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Maji Safi UV Project - Team Profiles

We are committed to providing novel water treatment solutions for susceptible populations

Maji Safi UV Project

In September 2022, a group of concerned global citizens began a social venture with the goal of promoting access to clean drinking water around the world. “Maji Safi” means “Clean or potable Water” in Swahili, this is one of the most basic human needs. Per the World Health Organization (WHO), 4,000 children die per day from waterborne diseases. Of the African population of 1.14 billion people, 76% have no access to clean drinking water. The Maji Safi UV Project is comprised of local and international scientists and engineers to collaborate and create functional and sustainable products and access to clean drinking water. The project is set to start in Kenya; with project phases including

    • Product validation at local accredited universities
    • Unique Solutions Design and verified field trials
    • Public Health Monitoring and extensive field surveys
    • Widespread implementation utilizing water grants approach to ensure sustainability
Dr. Oeba
Duke Ateyh Oeba, MSc., Ph.D.

Dr. Duke Ateyh Oeba

Dr. Duke Oeba is a co-founder of the Maji Safi UV Project Group. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Education Science with a specialization in Physics and Mathematics from Egerton University in Kenya, a Master’s degree in Electronics and Instrumentation with a specialization in Photovoltaic Solar cell Technology from Kenyatta University in Kenya, and a Ph.D. degree in Physics specializing in Synthesis and Characterization of Silicon Materials, Fabrication, and Characterization of Radiation Detectors for Radiation Sensing Applications from the University of South Africa in South Africa. Currently, Dr. Oeba is a researcher and lecturer at the Department of Physics at Egerton University, Kenya. His research interest includes applying nanotechnology to produce safe, reliable and clean drinking water for marginalized communities.

Dr. Oeba’s current project involves testing novel UV LEDs (donated by Crystal IS, an Asahi Kasei Company) for water disinfection in Kenya. The UV LED system is applied and tested against Cholera, typhoid and dysentery-causing microbes and other related waterborne disease-causing pathogens. The application of UV-LEDs for point-of-use (POU) water disinfection, especially in marginalized communities, is due to their unique properties (such as their small size) that allow the design of unique reactors and low power consumption.

In the last five years, Dr. Oeba has published several scholarly articles in International Peer-reviewed Journals in his areas of specialization. He has also attended and presented at several international conferences/ workshops and has won several awards and research grants. Dr. Oeba is the recipient of (i) $51,430.00 (USD) Seed Grant for New African Principal Investigators (SG-NAPI). Grant by UNESCO- TWAS (2023-2025). (ii) $10,000.00 (USD) for the Design, Development & Construction of an IoT-Based Queen Bee Incubator. Grant by Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Project (2021-2022), funded by World Bank, and (iii) Ph.D. scholarship worth $21,000.00 (USD) by National Research Foundation of South Africa (2018-2021).

Dr. Oeba is the Vice Chair of the University Bachelor of Science Physics Programs Review Committee, IEEE P2520.1 Working Group Member, Co-Guest Editor in Special Issue in International Journals of Thin Film Science and Technology, and is the Quality and Standard Faculty Board Member (Faculty of Science) at Egerton University.

Dr. Oeba
Dr. Eric Omori Omwenga

Dr. Eric Omori Omwenga

Dr. Omwenga is a co-founder of the Maji Safi UV Project Group. He is a Kenyan, born in the rural Village of Kebuse, in Borabu sub-county in Nyamira county of Kisii. Being of rural roots, he has experienced the direct impacts of unclean water usage, occurring to this day due to the lack of piped treated water. Dr. Omwenga has experienced and encountered waterborne-related infections firsthand that have sadly resulted in the death of his people. The state of water in this region is affected by the fact that water sources are shared with domestic and wild animals; this contributes to the highest possibility of transmission of water-borne related pathogens between humans and animals. The concern of waterborne infections exists in most African communal water access points, including his locality.

Due to the quality of drinking water in his community, Dr. Omwenga became interested in studying waterborne pathogens at a young age. He wished to know which “germs” in the water were causing these infections and how they could be managed and eliminated. For this reason, he enrolled and earned a BSc. in Biomedical Sciences and Technology, and another BSc. in Medical Laboratory Sciences. Both are from Maseno University in Kenya. Dr. Omwenga earned an Msc. in Microbiology at Kenyatta University, Kenya, and a Ph.D.  in Microbiology at Muenster University, Germany. 

Dr. Omwenga is a Senior Microbiologist who focuses on using emerging technologies to combat waterborne diseases. Throughout his career, he has worked tirelessly on deducing the presence of Enterobacteriaceae from both human and water samples, determining their susceptibility patterns, virulence traits, resistance genes, biofilm formation abilities, and the presence of commonly used antibiotics. Additionally, he has worked on deducing the antimicrobial capability of medicinal plants (ethnopharmacology) used by natives in managing water-borne infections. He has also worked on bacterial quorum sensing and the discovery of antiquorum sensing strategies (such as utilizing antagonists against autoinducers commonly produced by Gram-negative bacteria; successfully delivered through novel nanobiotechnological advancements).

Currently, Dr. Omwenga is involved in One Health Research (collaborative multi-sectoral and transdisciplinary approach), with collaborators from the University of Hohenheim and the University Hospital of Tübingen, both from Germany. This study involves mapping the antimicrobial-resistant genes from Enterobacteriaceae bacteria isolated from patients, their animals & environmental samples like water from their homestead, and the food they consume (if any). The aim of this research is to assess whether there is a link between antimicrobial resistance from these three treatments.

