Paducah mayor Gayle Kaler, UK Paducah engineering faculty member Jeffrey Seay and chemical engineering undergraduate research student Chandni Joshi are traveling this month to the sub-Saharan African country of Gabon.
The group plans to discuss economic development opportunities between Kentucky and Gabon as well as potential research and collaboration opportunities for UK in Gabon.
"This opportunity has grown out of our on-going research in sustainable biofuels in Cameroon – the country to the north of Gabon," Seay said. "Through the relationships we have built in Cameroon, we now have the chance to disseminate our work to other countries in the region."
The group departs for Libreville, Gabon on Tuesday, May 13. Upon arrival, they will travel by motorcade to Lambaréné, where they will meet the governor of the Moyen-Ogooué province and the city’s mayor. Seay will give a presentation covering the research capabilities at the UK Paducah campus plus an overview of the ongoing research work in Cameroon. Mayor Kaler will discuss the economic and cultural exchange opportunities available with Paducah.
"I'm honored to be invited by the University of Kentucky to travel to Gabon, and I am extremely thankful that an anonymous donor is providing the funds for my airfare,” Kaler said. “My hope is that this visit will be the beginning of a longstanding cultural, economic and educational partnership between Paducah and Lambaréné."
Kaler will be visiting several schools in Lambaréné and present them with McCracken County High School and Paducah Tilghman High School shirts in addition to books donated by McNabb Elementary and local residents.
Following the presentations by Kaler and Seay, the group will tour several of Gabon’s cultural landmarks. In addition to observing a traditional ceremony at a Bwiti temple, they will visit the Albert Schweitzer Hospital, the State School for the Deaf and Mute, the National School of Waters and Forests and more. The contingent will also meet the President of the Gabonese Senate, Vice President of the National Assembly and the U.S. Ambassador to Gabon.
“This trip is an amazing opportunity for the UK Paducah campus and especially for our students," Seay said. "We are looking forward to the chance to build new relationships and experience the richness of the Gabonese culture."
The trip formally concludes May 16; however, Seay and Joshi will connect with a group of UK engineering students studying abroad in Cameroon. The University of Kentucky Appropriate Technology and Sustainability (UKATS) Research Group, headed by Seay, has been working on low-cost, locally produced biodiesel and biochar projects since 2011. The UKATS group has developed these projects in partnership with the African Centre for Renewable Energy & Sustainable Technology (ACREST), located in the village of Bangang in rural Cameroon. This will be the group’s second visit to Bangang since 2012.