..The Somewhat Ending ‘Process’

Bonjour! My readers in Canada ( for those of us who were absent in geography classes, there are some parts of Canada that speak French!)

– I salute you alll!

But particularly, Dr Jayeola – I see you baby!

Hope you guys are doing well.  I have another interview for you guys today with Dr Oladipo Adewale. Dipo passed his Viva and now works for Yorkshire Water as a Process Engineer.

It is a bit of a long one, but you know how we do – #WeStayWinning!

Enjoy!

  1. What is your full name and where are you from originally?

Oladipo Adebayo Adewale PhD. Nigeria

  1. What is your educational background?

BSc Environmental geology. OOU Nigeria

MSc Environmental Science. Brunel University, UK

PhD Environmental Engineering. University of Leeds, UK

  1. Why did you choose this area of specialism?

With a Nigerian background, I did not have much of an option when it came to selecting a discipline or University. My parents and academic qualification (JAMB, WAEC, Pre-degree etc) played most significant role however, it was not so long into the programme that I recognized my interest/strength in water and the environmental issues. Based on this, I pursued a masters degree with focus on water pollution and monitoring. I excelled in this field and secured a grant to proceed to a doctorate level where it was expected of me to design innovative systems for the UK wastewater treatment facilities.

  1. Can you give us a brief overview of you PhD?

The water we drink or run through our taps is a resource which only those who know the hard work behind the scene can appreciate what experts like us do. On a daily, standard of clean water produced in the UK gets more strict, yet with the ever increasing population, more dirty water arrive on treatment sites. To meet discharge consent, the UK water industry is constantly embracing technology to meet supply/demand. My PhD was centred on developing an innovative approach to contribute to meeting this demand. My developed technology has been successfully adopted by Yorkshire water who partly funded the research.

  1. What are some of the challenges you experienced and how were you able to overcome them?

PhD should be challenging otherwise what is the point? For me, developing something new with minimal literature backing was my initial problem. No material to research, minimal guidelines amongst many other challenges. Also having to self-build laboratory equipment without prior experience was challenging. Initial challenge was overcome with a clear understanding of the novelty of my work as it was already a contribution to knowledge therefore I did not necessarily have to get a positive result. As for the laboratory hands on, I took it as a skill which I needed to learn and I excelled in it. Another distraction more than a challenge is that the PhD is a 4 years programme during which a couple of your MSc. or BSc. colleagues will get married, have kids or get a job in reputable organizations (if not all), but your life feels stagnant. No way to overcome this feeling than to keep remembering why you are on the PhD programme (you must have a strong reason)!!!

  1. Do you feel that you received adequate support from your university?

There is never adequate support from your university. The key is to know how to manage the minimal support you get and always remember that PhD is an independent programme which a number of people including you are undergoing. You won’t get all you want in terms of support, but you will always get enough to get you through if adequately managed.

  1. If you were a Teaching Assistant, how were you able to combine work and research?

I was responsible for teaching a couple of modules during my research. I took the teaching part as leisure and a getaway from all the PhD madness!!! The money was good and the students were cooperative (in my case). I always looked forward to teaching so I did not see it as work!! Research was the main work!!

  1. Were you able to gather experience during your PhD? if so, can you tell us a bit about it?

I was able to gather academic/teaching experience. This is a useful experience to enhance your communication and transferable skills!! I am confident that in the near future I can return to academics and enjoy it as much as I did during my PhD. Industrial experience will be advantageous if the opportunity arises though!!!

  1. What advice do you have for someone who is having a difficult relationship with their supervisor?

Different strokes for different folks!!! Personal differences make this advice a difficult one!!! Key is to evaluate yourself often and make sure you are not the one with issues thus causing the friction. Understand your supervisor personally, complement this with other people’s experience and understand how to effectively work with your supervisor. Some want to spoon feed you compulsorily, while others hoard information so you develop on your own. Understand them using the right approach and get a balance. I had 13 supervisor meetings in 4years. This was because I was proactive and I only reported my actions of research rather than go to ask for advice. I also took criticism on board and this helped the relationship I had with my supervisors

  1. What advice do you have for someone who is thinking of quitting the PhD?

I would be surprised if there is anyone who never felt this way. Tap back into your initial drive to do a PhD, and encourage yourself with the good tidings that comes with successful completion such as; the joy you give your parents, your new title (Dr), reputation and most importantly career progression. Don’t be a quitter!!!!

The VIVA:

  1. What were your expectations before, during, and after the VIVA?

I knew my VIVA start time (3pm) and I knew my examiner had a flight to catch for 7.45pm, so I was convinced to a large extent it was not going to extend beyond 6pm. Nevertheless, VIVA sounds like drilling so I expected to be drilled over and over again. Drilled so thorough that I thought I would not get over the drilling in a month.

  1. Please summarise your VIVA experience.

I was asked to introduce myself and I took the opportunity to express my understanding of PhD and that the skills picked up were far more than the results in the thesis. I explained that the abilities acquired such as research, critical thinking, writing skill, problem solving, and project management were far more important for me. This was well received by the panel and the VIVA process became a general discussion around the issues surrounding my research. A couple of technical questions were asked which I answered to my best knowledge. Some errors were also identified in the work and I was given a 3months correction which I completed in 2-3 weeks.

  1. How do you suggest that someone prepares for their VIVA?

Read your thesis thoroughly, draft out possible questions expected if you were the examiner. Most importantly, jot out all the skeletons in your thesis and find suitable responses before the VIVA. Examiners are like miners!! They know most times when things don’t add up or look dodgy!!! Relax a day before, go movies, ignore your thesis. Brain needs to rest. You wrote that 300pages in 4years, you should know it by now!!!

  1. Using a film title, describe your PhD experience.

No pain no gain

5.     What advice do you have for someone who is thinking of an alternative career to academia?

This is person related!! I had a high drive of staying back in academic after my PhD, but when God blesses man, there is nothing you can do about it. I got 3 job offers in the span of 3 weeks (a bank job, an industry job and an academic job). I opted for the industrial one because bank was not a justifiable option for a water engineer and with industrial experience, you can make your way back into academics than otherwise. So the key is knowing what you want and understanding how it fits into your long term career plans.

    6.        What is next for you?

I am now a Process Engineer for Yorkshire water and my current role aligns with my on-set career plan (water and the environment).

So guys, there you go!  I’m a firm believer in there being something in everything for everyone. Even if your area is NOT engineering, I think you can definitely translate some of the comments into everyday life and work. So, I really hope the information has been useful to you! I am sure you guys will join me in saying a big thank you to Dr Dipo for your time!

All the best with your future career plans and, congratulations again on your wedding!!!

(Sorry ladies, he’s no longer available!!)

               Dipo Akinwale

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