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The Journey of Ph.D. research

Today,I have the pleasure of inviting Sunday Olusegun to share his PhD journey. Sunday J. Olusegun holds a Ph.D. degree in Chemistry from Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brazil under TWAS-CNPq (World Academy of Sciences for the advancement of science in developing countries- Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico) scholarship. He served as The Ambassador of the Graduate Program in Chemistry, in the same University. His area of research includes wastewater treatment, material and environmental Chemistry, corrosion inhibition, among others. He is currently a Postdoctoral researcher in National Institute of Science and Technology on Minerals Resources, Water and Biodiversity, INCT-Acqua, Brazil affiliated to the Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brazil. He has authored several scientific research articles and served as a reviewer in multiple highly reputable journal. He recently authored a motivational book on “The Champions: Challenges and Conquests”

The task and time frame
What is re-search? In a simple term, it means “look for it again”. “Some scholars have searched for it, but we are not yet satisfied so, look for it again” That was what we were told at the commencement of the journey. Whether we agree or not research is not an easy task. However, the beginning of the searching process looks promising.
And with all enthusiasm, we ventured into the searching adventure. The euphoria of achieving success based on the information (Published articles of the past researchers) that was given to us, made us zealously forge ahead looking for something that will justify the title “Dr” as a prefix before our names or “Ph.D.” as a suffix after our names.

The time frame to return back with the precious material that we are to search for was given to us. In some cases, 3 to 4 years. They told us the search must be novel. Novel! We acclaimed, staring at one another eyes. Though we were given some clues (Published articles) yet we must look for something unique. “It must be novel!” they reiterated. “This must be a huge task,” We soliloquized. We thought that with the published articles given to us, the journey will be easy. Hmmmmm!!!! not as we thought. We trusted the published articles. Unfortunately, some of them deceived us, while others did not give us detailed information. Yet, we kept pursuing. It is a journey of studying versus research.

The instructors: The good and the bad

In this journey, we could choose instructors that had finished their re-search a long time ago, to be our guide. Being naive, we thought that since some of these instructors have big names in our chosen field, with state-of-the-art equipment in their labs, our journey to search for the so-called “novel material” will be smooth. Guess what! it was not so. Some of us were not lucky enough, we chose bad instructors. “No waiting” “No loitering” “Keep on moving” “No excuse” “No compliant” are some of the frightening words of these bad instructors. Instead of mentoring, they molested our courage.
This wrong choice (bad instructors) complicated our journey. We ended up being frustrated. Instead of being encouraged by our instructors, we were being condemned due to several falls, bruises, mistakes that befell us on the way, among others. “What kind of journey is this”? We asked ourselves. The journey that the time frame was set at most 4 years, could not end at 6 years for some of us. Along the way, some were depressed. Considering the shame of returning without the “novel material”, some had mental health problems. What a tragedy! I guess you echo.

Some of us were excited that our choice of instructors was the best one. Hurray! I know you are excited with us. Those instructors (good instructors) acted as mothers and fathers to us. They helped heal our bruises, lifted us from our falls, corrected our mistakes in love, encouraged us that we can find the “novel material’, always checking up on us and told us their experiences during their own search as well. We enjoyed every moment with them. We wished to have an unending journey with them. However, we had time frame.

The victory

Those who were fortunate among us (from both good and bad instructors) though not the most brilliant, had lines fallen on them in pleasant places which made them return from the search with expected results. “Congratulations!” I guess is your welcoming word to them. They really deserve a standing ovation. They molested monsters, conquered giants, triumphed over several failures, endured sleepless nights, sacrificed their comforts, and mustered the courage to return with the “novel material” without letting it slip off their hands. They returned with different stories to tell. Some had it smooth, and for others, it was a rough journey.

When we thought it is over.

“What should you do after your PhD?” Was among the list of questions directed to us. With all the sacrifices, no job is awaiting us. We were told to join the queue of those that finished their own re-search before us, still hunting for daily living. Those that sought for faculty position in the Universities, were told to gather more re-search experience, that is to embark on another journey called “Postdoc”. “What sort of life is this”? Some of us angrily voiced out. “Another journey of re-search”? We furiously asked. “Yes”, was their collective response.

The question that we never stop asking is “IS THIS JOURNEY WORTH IT?”

Summon courage
PhD journey is full of bitter and sweet, challenges and solutions, ups and downs, pain and joy, sorrow and gladness moment. The joy of this journey aside the title “Dr”, is the outstanding contribution to the development of the society through one’s findings. Having it rough does not mean you are stupid, having it smooth does not mean you are the most intelligent. “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, not the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”
Abraham Lincohn once said, “My great concern is not whether you have failed but whether you are content with failure.” So, do not quit the battle of life until you win and become champion over every challenge that you re facing in your research. Focus on your goals, believe in yourself, hope for the best, try again the failed experiments, never up. “Soon the pain will be over, but the beauty will remain”. Avoid stress and negative comments. Form a productive collaboration. “Difficult matters are easily accomplished by mutual and united effort.” Go and conquer every challenge in your research. The world is waiting to celebrate you. Your success is certain.

My profound gratitude goes to these three amazing and superlative instructors from the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brazil, Prof. Nelcy Della Santina Mohallem, Prof. Rochel Montero Lago and Prof. Virginia Sampaio Teixeira Ciminelli. You guys are wonderful. Thanks to everyone in Laboratório de Materiais Nanoestruturados – UFMG

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