Biochemistry professor James Ntambi promotes health education in East Africa — from rural villages to university labs. While speaking of scarcity and excess, he has a generous demeanor, like a host offering second helpings. Multiple times in a recent interview, after answering a question, he shared more:
“One small thing I didn’t tell you before …”
Ntambi grew up and attended college in Uganda and then moved from Kampala to Baltimore after winning a Fulbright scholarship to do graduate work at Johns Hopkins University, where today he is an adjunct professor. He was studying a parasite threatening horses and cattle for his Ph.D. and already developing a connection to the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. (He now serves on the ASBMB Council.)
“My first two major publications as a graduate student were actually in the Journal of Biological Chemistry,” he said.
His plan was to return to Uganda when he finished his degree.
“The chair of the department of biological chemistry approached me (and said), ‘I hear you are going back to Africa,’” Ntambi said. The chair made an offer: How about a postdoctoral fellowship?
Offers to that effect have repeated themselves over Ntambi’s 35-year academic career — but they haven’t stopped him from returning to Uganda.
In fact, he’s made a point of it.