Bioengineering student from Ghana wants to improve medical care in his home country. A new scholarship will help him achieve that goal

Subodh Chanrai presenting a scholarship to Kelvin Amakye
03/10/23 – Accra, Ghana- Northeastern parent and trustee Subodh Chanrai, group executive chairman of the Chanrai Summit Group, presents a scholarship to Kelvin Amakye at the Global Leadership Summit on Friday, March 10, 2023 at the Kempinski Hotel in Accra, Ghana. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

Kelvin Amakye remembers the clanking sound of his father’s keys. 

“When you hear that noise, you definitely have to run toward your [room] and start to read,” he says.

His father was a strict disciplinarian, Amakye says, and it kept him and his brothers on their toes when they were growing up in Koforidua, a green city with almost 200,000 residents in the Eastern region of Ghana.  

“I think it was worth it,” says Amakye, who is the first recipient of the Chanrai Family Graduate Scholarship, announced in March by Subodh Chanrai, a member of Northeastern’s Board of Trustees, during the 2023 Global Leadership Summit in Accra, Ghana.

The scholarship is intended to provide educational opportunities to promising young Ghanaians. Amakye, 23, will be pursuing a master’s degree in bioengineering in the College of Engineering at Northeastern.

headshot of Kelvin Amakye
Kelvin Amakye, the first recipient of the Chanrai Family Graduate Scholarship, poses for a portrait on Wednesday, March 8, 2023. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University.

Amakye’s parents have a small tire-trading business. His father didn’t have an opportunity to study when he was young, so he made sure his children had the best education from the very start.

“​​He believed in the importance of education, and he knew that we had potential,” Amakye says. “When I grew up I really appreciated everything he has done for me.”

His upbringing made him very responsible, he says. He and his brothers have an instilled attitude to try as hard as they can and make sure they do everything as best as they can. 

Amakye studied in public schools and got into a well-respected all-boys boarding high school in his city—Pope John Senior High School and Minor Seminary. In high school, he was seriously considering medical school. Then he realized that he excelled at physics and mathematics, Amakye says, and eventually decided to bridge medicine and engineering by pursuing further education in biomedical engineering.

He was accepted into the University of Ghana, the county’s foremost institution of higher learning, for his bachelor’s degree. In his penultimate year, Amakye was honored as one of the outstanding students in his class by the dean of the School of Engineering Sciences. The provost of the College of Basic and Applied Sciences recognized Amakye as one of the very best students of the entire college in the final year of his studies as a result of his hard work, sheer merit and continued grit.

Amakye has proven his theoretic and pragmatic abilities in the field of biomedical engineering by leading a team of students that designed a low-cost infant incubator, while studying at the university.

He is currently practicing his engineering, physics and mathematics skills as a clinical engineering assistant at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, where he carries out preventive and corrective maintenance on the various medical equipment.

But Amakye is dreaming of making a bigger impact for his country. 

“There is this mindset that bioengineers or biomedical engineers in Ghana are incapable of coming out with their own innovations with respect to medical devices and bioimaging devices,” he says. 

He hopes that after his graduate studies at Northeastern and some co-ops or internships with American companies he will be able to return to Ghana and change this harmful mindset by contributing to the local design of medical devices. Amakye also wants to establish a foundation in the future that would contribute to innovations in bioengineering and medical equipment in Ghana.

Lee Makowski, chair of the bioengineering department and professor of bioengineering, chemistry and chemical biology at Northeastern, who was asked to evaluate candidates for the Chanrai scholarship, says that Amakye has a spectacular academic record and a lot of practical experience.

“I had a great Zoom conversation with him,” Makowski says. “There were two finalists, and I would have loved to give them both scholarships, but Kelvin was clearly head and shoulders above all of the other applicants.”

Makowski, who visited University of Ghana with workshops before, says he was impressed with the level of training that students are getting there.

“They’re competitive with our master’s students easily,” he says. “If there was anything that was really impressive, it was their real drive to try and make a difference.”

However, Makowski also sensed some frustrations because of the limited opportunities for young engineers in Ghana. He believes this scholarship will be transformative for Amakye’s life and will make an impact on many more lives in Ghana in terms of health care disparities, especially in remote rural areas.

“I can’t say enough about the [Chanrai] family that’s decided to support this student, you simply are changing a life,” he says.

Amakye is planning on making this opportunity worthwhile and putting in the hard work because he can see how it can help him achieve his long-term career goals and set a precedent for other aspiring young specialists in Ghana.

“I feel that I have a very big task ahead because I wouldn’t like to disappoint the [Chanrai] family at all,” he says. “I think I have a greater responsibility to put in my best in all aspects, trying to make a good use of this opportunity and come out with flying colors at the end. I believe that with the God Almighty on my side and with my willingness to be 100% committed to studies I’ll be able to do that.”

Alena Kuzub is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AlenaKuzub.