Professor of Chemistry at the Department of Chemistry, University of Nairobi

Early Life and Family
Professor Wandiga was born on 22nd September 1939 in Kendu Bay, Homa Bay County. He is married with five children. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry (June 1967) from Howard University, Washington DC, Master of Science in Chemistry (January 1972) University of Maryland, USA and Doctor of Philosophy in Chemistry (June 1972) from Case Western, Reserve University-USA. In addition to English and local languages, Professor Wandiga has reading knowledge in German, French and Spanish.


Professor Shem O. Wandiga is Professor of Chemistry at the department of Chemistry, University of Nairobi and Acting Director, Institute for Climate Change and Adaptation. Professor Wandiga’s research interests lie in studying sources and sinks of biogenic gases; persistent organochlorine pesticides in the tropics; trace metals concentration in various environmental media; complexes of Group VB metals with sulfur and oxygen binding ligands; and climate change and health. He was the Principal Investigator in project called “Capacity building to evaluate and adapt to climate-change-induced vulnerability to malaria and cholera in the Lake Victoria Region under the GEF funded, UNEP executed and START and TWAS implemented project: Assessment of Impact and Adaptation to Climate Change.

He is currently the Coordinator of another Global Environment Facility (GEF) funded, UNEP implemented and African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS) executed project on integrating vulnerability and adaptation to climate change into sustainable development policy planning and implementation in Eastern and Southern Africa: KENYA Pilot Project Design: Increasing Community Resilience to Drought in Makueni District. He is also a member of the team in the project Equatorial Africa Deposition Network similarly funded by GEF and administered by UNEP.

Professor Wandiga was also Deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration and Finances) of the University (1987-1994). He was subsequently appointed as the Co-coordinator of the Policy and Planning Task Group of the Ministry of Education (1991), a US$60 million The World Bank credit to Kenya Government; elected as Kenya’s representative to the Executive Board of UNESCO (1995-1999), President of the External Relations and Program Commission of the Board (1997-1999), member of the General Committee and the Advisory Committee on Environment of the International Council for Science (ICSU) (1999-2002). Fellow: Kenya National Academy of Sciences (1986); World Innovation Foundation (2002-); International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) (2004- ); African Academy of Sciences (AAS) (2006-), Royal Society of Chemistry (2010), Member: American Chemical Society (2010). The International Jury UNESCO Kalinga Prize for the popularization of Science (1999-present); Member of the Jury, L’Oreal-UNESCO Award for women, Condensed Matter Science (Physics and Chemistry) 2004; member of the Board: UNESCO’s International Basic Sciences Programme (IBSP) (2004 – to date); member of the Advisory Board, IDRC/DfID Project: Climate Change Adaptation Support Programme for Action Research and Capacity Development in Africa (CCAA) (2006-2008). Chair, Government of Kenya Taskforce on the development of national strategy for University Education (2006-2008).

Professor Wandiga is the author of 101 papers, 69 conference presentations, 24 books and chapters in books, 11 public lectures at international conferences, 10 government reports and 13 consultancy reports and has chaired several national committees on university education and been a consultant on World Bank, UNESCO and UNEP projects undertaken in Kenya and Eastern Africa. He has supervised several postgraduate students in local and international Universities He was Chair of the Kenya National Academy of Sciences from 1992 – 2002, and Chair of the Pan African Committee of START (2001-2007) as well as past chair of the National IGBP Committee. He was awarded Certificate by Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Government of Kenya (2004), for outstanding work on Hazardous and Toxic Chemicals and Pesticides. In December, 1986, he was awarded order of the Elder of Burning Spear.


Professor Wandiga has a long working experience in academia, research, consultancy, administration and advisory among others. In September 1969 to January 1971 he was appointed as a teaching assistant at Case Western Reserve University and University of Maryland. From March 1972 to September 1972 he was temporary Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Inter American University, San Juan, Puerto Rico. He left to join University of Nairobi, where he served as a lecturer of Inorganic Chemistry from October 1972 to August 1976. He was responsible for the teaching of Inorganic Chemistry to Undergraduate students and supervision of postgraduate students. From August 1976 to June 1979 he was a Senior Lecturer of Inorganic Chemistry in the same institution. He was responsible for the activities of the Inorganic Chemistry Section.

From September 1977 to October 1983 he served as the Chairman of the Department of Chemistry with the responsibility for the academic planning and management of the department servicing 600 students and having 46 staff members. In the same period he also serves as Associate Professor of Chemistry from July 1979 to September, 1984. He was also on Sabbatical Leave from February to July 1981 as a Visiting Scientist, at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, USA. From 1983 to date he has served as the Chairman, Natural Sciences Committee of the UNESCO National Commission and member of Kenyan Delegation for UNESCO general Conference.

In September 1984 he was appointed Professor of Chemistry of University of Nairobi. From October 1983 to June 1987 he served as the Principal, College of Biological and Physical Science at the University of Nairobi. He further served as Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Administration & Finance) at the University of Nairobi from June 1987 to March 1988 and was substantively appointed Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Administration & Finance) from March, 1988 to May 1994.

