Harnessing the Energies of African Early Career Researchers
February 20, 2021
Discover the ThinkTank Changing Scientometrics in Africa
March 3, 2021

On Becoming the Product of your PhD


By Kelechukwu N. Onwukamike (Dr.rer.nat) (Ph.D)


With PhD supervisor at PhD Graduation at KIT-Feb 2019

Should I continue or give up? This was exactly the question that kept ringing in my mind 5 months after commencing my PhD. When I started my PhD in Feb 2016, everything looked quite good. In fact, many of my colleagues were shocked at the speed at which my research was progressing. Then the unforeseen happened. I realized that what I considered as the successful product from my synthesis was actually a side reaction! I remember repeating the experiment over and over just to ensure my mind was not playing a fast one on me-the outcome was the same.

When I discussed this outcome with my supervisor, the conversation that followed defined the beginning of my PhD, I remember him saying, “Kenny, this is also a result, and you are not a failure because your experiment failed. I see this giving you a few paragraphs in your thesis”. When I got home that evening, I made a video in which I reaffirmed to myself that I am the best candidate to successfully deliver this project. What would have appeared as a huge failure became a turning point in my research as it allowed me to explore other areas that were never considered when my project was drafted. Eventually, I would go on to publish 6 scientific papers (5 as the first author) with a combined impact factor of 36. One year after defending my PhD, my research received the prestigious 2020 PhD Thesis award on Sustainable Chemistry from the German Chemical Society.

In retrospect, as I look back at the 3 years of my PhD journey, one thing I learnt was that we are the product of our PhD. At the end of our research, what will count, whether we stay in academia or move to industry, will be the skills (transferable) that we bring to the table. So my advice remains that as you go through the PhD hassle, never forget that YOU are the product of the PhD, not your thesis.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and they do not purport to reflect the policies, opinions, or views of the AfroScience Network platform.


Dr Kelechukwu N. Onwukamike completed a double PhD in Feb. 2019 between Karlsruhe Institute of Technology Germany and the University of Bordeaux France as part of the EU funded Marie-Curie European Joint Doctoral Programme in Functional Materials (EJD-FunMAT). His research was focused on developing sustainable methods for developing advanced functional materials from cellulose. He is currently a Research Scientist at Procter Germany.  



This article has not been submitted, published or featured in any formal publications, including books, journals, newspapers, magazines or websites.