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Esther Obonyo
Pennsylvania State University

Dr. Esther Obonyo is an Associate Professor of Engineering Design and Architectural Engineering at the Pennsylvania State University. Prior to that she was an Associate Professor at the University of Florida's (UF) Rinker School of Construction Management and also a faculty entrepreneurship Fellow at UF’s Warrington College of Business. She has worked as a Construction Engineer, Project Manager and Innovations Analyst in several Engineering and Construction Companies in Kenya, the UK and the US. She holds a BA in Building Economics from University of Nairobi, MA in Architecture from University of Nottingham and a Doctor of Engineering from Loughborough University. Esther’s research interest cuts across the following themes: climate change and extreme weather events, environmental sustainability, intelligent information and knowledge-based systems for productivity improvement and entrepreneurship. Dr Obonyo has had several NSF awards including an International Research Experiences for Students directed at Developing Global Scientist and Engineers. The participants in the program completed research training in Kenya and Tanzania in a project directed at: 1) Characterizing the differences in approaches to sustainable construction engineering between developed countries, such as the USA, and developing countries, such as Kenya, and define a framework for global learning; 2) Investigating the appropriateness of construction engineering approaches used by the different types of builders in developing economies using suitable assessment models; 3) Contextualizing innovative and low cost use of building materials, water and sanitation systems that are both sustainable and affordable and; 4) Demonstrating sustainable building systems that exploit cross-fertilization of ideas across the different regions in the research. In 2014, Dr Obonyo conducted a Research Tutorial Abroad through a Center for International Business Education and Research Award from UF’s Center for African Studies. She is the Vice President for ASCE Global Center for Excellence in Computing and a joint coordinator for CIB TG83 eBusiness in Construction and is also one of the founding members for CIB W120: Disaster and the Built Environment.

USAID Profile

U.S. Global Development Lab l
Digital Development for Feed the Future
Center for Data, Analysis, and Research

Esther Obonyo served as a senior science advisor on the Digital Development for Feed the Future (D2FtF) team. D2FtF is a collaboration between the USAID’s Global Development Lab and the Bureau of Food Security. Dr Obonyo also worked with the Research Partnerships for Development Team under the Center for Data, Analysis, and Research on issues related to improving the generation and use of scientific research to address development challenges. Her experience in the academic sector globally brought insight and new ideas to USAID on building collaborative research between U.S. and developing country researchers, strengthening the research capacity of developing countries to enable more sustainable research partnerships, and using the scientific findings as evidence that supports policy/program change. She helped to enhance the Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) program, a USAID-funded program implemented by the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to fund collaborative research being led by developing country scientists and engineers, and develop new activities that address gaps in the local research ecosystem. Dr. Obonyo also helped with the implementation of the USAID Scientific Research Policy, the first in over 20 years, which applies to all USAID Operating Units development of a new Public Access Plan for the agency, which was mandated by White House’s OSTP for all federal science agencies. Esther also leveraged her research background in building materials and infrastructure development to advise the Infrastructure team at USAID on the sustainability and resilience of the built environment.