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Investing in the Future of Global Science

By Teresa Ventura


Fast-moving disease epidemics, the effects of climate change on food and livelihoods, the urgent need for sustainable energy to power economic growth — these are challenges that know no boundaries. If we are going to make progress on these worldwide challenges, the population of problem-solvers tackling them needs to be equally global.

We recognize that many physicists have an interest in the global scientific community and connecting with colleagues in developing countries. Through Seeding Labs, there are opportunities for the physics community to support scientists around the world and make a true impact on research and teaching, and we can use your help in many ways.

Seeding Labs is a nonprofit organization based in Boston dedicated to creating a generation of scientific problem-solvers in every country to tackle the most pressing problems facing their communities and the world. We accomplish this mission by supporting international scientists through connections to tools, training, and fellow researchers around the globe — researchers just like you and your fellow APS members. And by these means, we help foster the same advancement of scientific research, education, and international collaboration that is so important to members of APS.

Students from University of Embu, Kenya

Romano Mwirichia and students in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Embu, Kenya

Our core program, Instrumental Access, removes a barrier to scientific innovation and education in developing countries by providing donated modern lab equipment to research institutions and universities. Over the past nine years, we’ve supported 47 institutions in 27 developing countries with millions of dollars’ worth of equipment and supplies. When you combine tools with talent, our partners achieve great things.

But Why Equipment?

We see equipment as the foundation for other critical resources, a foundation that allows scientists to generate new knowledge, leverage sustainable funding, and better prepare university students for the scientific workforce and innovation economy.

Instrumental Access awardees are selected annually after a rigorous application process. We determine their need for equipment and their ability to effectively use it to conduct meaningful research and help train the next generation of scientists. Last year, we selected 16 outstanding university partners from a pool of 65 applicants representing 26 countries. They are some of the brightest teachers and researchers across the developing world, and they focus on agriculture, climate change, energy, water safety, drug discovery, infectious disease, and more.

Our program staff works with our partners to select a tailored shipment of equipment that they will put to productive use. This equipment comes to us through partnerships with more than 100 donors from both manufacturers and end users. We work with donors to identify, test, and collect high-quality instruments that will have a long and useful life in an overseas lab. Our donors include corporate and nonprofit research institutions, universities, and researchers like you — scientists who recognize the power of science to unite us all, regardless of geography.

How Can You Help?

Our Instrumental Access program is always in need of donated equipment and support to continue meeting the needs of the global scientific community. While Seeding Labs primarily supports researchers in biology and chemistry departments, many instruments found in physics labs would be useful, including microscopes, balances, and water purification systems.

Donating equipment is simple and takes just three easy steps:

  1. Identify good working equipment and supplies from your facility and send us a list of what you have. We can only accept full systems in good working condition, rather than components. We verify that your equipment matches the needs of our carefully screened scientists overseas.
  2. You sign a donation form and pack up your equipment for transfer. You can ship to us or have us arrange for pick-up.
  3. Through our Instrumental Access program, we match the appropriate equipment to the needs of the scientists abroad and coordinate shipping with them. We release you of liability and handle all necessary inspections, insurance, and paperwork needed for customs clearance and export control.

You can find a more detailed wish list of equipment that Seeding Labs needs on the Equipment Wish List page.

Don’t Have Equipment to Donate?

You can support the global scientific community in many other ways. We are always in need of philanthropic donations to enable us to get equipment from our warehouse into the hands of scientists around the world. Check out our website to make a personal donation and learn more about how you can get involved.

What Is the Impact?

Your donation supports the most talented scientists around the world, a vetted network of researchers with limited resources but immense potential.

A great example is Romano Mwirichia, Ph.D., at the University of Embu in Kenya. He is a microbiologist who trained at Yale University before returning to teach at Embu. In his application, he described an experience common to many of our partners.

"We have highly trained scientists who lack the tools to deliver quality training," he said. "Despite our advanced training in some of the best labs in the world, on returning back home we have to contend with poorly equipped labs or start from zero, like me. Access to more equipment will enable us to engage in research to address the unique problems we have in local settings."

Mwirichia and his colleagues in the Department of Biological Sciences received their Instrumental Access shipment in December 2016. It included more than $460,000 worth of equipment and supplies that will catalyze the university’s teaching and research.

As a young university, they had lab facilities but little equipment of their own. Thanks to Instrumental Access, students will be able to do the lab work for their classes on campus rather than traveling to neighboring institutions.

The long-term impact Instrumental Access can have on academic science is undeniable. At just six Instrumental Access universities reporting in 2016:

  • Research staff have utilized the equipment to advance 28 research projects and win new research grants worth $1.2M.
  • Up-and-coming scientists used instruments from Seeding Labs to complete at least 31 Master’s theses and 23 Ph.D. dissertations.
  • More than 5,800 students each year are taking courses that incorporate the equipment, getting crucial hands-on STEM experience.

We’d love to talk more about how APS members can impact the global scientific community with a donation or a custom partnership with Seeding Labs — just send us an email at info@seedinglabs.org, or give us a call at 617-500-3014.

For more on Seeding Labs visit seedinglabs.org, @Seedinglabs, or facebook.com/seedinglabs.

Teresa Ventura is a development associate at Seeding Labs.

Vetja Haakuria and colleagues at the University of Namibia School of Pharmacy
Photo: Seeding Labs

Vetja Haakuria and colleagues at the University of Namibia School of Pharmacy unpacking their Instrumental Access equipment.

Teresa Ventura

Teresa Ventura

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Editor: David Voss
Staff Science Writer: Rachel Gaal
Contributing Correspondent: Alaina G. Levine
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