior Visiting Fellow at the African Studies Centre, the Oxford Department of International Development (ODID), and Wolfson College, the University of Oxford, as part of the Africa Oxford Initiative Senior Visiting Fellowship Programme.

Prof. Hiralal teaches both undergraduate and graduate-level modules on global history, women, gender, and politics. She has been the recipient of several research grants and scholarship awards, including the Nordic Africa Institute (NAI) Guest Researcher (2007); School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS), UK (2015), and the Erasmus Mundus Inspire Scholarship, University of Valladolid, Spain (2017).

Prof Hiralal is a South African NRF rated researcher. Her two key areas of interest are Gender and the South Asian Diaspora and Women in the Anti-apartheid Struggle. Her most recent publications are: co-author of Pioneers of Satyagraha Indian South African Defy Racist Laws1907-1914 (Navajivan 2017) and co-author of Gender and Mobility: Borders, Bodies and Boundaries, Palgrave 2018.

While at the University of Oxford, Professor Kalpana Hiralal will conduct research on the struggle for gender equality in South Africa’s Road to Democracy. Prof Hiralal also will launch her upcoming book Sisters in the Struggle (UNISA Press) in collaboration with the India Oxford Initiative (IndoOx) and ODID at the University of Oxford. 


Professor Laetitia Rispel

Professor Laetitia Rispel

Professor Laetitia Rispel is a professor of Public Health at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg, South Africa, where she holds a Research Chair on the Health Workforce as part of the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI). Prof. Rispel is currently a Senior Visiting Fellow at the Department of Social Policy and Intervention (DPSI), University of Oxford, as part of the Africa Oxford Initiative's Senior Visiting Fellowship Programme.

Professor Rispel has more than 30 years’ experience of research, teaching, and health leadership in different settings. Her research focuses on the health workforce (also known as human resources for health) and its intersection with the performance of the health care system. She has published extensively on different aspects of health policy and the transformation of the South African health system. In addition to supervising postgraduate students at Wits University, Laetitia is known for her transformation efforts and her mentoring of other African scholars, particularly black women leaders.

Prof. Rispel has won several national and international awards. She was president of the World Federation of Public Health Associations from 2018 to 2020 and was the first woman from Africa and the third in the more than 50-year history of the Federation elected to this prestigious position.

While at the University of Oxford, Prof. Rispel will network with other academics and conceptualise a research project that examines the intersection of frontline health workers, and the resilience, recovery, and renewal of health care systems with or after the COVID-19 pandemic.