UNU-FLORES Celebrates First Doctorate from Joint PhD Programme with TU Dresden

  • 2018/10/02     Dresden, Germany

    By Atiqah Fairuz Salleh, Communications and Advocacy

    When Solomon Hailu Gebrechorkos first started out as a PhD researcher in April 2015, little did he know that he was going to become a climate data expert. He had embarked on his PhD journey, determined to look at the implementation side of climate change topics. As an Ethiopian citizen, he was set on working on the East African region.

    On 28 September 2018, he successfully defended his thesis entitled “Assessing and Synthesizing Climate-Related Data for Integrated Water-Soil Management in East Africa” to fulfil the requirements for completing his PhD, as part of the first cohort of the Joint PhD Programme in Integrated Management of Water, Soil, and Waste of UNU and Technische Universität Dresden (TU Dresden), implemented in cooperation between UNU-FLORES and the Faculty of Environmental Sciences at TU Dresden.

    This PhD defence marks the first of the series since the inauguration of the programme in 2015.

    “I had set out to look at the implementation side of things but learning about the research gaps that needed to be filled before that can happen – i.e. data availability – moved me to address this very gap in my research project. I hope my work will enable other researchers to advance their respective endeavours, taking climate change research forward,” said Dr Gebrechorkos.

    In his dissertation project, he synthesised climate data from regional climate models, remote sensing, and meteorological stations. These data, after careful evaluation (Gebrechorkos et al. 2018a), allow analysing climate trends at high spatial resolution and can serve as input for climate projections and impact assessments to support a Nexus Approach towards the management of water and soil resources in East Africa. Building upon his first journal publication, he studied the changes in temperature and precipitation extremes in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania in an ensuing publication (Gebrechorkos et al. 2018b).

    During the public defence, among other technical and data-related queries, one issue that piqued particular interest was the science-policy gap, and how that may be bridged. Responding to the matter, Dr Gebrechorkos shared his insights from participating as a panellist in a recent workshop on “Mainstreaming and Implementing the Water-Energy Nexus for Sustainable Development in the African Region” that had brought together UN actors and policymakers from the African region in Ethiopia. He rightly pointed out that while authorities may have great ambitions to realise various projects, they also have to do their part by committing greater political will to achieve sustainable development – one way to do that is by being open with the data that they have in order to support any evidence-based policymaking.

    The Joint PhD programme of UNU and TU Dresden is embedded within UNU-FLORES’s nexus-oriented research agenda and the corresponding research interests at TU Dresden. The PhD research projects, co-supervised by researchers from both universities are designed to reflect nexus thinking on problems of environmental resources management focusing on water, soil, and waste.

    Under the supervision of Prof. Christian Bernhofer (TU Dresden) and Dr Stephan Hülsmann (UNU-FLORES), Dr Gebrechorkos completed his dissertation within seven semesters. He graduated with magna cum laude. The deciding Joint Academic Committee, led by Prof. Niels Schütze (TU Dresden) (on feature image), consisted of the thesis supervisors as well as UNU-FLORES Director Prof. Edeltraud Guenther and Dr Amanuel Zenebe Abraha (Mekelle University, not on picture).

    Besides the research dissertation, PhD candidates of the programme are also required to complete coursework on the basic concepts of the Water-Soil-Waste Nexus. Successfully graduating students receive a joint degree certificate from UNU and TU Dresden.


    Gebrechorkos, Solomon Hailu, Stephan Hülsmann, and Christian Bernhofer. 2018a. “Evaluation of Multiple Climate Data Sources for Managing Environmental Resources in East Africa.” Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 22(8):4547–64. doi.org/10.5194/hess-22-4547-2018.

    Gebrechorkos, Solomon Hailu, Stephan Hülsmann, and Christian Bernhofer. 2018b. “Changes in Temperature and Precipitation Extremes in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania.” International Journal of Climatology:1–13. doi: 10.1002/joc.5777.