N.C. A&T Physics Professor Bililign Earns Fulbright Award to Teach in Ethiopia

By Jamie Crockett / 06/06/2024 College of Science and Technology

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (June 6, 2024) – Solomon Bililign, Ph.D., a professor of physics at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, is the recipient of a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program Award to Ethiopia for the 2024-25 academic year. He will teach physics and atmospheric sciences at Addis Ababa University’s Institute of Geophysics, Space Science and Astronomy and the Department of Physics beginning in September.

“I started my teaching career at Addis Ababa University as an assistant lecturer in 1983 before leaving to go to Iowa for a Ph.D. 1987. I have been at N.C. A&T since 1993, now 31 years, and was recently appointed as an adjunct professor at AAU,” said Bililign. “I am ready to share the experience and skills I developed at N.C. A&T, and in the process, enhance Aggies’ partnership with colleagues on the continent and bring back my experience to Aggieland.”

Bililign’s research has focused on the field of atmospheric sciences in the last two decades of his time at A&T. In 2006, he led the establishment of the $12.5 million National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Interdisciplinary Scientific Environmental Technology Cooperative Science Center that led to the establishment of programs in atmospheric sciences. He also has served in various capacities locally, including on the climate advisory panel that produced the North Carolina Climate Science Report in response to Gov. Roy Cooper’s Executive Order 80. Most recently, he has served as director of the Climate Resiliency Center in the Piedmont Triad, a project funded by the Department of Energy.

In addition to his local and statewide efforts over the years, Bililign has facilitated and expanding international workshops and conferences on air quality in Africa. The “Together for cleaner air in Ethiopia” international conference at Addis Ababa University in January brought together 80 attendees representing the U.S., Ethiopia and Europe, public officials, community leaders, regulators, policymakers and experts in air quality.

The following are the results of a series of workshops Bililign has been organizing since 2021, all of which he highlighted in his Fulbright application:

  • Formation of air quality working groups involving city- and country- wide environmental programs, university faculty and international organizations in Nairobi and Addis Ababa
  • Development of graduate programs in atmospheric sciences and air quality at AAU
  • A U.K./U.S. joint proposal led by York University for an aircraft campaign in Nairobi and Addis Ababa to study air quality. This is an international collaboration with principal investigators (PIs) from York University and Birmingham University in England and Columbia University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and A&T in the U.S., where NOAA and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) are partners. PIs also include faculty from Addis Ababa University-Ethiopia and Kenyatta University-Kenya and if funded, will have allocated funds for local capacity building in both cities.

Bililign has been steadfast in ensuring that Africa, a continent that has been historically overlooked in air quality and environmental research, is centered in both discussion and scientific exploration. To achieve this end, collaboration is essential.

“Since 2011, with my collaborator at UNC-Chapel Hill, my lab was focused on understanding optical and chemical properties African biomass burning emissions funded by a series of National Science Foundation awards,” said Bililign. “The pending project involves collaboration for field sample collection from Addis Ababa, Addis Ababa University and Nairobi’s Kenyatta University.”         

In preparation for the anticipated 2027 start of the research field intensive, Bililign said, “We are planning for an air quality lab to be established in at least one university in East Africa, support for routine care of existing equipment and to train in-country experts on routine air quality monitoring instrumentation, research grade instrumentation, sensors, and other equipment that will be used.”

Additionally, an air quality modeling group will be established in at least one university in East Africa, the team will leverage NCAR air quality model system for application in Ethiopia and train in-country experts (one in Kenya and one in Ethiopia) on air quality modeling system application and analysis.

“One of my proposed activities is planning on developing a certificate program at Addis Ababa University for technicians that operate, calibrate and fix instruments and skills to locally build low-cost sensors and low-cost modeling systems in collaboration with IGSSA in spring 2025,” said Bililign.

-Solomon Bililign, Ph.D., contributed to this report

Media Contact Information: jicrockett@ncat.edu

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