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posted Mar 6, 2019, 8:04 PM by Margaret Ikape   [ updated Mar 15, 2019, 2:49 PM ]

Herman AKAGLA was curious about the universe from a very young age and in high school, he decided to pursue the path of studying physics.   His teacher and classmates noticed his aptitude for science and jokingly called him the class “physicist”.  Herman was the first son in his family to go to school and decided to use his love and skill for the subject to pursue a bachelor's in physics from the University of Lome in Togo, where he is from.

After finishing his bachelors, Herman started teaching high school physics while seeking opportunities to learn more.  He pursued a master's degree in mathematical sciences at African Institute for Mathematical Sciences-Ghana and that’s when a classmate told him about WAISSYA. They applied and attended the 2017 postgraduate stream together.  Herman’s favourite part of WAISSYA experience was working on the Ghanaian radio telescope. His group,  “the Andromeda PG” collected the data of the Centaurus A galaxy using the Ghanaian radio telescope, processed this data using the Python programming and generated the mosaic map of the galaxy. 

 After the summer school, Herman went back to high school teaching where WAISSYA’s interactive teaching style influenced the way he interacted with his students.  Whenever possible, Herman tried to do experiments and demonstrations to engage and motivate his students to learn more theoretical topics.

While teaching, Herman looked for other opportunities to increase his own engagement and impact with science.  He was the only Togolese who attended the SGAC (Space Generation Advisory Council) Workshop in Nigeria.  Here, he met a lot of people who encouraged him to do outreach back in Togo.  He started a science club at his school that meets midday and students can specialize in topics like astronomy or electronics.  These students made videos about how science relates to every day life and are shared online.

Herman was appointed the first NPOC (National Point of Contact) of the SGAC in Togo and has continued to get his students involved in organizing events for the country.  For example, on April 12, 2018, he organized the first Yuri day (International Day of Human Space Flight) in Togo. With his students, he made video projections on the first space flight made by Yuri Gagarin, and presented on the importance of space science, applications in human life and opportunities to engage with astronomy in Africa (like the Square Kilometre Array in South Africa).  His contributions were acknowledged by the SGAC who granted him the African Leadership Award and has continued to travel the world, including a visit to Namibia for the African School of Physics.

In October 2018, Herman moved to Dijon-France- enrolled in the International Master in Physics, Photonics, Nanotechnology at the University of Burgundy.   He has been awarded the Togolese government fellowship in order to research the “Applications of Nanotechnology in Space Science”.   Herman hopes to teach at the university one day and still keeps in contact with his students, some of whom have earned master’s degrees and still call him about physics exercises.

Herman encourages people considering WAISSYA or future study in the physical sciences to be very curious.  He also advices people to always share their knowledge because “when you share your knowledge with others, you learn more”.  Herman is a wonderful example of someone with insatiable curiosity, who always gives back through teaching and outreach.

                                                                                                                                        Written by Kathleen Foote.