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Canada’s Governor General Visits AUST

As part of her visit to Nigeria, the 29th Governor General of Canada, the Rt. Hon. Julie Payette chose to visit an educational institution in Abuja, the choice was AUST. We feel greatly honoured and privileged to have been asked to host the Governor General who is not only an accomplished scientist and engineer but has also had an almost two-decades-long career as an Astronaut, who has undertaken two missions to the International Space Station, as a crew member on Space Shuttle Discovery and on a second mission, as the flight engineer on Space Shuttle Endeavour, the 29th mission to the Space Station and she has undertaken 5 space walks. From 2000 to 2007, she served as Chief Astronaut at the Canadian Space Agency. With the Nigerian Space Agency NASRDA being one of the sites also on her itinerary, her visit is most timely in view of the fact that AUST has just launched a new set of programs in Space Sciences and Aerospace Engineering, in partnership with NASRDA. The Governor General has numerous other accomplished feats, too numerous to mention here but, in recognition of those accomplishments, she has received a variety of civic honours, in Canada and abroad. She is also the recipient of 28 honorary doctorates from universities around the world. In a somewhat ironic twist for someone who has spent most of her life flying aeroplanes and spacecraft, she is also a certified one-atmosphere, deep-sea diving suit operator. She was able to view displays and exhibit of research being done by AUST's Master's and doctoral students, with whom she had the opportunity to interact directly. As part of her reaction to what she saw, she expressed her country’s readiness to see collaborations in science and innovation between Canadian institutions and those in Nigeria and, in particular, with the African University of Science and Technology (AUST). Accompanied by a sizeable delegation of Canadians from the private sector, non-governmental agencies and some government units, Payette expressed how pleasing it was to see the kind of research being done at AUST, all of which had a strong focus on solving African problems. According to her, “What we saw here, what the students are showing us is that, innovation, self-expression and discovery is everywhere, and is there for us to tap into and to do something with it”.

She thanked the leadership of AUST for the warm welcome extended to her and her entourage and promised that her visit should open new windows for partnerships, especially in the area of space technology, an area of particular interest to her, having spent a major portion of her career as an Astronaut.

Welcoming the Canadian Leader, the President of AUST, Professor Kingston Nyamapfene expressed AUST’s pleasure over the visit. He described Julie Payette as not only a very important political dignitary but also someone who had distinguished herself in Science and Engineering and continues to do work in those areas by supporting various initiatives. The President also shared with her the important role that AUST is now playing in the region, as a significant centre for the enhancement of teaching and research capacity at universities around here, as exemplified by one of the doctoral students she met, who is also a lecturer at a nearby university. AUST now attracts many lecturers from other universities seeking to do their doctoral studies here.