Professor Wandiga was appointed as Co-ordinator, University Investment Project for the period July, 1991 to June, 1994. During the period 1992-2002 he was the Chairman Kenya National Academy of Sciences, Chairman International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) Kenya Committee, Chairman Constitutive Committee of African Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry and a member Kenya Chemical Society.

From 1995 to 1999 he elected Kenya's Representative to UNESCO Executive Board and he also served as Expert Consultants to UNEP. In September to 1996 -1998 he was elected Member of General Committee of the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU). From 1997 to 1999 he was elected Chairman, Programme and External Relations Commission of UNESCO Executive Board and from 1998 to 1999 he was Member World Conference on Science, International Organizing Committee. In 1997 he served as Chairman, Trace Elements Satellite Centre of UNESCO (TESCU) and University of Nairobi, Kenya.

In 2002 he was the Chairman of International Council for Science (ICSU) World Summit on Sustainable Development Task Force Fellow, World Innovation Foundation. In 2003 he was a member of International Council for Science (ICSU) Advisory Committee on Environment (ACE). The same year he was the Country Co-ordinator, African Network of Chemical Analysis of Pesticides, Kenya. He served as Chairman, Kenya Chemical Society and Member of the Board, International Basic Sciences Programme of UNESCO in 2004. While in 2006 he was Fellow at the African Academy of Sciences. In the period 2006-2008 he was the Chairman National Task Force on the Development of National Strategy for University of Education, Ministry of Education Republic of Kenya and at the same time Member of the Advisory Board, Climate Change Adaptation Support Programme for Action Research and Capacity Development in Africa (CCAA).

From April, 2008 he was appointed by UNEP as a member of the Expert Group on dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT). In December, 2009 he was elected Chairman, United Kenya Club Board of Directors. On 12th October, 2009 appointed Chairman of the Bondo University College Council, on 21st December, 2011 he was appointed Acting Director, Institute for Climate Change and Adaptation and on 16th October, 2012 he was appointed Chairman, Moi University Council.

On the professional front he was the Co-ordinator of the Eastern and Southern African Environmental Chemistry Network Workshops of the Association of Faculties of Science of African Universities (AFSAU), Chemistry Committee in the period 1976 to 1999. In July-August 1980, he was the Vice-Chairman of the organizing Committee of the Regional Chemistry Conference in Africa, The First International Chemistry Conference in Africa. In 1982 and 1983 he was the Chairman, Organizing Committee, Second International Chemistry Conference in Africa.

At the national level he is a member, Board of Directors, Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute; Member, Natural Science Advisory Research Committee; Mt. Kenya Baseline Monitoring Station Advisory Panel to the Kenya Government; Chemical Industry Training Committee, the Ministry of Labour, Kenya Government; Inter-Ministerial Committee on Solving a Tanning Industry Firms Pollution to Thika Town; Several Advisory Committees to the Environmental Secretariat.


His research interest lies in the design, synthesis and characterization of metal chalets which have apparent utility as chemotherapeutic agents and as models for metal binding dynamics in biological systems. Second interest is the design, synthesis and characterization of metal chelates with unique structural features, stereochemistry, optical activity and electronic properties. In all his research interests the use of most analytical instruments are involved. A third interest is in Environmental Chemistry. In this project he analyses trace elements at parts per million (ppm) to parts per billion (ppb) by polarography and atomic absorption spectrophotometry (AAS). He also studies dissipation and degradation of persistent pesticides in the tropics. He has also conducted research on the biogenic emission sources of trace atmospheric gases.


Professor Wandiga has chaired several policy documents for ministry of education that includes University Education in Kenya: Request for World Bank Credit in June 1991; Report of the Review Committee for the Establishment of an Institution to Manage the University Students Loan Scheme in November 1991; Report of the Review and Harmonization of Legal Framework Committee in March 1993; Budgeting Guidelines for Universities in January 1993; Planning Guidelines for Universities in June 1993; Public Universities Financial Plan 1994/95 to 1996/97; National Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Development in Kenya and Development of National Strategy for University Education: Investing in the future of University Education.

He has also prepared several consultancy reports for various organizations like Cost and Financing of Education: Access, Equity and Quality in Tertiary Education and Training Institutions; World Bank/Ministry of Education Project 1995; CIDA: Impact Evaluation of General Training Fund/General Training Project, Government of Kenya/Canadian Government 1996; UNEP/UNDP Joint Project on the Methodology for the Development and Harmonization of Environmental Standards for the Eastern Africa countries; UNEP/UNDP Joint Project on Environmental Laws and Institution 1997; UNEP/UNDP Joint Project: Development of hazardous waste, chemicals and substances regulation 1997; UNESCO Advisory Mission to Zanzibar on the establishment of State University of Zanzibar 1998; UNEP/UNDP/DUTCH Joint East Africa sub-regional project on Environmental Law and Institutions. Management of Toxic and Hazardous Chemicals in Kenya 1998; The State of Science and Technology in Higher Education in Africa – using Kenya as an example; UNESCO Report for workshop in Science and Technology 1999; UNESCO’s Special Fund for African Research and Development in Kenya 2000; Establishment of a Sustainable Solid Waste Management in City of Nairobi 1999 – 2000; UNEP: Nairobi River Basin Project, water quality desk study and Water quality monitoring protocol for Nairobi River Basin 2008.