In this multi-part interview, five international alumni talk about how they experienced their research stays in Germany and the German research landscape. They also talk about how their scientific careers developed after their stays in Germany. In addition, a career coach talks about her experiences with scientific coachees and gives tips for planning scientific career paths. Every week we publish a new question with the answers of the five research alumni.
What have been the most important milestones in your career so far?
Olufemi Ernest Ojo:
So far, I have had a very exciting career with many important milestones. One of the very important moments was when I received my appointment letter as a full faculty member. This was a special moment because it was the very beginning of my journey into the thrilling world of research and I was eager to learn and also contribute to knowledge. I was presented with opportunity to translate my imaginations into verifiable evidence. Another milestone was when I completed my PhD and defended my thesis. I was elated and breathed the air of freedom. I could from then design my own projects, determine the pace of progress in my research activities and provide leadership to aspiring scientists. In 2014, I was offered the Postdoctoral by the for a research stay in Germany. My research stay in Germany transformed my entire career and launched me into the international stage. The postdoctoral experience was truly revolutionary. When my first PhD student successfully defended her PhD thesis, I was very happy and felt an inner sense of fulfilment. I celebrated another milestone when I was promoted to the position of a full Professor in recognition of my contributions to knowledge and service to the community thereby marking the peak of my academic journey.
The most important milestones in my career were first deciding to move from my position as teaching assistant in a well established governmental university to teaching assistant in the newly born then German University in Cairo in 2004. I could see in this 1-year young university a high potential and an international side that encouraged me to take the risk and leave my comfort zone in Cairo University.
The second milestone was having a German Supervisor in my PhD at the GUC: Prof. Hilde Spahn-Langguth. She polished my skills in pharmaceutical analysis and research, added to my sense of independence and supported my career by advices, recommendations for a duration of 15 years non stop despite she was no longer affiliated to GUC.
The third was obtaining the GERSS scscholarship in 2014 where I started my contact with Prof. Michael Laemmerhofer in the university of Tuebingen, institute of Pharmacy, for the first time who later became my host during the for Experienced Researchers I obtained from the in 2019. The lab of Pharmaceutical and Bioanalysis of Prof. Laemmerhofer witnessed my best scientific achievements and the strongest interaction with the German community at the scientific and social level.
There have been several milestones in my career but most importantly, the (ICP) was the game changer in my life. The ICP Fellowship opened several doors to me and led to a massive breakthrough in my career. After the fellowship, I got the opportunity to obtain a doctoral degree in Germany. I also got the opportunity to work for the and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, (KNUST) in Ghana. As a Lecturer at KNUST, I have mentored and successfully guided students through their research projects which is an important milestone in my career. I am commited to nurturing the next generation of researchers and I thank the Humboldt Foundation for given me the platform to develop my career.
Agriculture waste is a resource that fascinates me with its might and gleam, and I was highly inclined towards making an impact in this area, which is bothering the whole world. I made my first attempt to solve the issue of agriculture waste management while pursuing my undergraduate education. I took up a project on “Biological treatment of removal of copper from pigment industry effluent for the environment and sustainable ecosystem,” which brought realistic and satisfying results. I eventually presented the paper at an environment and sustainability conference organized by SRM University.
My interest and experience in working on waste management issues acquired new dimensions when I joined Invest India as an Assistant Manager, where I led a Waste to Wealth Mission team, one of the missions of the Prime Minister’s Science, Technology, and Innovation Advisory Council (PMSTIAC). Under the mission, I assisted and augmented the Clean India Mission and Smart Cities projects by leveraging science, technology, and innovation to create circular economic models. I evaluated and created a repository of 200+ waste technologies and strategized their deployment roadmap. Also led an inter-ministerial project, where I influenced sustainable initiatives in 25 most affected villages and successfully deployed five rural waste management projects.
The one-year research stay in Germany was the biggest milestone in my career; it inculcated in me the skills and knowledge required to research the data, relationships, and policy developments surrounding waste management and proposed solutions. I was one of the 15 climate experts selected from developing countries for the . I worked on developing Business models for a Circular Economy for farmers’ benefit. I interacted with stakeholders through unstructured interviews and researched the gaps in supply chain management and related emissions while streamlining agriculture waste through end-user processing. I was already aligned with the topic and working in my home country in a limited capacity. Still, the research stays at my host institute provided me with the exposure and experience to bring out my research in the best way possible for the biggest impact. My host Institute, the Institute of Waste Management and Circular Economy, TU Dresden, houses top-notch researchers who are industry leaders. While doing my research under their tutelage, I believe I am prepared for my goals most effectively.
Apart from my research, I had the opportunity to represent my work and my country on international platforms. As, I was selected as a climate specialist for six months Fellowship Programme offered by Youth Empowerment in Climate Action Platform (YECAP), UNDP, to train young leaders across Asia-Pacific in meaningful youth engagement in climate action. Further, I represented India as a global leader in the international decision-making process through the climate youth negotiator program at UN ESCAP, Bangkok and as a technical consultant for the consultation committee for United Nations Global Sustainable Development Report, held in Manila.
I reach milestones all the time! Every time I succeed in implementing a new technique in my research, I enlarge my skillset or find my hypotheses to be true.
However, regarding career professional milestones, I think of three turning points defining my early-stage career. The first one came after defending my PhD in Valladolid, Spain. That was the beginning of my scientific independent scientific journey. Second, when I got the Postdoctoral in the group of Prof. Johannes Kästner at The University of Stuttgart allowed me to tackle a scientific topic of my choice with freedom. Finally, getting a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Fellowship to continue developing my science has been key to shaping the scientific profile that I started to shape as an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow.