Computational Chemistry Capacity Building in an Underprivileged Context: Challenges, Outcomes and Perspectives
Computational chemistry is a fast developing branch of modern chemistry, focusing on the study of molecules to enable better understanding of the properties of substances. Its applications comprise a variety of fields, from drug design to the design of compounds with desired properties (e.g., catalysts with specific actions) and to ample overlaps with nanotechnology. However, despite its relevance, the presence of computational chemistry research in Sub-Saharan Africa is still scarce, practically absent in many institutions. Bridging the gap with the other continents requires the identification of capacity building options that may enable a rapid growth. The recent experience at the University of Venda (a historically disadvantaged and under-resourced university in South Africa), where computational chemistry research capacity has been built “from scratch” up to currently promising levels, testifies the feasibility of such capacity building also in conditions of limited resources and may constitute a reference for other institutions. The paper highlights the main stages of the capacity building process through an overview of the research themes and the corresponding results. Specific attention is given to the major features that have characterised the capacity building process - the key role of human resources, the feasibility within limited infrastructure and financial resources, and the integration of research and training since the very first steps and throughout the process.