Alex Kyabarongo

Kampala, Uganda

Alex  Kyabarongo

Alex was born into a farming family in Uganda. At home, his family did not have electricity, only kerosene lamps. He would survive on a litre of milk a day for the seven years he was in primary school: on returning home, he would then help with the livestock and fetch water and firewood. After primary school, his father wanted him to quit education and help with the cattle, and Alex was only able to continue to high school by going to live with his older sister in another town. With her help he got a bursary and was able to continue for four years of junior high school, though he faced an uphill struggle to catch up in English language studies. Nonetheless, Alex surprised his classmates by becoming the best student in the school and one of the best in the region on the national exams.  

It was in high school that Alex decided to become a veterinarian. He was not sure he could meet the costs of the veterinary course at the university, so he worked hard to win a government scholarship since that was the only way. In his final year of high school, he was top student again, and amongst the best in the country. He was then admitted to Makerere University for veterinary medicine, where he has continued to get first class marks, but also to do much more.  

In 2018, Alex started to become an innovator by mobilising a team of young scientists and spearheading a project to design a bacterium that can degrade plastics using synthetic biological technology. Subsequently he represented the team at the iGEM Jamboree in Boston Massachusetts USA. As a result, In January 2021, iGEM Foundation selected him to be its Regional Ambassador Program Coordinator for Africa. Alex now leads and coordinates a group of three Ambassadors from Uganda, Egypt and Morocco who work together to promote synthetic biology through mentoring and fostering collaborations between African teams and those from other continents. As well as driving scientific innovation, Alex also started an initiative of going to high schools to give pep talks about how it is possible to change everything through education. Today, he is a mentorship protege for Next Generation Global Health Security Network (NextGen), and a mentor to many students in Uganda and globally.  

If Alex wins the Global Student Prize, he will fund an initiative to develop a community laboratory in Uganda that would focus on promoting synthetic biology and STEM research in the region. The lab would host, educate and motivate early career researchers, connecting them to potential funding agencies that could bring their startups to life. Part of the funds would also be directed towards Alex’s career guidance activities for marginalized community schools in northern Uganda, as well as pastoral communities like the Karamojong in the northeast and Bahima in the west.