Evoking Imhotep

Lt. Gov. Mayann Francis is thanked for her support of the Dalhousie outreach program, Imhotep Legacy Academy.

- July 6, 2011

Physics professor Kevin Hewitt demonstrates how light enters the prism as Lieutenant Governor Mayann Francis looks on. (Nick Pearce Photo)
Physics professor Kevin Hewitt demonstrates how light enters the prism as Lieutenant Governor Mayann Francis looks on. (Nick Pearce Photo)

Imhotep’s Legacy Academy began with a mission: to break down the barriers that prevent young people of African heritage from going to university. It’s named for the architect of ancient Egypt who designed the first pyramid ever built near the Nile, almost 5,000 years ago.

Yesterday, the instigators behind Imhotep’s Legacy Academy evoked Imhotep and his achievement in presenting a clear glass pyramid sculpture to Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Mayann Francis in appreciation for her steadfast support of the program.

'Dedicated efforts'

In presenting the pyramid, Dalhousie physics professor Kevin Hewitt thanked her honour “for your dedicated efforts in helping Imhotep to grow and prosper.”

Initiated eight years ago, Imhotep Legacy Project now involves 70 junior high school students and 15 university mentors in its after-school program, which sends mentors into schools to do science-related activities. The program has expanded beyond Dalhousie and includes mentors from St. Francis Xavier University, Cape Breton University and Nova Scotia Agricultural College. As well, Imhotep now offers a virtual school program, which links high school students and tutors over the Internet.

“I believe in the program,” said Lt. Gov. Francis, standing beneath a portrait of King George VI in the elegant drawing room of Government House. “You know and I know that African Nova Scotians can excel if there’s help, hope and a push. I think it’s important that the program is built on excellence; that it’s not about making it easier. This is hard work. This is tough. But it shows with hard work, students can reap benefits.”

Light in the prism

Always the physics professor, Dr. Hewitt couldn’t resist a quick lesson, pulling out a laser pen and showing how light bends as it enters the prism and is reflected again and again “until all the light is totally internally reflected.”

He recommended the award be placed in a window “so as to see the effects of dispersion.”

Also in attendance for the award presentation at Government House were: Donna McDermott-Mensah, office administrator for Imhotep; Pemberton Cyrus, associate dean of undergraduate studies, Faculty of Engineering; Barbara-Ann Hamilton-Hinch, assistant professor, School of Health and Human Performance; Oluronke Taiwo, advisor with the Black Student Advising Centre; Kodjo Efu, program manager for Imhotep; and Christopher McCreery, executive director of Government House.

Students of African heritage awarded research scholarships

Two Dalhousie students—Stewart Lucas (in photo at front) and Rufus Alubankudi—are the beneficiaries of a new and unique scholarship aimed at giving African Canadian students research experience.

“It’s to encourage you to pursue your studies and to strengthen your research experience in order to built a stronger resume for graduate school or med school,” said Kevin Hewitt, associate professor of physics and one of the instigators of Imhotep’s Legacy Academy, an innovative program in which university students of African heritage mentor and encourage junior high and high school students, also of African heritage.

The scholarships are sponsored by the Faculties of Science and Medicine in association with Imhotep’s Legacy Academy. The Faculty of Engineering will also offer a scholarship.

Dr. Hewitt soon revealed another, ulterior motive for the scholarships: “And we’d like these students to participate in Imhotep if they’re not already involved so that they can mentor the next generation of African Canadian scientists.”

Stewart Lucas, from Lucasville, N.S., has just completed his undergraduate science degree majoring in chemistry, and has been accepted to do his master’s degree at the University of Victoria. This summer, he’ll work in Professor Neil Burford’s inorganic chemistry lab.

The other recipient, Rufus Alubankudi, is going into his third year of chemical engineering studies at Dalhousie. Over the summer, he’s working with neurologists Virender Bhan and Roger McKelvey at the Dalhousie Multiple Sclerosis Research Unit.

“This research experience is so crucial especially as I am hoping to get into medicine,” said Mr. Alubankudi, originally from the Ivory Coast. “I’m very happy—every day I’m learning more and more.”

Dr. Hewitt says the idea for the scholarships came during a meeting with the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Mayann Francis. Dr. Hewitt followed up with the Deans of Science and Medicine, who immediately recognized the value of the scholarships and came on board with the idea. The Faculty of Engineering has since come on board.


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