Outreach in Africa: Prof. Hasnaa Chennaoui Aoudjehane visits Mauritania and Egypt

It was a great pleasure for me to be offered the opportunity to participate in the prestigious Outreach program of the European Association of Geochemistry (EAG) and the Geochemical Society (GS) in 2019. I selected institutions to visit based on the EAG and GS’s wish to select countries mostly located in north Africa as well as institutes that hadn’t previously welcomed a researcher as part of the program or those where I have personal contacts.


My first destination was Nouakchott (Islamic Republic of Mauritania) and my second was Cairo (Egypt). My talks focused on meteorites in Morocco and in the country or region visited, in particular because so many meteorites are collected in the Sahara. Each talk began with a definition of meteorites and meteoritics and planetary science, and discussion of where meteorites come from and how to identify them. I then introduced the importance of geochemistry for classifying meteorites and learning about the history of formation and evolution of the universe and terrestrial bodies in the Solar System history including Earth. The geochemical analytical techniques used to study meteorites were also presented. The talks were a great opportunity to connect with local researchers and students who are interested in the topic and would like to develop it in their home countries.


The Outreach Program was a wonderful support for the Africa Initiative for Planetary and Space Sciences AFIPS, launched in 2017, and the ATTARIK Foundation for Meteoritics and Planetary Science, two initiatives dedicated to the promotion of Meteoritics and Planetary Science in Africa and the Arab world. AFIPS also benefited from support from the EAG-GS Outreach Program for the organisation of two workshops in Africa in 2019 (read more about AFIPS in Elements v14n1).

MAURITANIA: Mauritania was chosen as my first destination thanks to a Mauritanian PhD student of mine who is working on impact craters in the country and who helped me establish links with the Geology Department at the University of Nouakchott Al Asriya. In January 2019, we organized a workshop in the University’s Faculty of Science. The workshop program included my plenary talk, followed by lectures from David Baratoux (University of Toulouse and IRD France) and Ludovic Ferrière (Natural History Museum of Vienna, Austria). The talks were followed by a practical session on the observation of meteorite samples, shatter cones and meteorite thin sections under the microscope. The activities, which lasted the full day, were very well-attended, and the amphitheatre was full not only of students, but also of professors and administrative staff, including the vice-president of the UNA in charge of research. The attendees all showed great interest in the topic and asked many questions. A poster was prepared especially for the event and was distributed at the University and on social media, and two local newspapers also featured articles about the workshop.

At the University Nouakchott Al Aasrya (Islamic Republic of Mauritania).
At the National Research Centre in Cairo (Egypt).

CAIRO: In March, I took the opportunity of my participation in the Women in Science International meeting in Cairo, Egypt, to organize a one-day workshop as part of the EAG-GS Outreach Program at the National Research Centre of Cairo (NRC). I invited a number of Egyptian researchers to participate in the workshop with oral presentations. I gave a plenary talk, which was followed by many questions and then the invited presentations. The meeting took place in the NRC’s big amphitheatre and, like the event in Mauritania, was very well attended by students and researchers as well as officials from various organisations.


After successful trips to Mauritania and Egypt, I am now making plans to visit the University of Tunis (Tunisia) and the University of Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) for the second part of the 2019 Outreach Program, and I look forward to reporting on the visits in the near future.

This report was also published in the December 2019 issue of Elements Magazine.


About the author

Hasnaa Chennaoui Aoudjehane , 2019 EAG-GS Outreach lecturer, is a Moroccan scientist in the fields of Meteoritics and Planetary Sciences and Geochemistry, and is Professor at the Hassan II University of Casablanca, Director of the GAIA Laboratory and Coordinator of the Centre of Research on Geo-ressources and Environment. Hasnaa was the first woman to graduate in Meteoritics in Morocco and Arabic countries. She obtained her first PhD, in Noble Gas Geochemistry, from the Université Pierre et Marie Curie Paris 6, France, and defended her “Thèse d’état” on Meteoritics at the Hassan II University of Casablanca, Morocco. She has received several awards for her research, including the ‘Paul Doistau-Emile Blutet’ in Planetology, Academy of Sciences, Institut de France in 2009, and the Moroccan National TV SNRT Trophy for ‘Distinguished Women in Morocco’ in 2016. Read more