Meet Iyungu

Name: Alexander Iyungu (as an elder he is known by his surname)

Age: 62

From: Tanzania, originally from Dodoma region and then moved to Kilosa, outside of Morogoro

Job: Sample preparer at APOPO

Tell me more about your job at APOPO
Now I am the sample preparer. I joined back in 2000 as a trainee with no science or research background, then I became a lab rat trainer before moving on to training the giant pouched rats. Early on I was also an assistant to a researcher who was investigating wild giant pouched rat nocturnal behaviour so we used to trap a wild rat and place a remote tracking device on it and then spend the whole night from 10pm until 6am tracking the rat around the countryside.

I had grown up seeing these rats around market places and built up areas where people would leave litter and food scraps. They are even eaten by some people. Now I’ve met these rats I could never eat one.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
The only thing I ever dreamed of being was a teacher. I used to like seeing how a teacher shaped and developed the children.

What was your favourite subject at school?
Mathematics and English.

What languages do you speak?
Swahili, English and Gogo from the Dodoma region.

What is your favourite colour?
Any type of green and I also like yellow.

What is your favourite animal?
Chickens, they are fascinating to me.

What is your favourite food?
Ugali with any type of beans and maybe a beef stew.

Where is your favourite place?
My home, 8 kilometres from here out in the countryside.

Who has been an inspiration to you in your life?
The first president – he was a good person. He cared for the poor and did a lot to try and help them enjoy life. He was against anything that divided people and he really wanted unity and equality. I’m grateful for what he did. He even gave us a national language, Swahili, that meant that we could be more united.

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I’ve got some exciting news! I submitted an application to become an Astronaut with the European Space Agency and I made it through the initial application sift! Back in around February, the official timeline was released for the European Space Agency to once again invite applications from across Europe for 6 people to join the … Continue reading The next chapter begins!