Spotlight: Graduate Ambassador Gibson Kirui

By Gibson Kirui, Ph.D. student in chemistry

My academic and professional journey as a current graduate student has been an interesting one. I never thought that I would find myself in graduate school until I completed my undergraduate degree.

My choice to do a bachelor’s in industrial chemistry in Kenya was not 100% informed by my passion to undertake a chemistry research life. I decided on chemistry because I had a dream to work in one of the best Kenyan state agencies that is responsible for quality control of various products in the Kenyan market. The chemical research interest slowly progressed throughout my time in undergrad, specifically in my fourth year when I was required to come up with a short-term research idea to execute before I graduate. This is the time I had to undergo a lot of tribulations.

First, finding an idea that is executable within that environment was a headache. The lack of facilities in the chemistry laboratory in my university limited my ability to execute a wide range of chemical research ideas, and so I had to go for more basic chemistry experiments for my final project.

I finally graduated with my BSc degree and expected to be employed immediately but that remained a dream. I applied for several industrial jobs with great anticipation to get at least one, but I could not find any, for one year. That made me re-assess my professional pathway. The first thought was to attend graduate school as a future investment. I considered it as a link between better professional training and achieving my desired scientific career.

I talked to a friend who at that moment was doing his Ph.D. in chemistry at Wayne State University, and I got to know much about the program and without waste of time, I decided to start the application. As an international student, the application process needed a lot of determination, enthusiasm, and being able to make some financial sacrifices. I was fully determined about the process and applied for WSU only.

I chose Wayne State because it is among the urban research universities in the U.S. that lead in STEM-related fields, with a good ranking in academic research and community engagement. I had a very tough time when I joined WSU due to the curriculum difference, which made me spend extra time catching up with course work and finding an interesting research group to join, which gave me a lot of psychological trauma. 

Apart from the professional training, my Ph.D. degree journey will equip me with personal development skills, offering me a platform to make valuable connections with my fellow graduate students and industrial experts. Furthermore, as an international student, this Ph.D. degree will enable me to gain an professional qualification that is recognized by various prospective employers around the world.

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