Change the world

Faculty of Science


Kenyan-born Enoch Kirwa Rotich Kipnoo, 30, is the first NMMU science doctoral graduate to focus his thesis on the cutting-edge Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project.

The SKA will be the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope. It will be used by scientists to help us understand how the universe evolved. Kipnoo hails from Eldoret, in the western part of Kenya. “The area is well known for its rich soil, producing good crops, as well as many great athletes. It’s fondly known as the home of champions. So if science didn’t work out, I could have become an athlete,” he says.

As a boy, while out in the field grazing herds of cattle, Kipnoo drew inspiration for his future career from the planes flying overhead.

“I was fascinated by who the man flying the plane was and thought, I want to be that man, but soon changed my mind and decided I wanted to be the person building the plane.”

His curiosity drove him to obtain good marks in mathematics and science with the aim of becoming an engineer. He went on to do a BSc in physics and maths at Moi University in Kenya, where he also completed his masters in physics, majoring in electronics.

In 2010, Kipnoo was introduced to NMMU’s optical fibre research laboratory, and decided that it was an ideal place to complete his PhD in physics and conduct experiments in optical communication.

In 2012, he received scholarship funding from the National Research Foundation and SKA to complete his research.

“It’s good being in this NMMU environment with world-class research facilities and surrounded by nature.”

His thesis, “Fibre optic network supporting high speed transmission in the Square Kilometre Array, South Africa”, provides in-depth information on the high-speed optical transport requirements for the SKA.