Esther Ngumbi, an assistant professor of entomology at the University of Illinois, is the 2021 recipient of the Mani L. Bhaumik Award for Public Engagement with Science, an annual award given out by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The award is presented to scientists and engineers in recognition of their contributions to public engagement with science. Previous recipients of the public engagement award include astronomer Carl Sagan and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.
The academy stated that it is honoring Professor Ngumbi for “helping the world meet sustainability challenges, diversifying the global community of scientists, and practicing and teaching science communication.” She was also recognized “for her engagement on sustainable agriculture and ending hunger, her commitment to diversifying the global community of scientists, and her work to change the culture of science.”
Dr. Ngumbi is the founder of Oyeska Greens, a startup in Kenya that trains farmers in sustainable and profitable agricultural techniques. She regularly speaks to minority and other underrepresented communities to inspire young people to pursue careers in science. She is a founder of Spring Break Kenya, an initiative that brings university students to Kenya’s rural areas to strengthen communal efforts to end hunger. With her parents, she founded the Dr. Ndumi Faulu Academy, a school that serves the children in her hometown in coastal Kenya.
Dr. Ngumbi grew up in a rural farming community in Kenya. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Kenyatta University and a Ph.D. in entomology from Auburn University in Alabama. Dr. Ngumbi joined the faculty at the University of Illinois in 2018.