Finally, Dr. Omwenga is an alumni of Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD). Dr. Omwenga has previously been sponsored by Earthwatch Institute to conduct field and laboratory work on medicinal plants commonly used by the Samburu Community (Kenya). He is also a member of the American Society for Microbiology, the Society for Medicinal Plant and Natural Product Research, and the Bioethics Society of Kenya, among others.

Dr. Paul Onkundi
Dr. Paul Onkundi Nyangaresi

Dr. Paul Onkundi Nyangaresi

Dr. Paul Onkundi Nyangaresi is a co-founder of the Maji Safi UV Project Group. Although Dr. Nyangaresi has a background in physics, mathematics, and electronics, the challenges of the lack of clean water that his community at Nyamesocho rural village faced pushed him to change his field and apply his electronics knowledge to solving water problems. At a young age, Dr. Nyangaresi lived in the forest with the Maasai community in Kilgoris, Kenya. Unfortunately, he became ill severely and saw many people die from the lack of clean drinking water and drinking contaminated surface waters.

Having been awarded a scholarship from the China Scholarship Council, Dr. Nyangaresi conducted his Ph.D. project at Xiamen University in Xiamen, China, on "the application of Ultraviolet Light Emitting Diodes (UV LED) for water disinfection." The project's findings motivated him to continue this research path and think of low-cost strategies for applying the same technology in marginalized rural communities along the tropics.

Currently, Dr. Nyangaresi is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow working under the supervision of Dr. Sara E. Beck in the Civil Engineering department at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Canada. Here, Dr. Nyangaresi is looking for low-cost solutions on how best UV LEDs can be applied in marginalized communities. Subsequently, Dr. Nyangaresi and Dr. Beck have successfully designed and field-tested a bio sand/charcoal and UV LED system for rainwater treatment at Nyamesocho rural village. This project is highlighted on the International Ultraviolet Association (IUVA) website under the "decentralized UV disinfection systems in low resource contexts."

Dr. Nyangaresi is a member of the team working on IEEE P3114 Standard for Datasheet Parameters and Tests for UV LEDs, a member of the IUVA UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Task Force, a member-at-large in the Canadian Postdoctoral Association, and a Strategic Growth Coordinator of the IUVA Young Professionals.

Klaran UVC LEDs for consumer appliances
Dr. Sara Beck

Dr. Sara Beck

Dr. Sara Beck (she/her) is a co-founder of the Maji Safi UV Project Group. She earned her Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2015. Her doctoral dissertation on Wavelength-Specific Effects of UV Light on Microorganisms and Viruses for Improving Water Disinfection received the Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation award from the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP) in 2016. She received an M.S. in Environmental Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a B.S. / B.A. in Aerospace Engineering / Studio Art from the University of Colorado Boulder. She supported the Space Shuttle and International Space Station programs in her first career as a NASA flight controller.

Dr. Beck joined the Department of Civil Engineering as an Assistant Professor in April of 2021 with a research group focused on understanding and preventing pathogen transmission at the confluence of public health, water quality, and innovative water treatment solutions. She and her students use microbiology tools to improve water treatment and reuse processes and bridge the gap between knowledge and practice. Specific areas of research interest include Ultraviolet disinfection mechanisms, applications of UV LEDs (light emitting diodes), water disinfection, water reuse, decentralized systems, appropriate technology, applied environmental microbiology, and molecular biology.

Before joining UBC, Dr. Beck evaluated cost-effective decentralized water reuse technologies at the Asian Institute of Technology near Bangkok, Thailand, and at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology near Zurich, Switzerland.

Klaran UVC LEDs for consumer appliances
Richard Mariita, MSc., Ph.D.

Dr. Richard Mariita

Dr. Richard Mariita is the Founder and Project Manager of the Maji Safi UV Project Group. He was born in rural Kisii, in the Southwestern parts of Kenya. Richard grew up helping his parents and grandparents fetch water. But mostly, this responsibility fell on his sisters as he and his male cousins shepherded entire (nuclear and extended) family’s cattle, sheep, and goats. Water, in many rural parts of Kenya is communal and mostly distant. At a young age, Richard experienced firsthand the burden of waterborne diseases related to lack of clean drinking water, not just on his family, where he witnessed fatalities at a young age, but also on the local population. He has modeled his entire career on the hope of learning and improving upon novel water treatment solutions for susceptible populations.

“Throughout my life, I have experienced and witnessed the consequences related to lack of water equity. Both at the family and communal levels. Water should be a basic human right, and I am passionate about providing stability to my people.”

Dr. Richard Mariita is a Senior Microbiologist and Biosafety Officer at Crystal IS Inc., an Asahi Kasei Company. At Crystal IS’ BSL-2 lab, he leads a team in the validation efforts of existing products and prototypes towards ensuring the desired air, water, and surface disinfection performances. Before coming to the United States, he worked in a CDC-affiliate BSL-3 lab at the Kenya Medical Research Institute, fighting tuberculosis. He also worked with Earthwatch Institute to validate the efficacy of water purification technologies and monitor water potability for the Samburu nomadic tribe of Kenya. He was previously a Presidential Postdoctoral Scholar and later, a visiting Scientist at Brown University in Rhode Island, USA. Dr. Mariita is a member of the NSF/ANSI 55 committee on Ultraviolet Microbiological Water Treatment Systems, a member of the IEEE working group whose goal is to come up with a standard for air treatment, American Society for Microbiology (ASM), and Microbiology Society (London, UK). Dr. Mariita has won numerous awards including the National Geographic Society Research & Exploration Award, the Neville Shulman Challenge Award, the Selman A, Waksman Award in Microbiology, and the Bernard Davis Endowed Scholarship among others for his studies on how pathogens disperse, and the distribution of disease-causing determinants, particularly in water and air.