College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

Analysis of Air Pollution and its Link to Birth Outcomes Earns Biostatistician his PhD BY: .

Dr Aweke Abebaw Mitku has been awarded a PhD in Statistics from UKZN’s School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science.

Mitku has always been passionate about Statistical data analysis and programming. He obtained his BSc in Applied Mathematics from Addis Ababa University and his MSc in Statistics from Hawassa University, Ethiopia.

Inspired by his hunger for knowledge of the most updated theories and practices in Statistics, Mitku set his sights on a PhD in order to advance his academic and career objectives.

After being awarded a DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) in-region scholarship he decided to embark on doctoral studies at UKZN, choosing the University because it is ranked among the very best in Africa.

Mitku’s research involved applying advanced statistical techniques to the understanding of the impact of air pollution and prenatal exposure to risk factors on birth outcomes in Durban, South Africa.

The techniques he used included geo-additive models, copula-based geo-additive bivariate probit models and structural equation modeling.

‘These statistical techniques are newly developed in environmental health studies and can serve as a crucial guide for area-specific interventions implementation compared to national interventions,’ said Mitku.

Mitku’s research has a positive impact on society as it focuses on environmental health exposure and its link to birth outcomes – of significance in South Africa and worldwide.

Mitku considers his greatest achievements during his PhD studies to be publishing seven manuscripts in high impact Q1 peer reviewed journals, three of which are under review. He has also attended various conferences and workshops in Africa (South Africa and The Gambia) and Europe (Germany and The Netherlands).

‘Aweke Mitku is a wonderful young man,’ said Dean and Head of School, Professor Delia North. ‘He is honourable and hard-working, and left his young family behind in beautiful Bahir Dar to come to UKZN.  He has worked so hard to get this wonderful achievement in record time.  I truly appreciate him.’

Mitku intends to continue with Biostatistics research and grow his teaching career in his home country, Ethiopia, at the Bahir Dar University.

He thanked his supervisors Professor Temesgen Zewotir, Professor North and Professor Rajen N Naidoo, and his wife, whom he says is ‘the champion of his success. She shouldered the burden of taking care of our son and daughter over the last three and half years of my studies.’

Words: Samantha Ngcongo

Photograph: Supplied