Dr. Evans Omondi – On Academic Excellence and Transcending a PhD Success Story
“In my experience, there is only one motivation, and that is desire. No reasons or principle contain it or stand against it”.
And I say this proudly, it is a beautiful thing when a career and a passion come together. My desire for knowledge and to excel in life and the passion I bleed into what I do have catapulted me to where I am at currently.”
Resembling the dramatic intro of a Jerry Bruckheimer film, these were the opening remarks to an interesting anecdote by recent #Classof2020 Doctoral graduate, Dr. Evans Omondi, as he recalls his eventful PhD journey.
A short story
“It was never easy and beginning this quest from little known Mauna Primary School in rural Ugenya, Siaya County, my eyes were set on a kind of success only I would imagine, lucidly.
This was almost two decades ago. But my journey, like all triumphant stories, was marred with a myriad of difficulties. Having impressively cruised through my KCSE, I was invited to join a famous national school in Nyanza, still an academic titan at the time. Unfortunately, as life would have it, this envelope was never to be opened. My parents, affluent in many other ways, lacked the financial capability to foot my school fees to a national school.
Crestfallen but not down, I went on to join a little known mixed secondary school, just a few meters from home. I’d decided that I would give myself the national school experience I had just missed, by working extra hard. True to myself and my dream, I excelled at the national exam – the only candidate in my cohort at the time to qualify for university through the regular programme!
Displaying a similar propensity for success, I graduated from my undergraduate Summa Cum Laude and immediately started working with Absa Bank (formerly Barclays Bank) as a graduate trainee. It was while at Barclays that I got a scholarship to pursue a Master’s in Mathematical Sciences at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in collaboration with Stellenbosch University – Cape Town, South Africa. I graduated in 2015 and almost instantly enrolled in a second Master’s degree which was mainly research-based, at Stellenbosch University.”
An uninterrupted PhD Journey
By end of 2016, Dr. Omondi had already completed this second Master’s degree and returned to Kenya as he contemplated the several lucrative PhD offers that had come his way. None of the PhD scholarship offers from top African universities or Taiwan could sway him. He had his eyes set back home, and that’s where his heart was…well…still is.
“You know, the impact of your research or any noble cause that you are invested in is and should mostly be felt in your immediate community. It is where you need to touch people’s lives like you never did before. A give-back to the society if you may. After all, they moulded or inspired you and a part of you will always belong with them,” says Dr. Omondi with a sparkle in his eye that tells you just how devoted he is in his society-transformation works.
Landing a scholarship in 2017 to pursue his PhD Degree in Strathmore University, he says, was a dream come true. “I was joining a family I had fallen in love with long before becoming part of it in an academic capacity. After home, Strathmore is my second home!” he jokes amid chuckles.
The biggest problem gnawing at him at the time was finding a way to use his experience in academics to come up with impactful solutions to real-life problems. Drawing inspiration from his backyard in the Nyanza region of Kenya, one of the hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, he sought to contain and possibly eradicate the pandemic in line with Kenya’s model Vision 2030. His final dissertation titled: Mathematical modelling of the impact of HIV intervention strategies in Kenya was solution driven and he hopes the results of his research can inform containment policies and strategies that will finally alter grave statistics on HIV/AIDS reported every year in Kenya.
He also recommends engaging practical sensitization campaigns in hotspot areas and empowering the young people with entrepreneurial skills to ensure the prevalence subsides. He has lobbied community organizations and local governments to play an all-important role in this endevour.
Already a skilled bio-mathematician and experienced solutions-modeler, Dr. Omondi leveraged on the guidance of his seasoned supervisors, Prof. Livingstone Luboobi and Prof. Rachael Mbogo, to formulate a working model. “They were amazing. They helped me interpret the data, map it to my mathematical model, and give it a practical societal view. We formed a professional bond I wish to keep for a lifetime. It was basically “our project” and I’d credit the commitment displayed all through for the record three years taken to successfully complete this project! It was a flawless uninterrupted journey,” says Dr. Omondi.
From visiting the elderly to playing pool
“I’ve been lucky to pass through the gracious hands of good people, through academic scholarships that ensured an uninterrupted academic journey. To give back in my small way(s), I’ve found delight in visiting the elderly, to just talk to them and find out how I can be of help. It is quite therapeutic. I occasionally go back to my former high school to teach Mathematics for free and to also mentor and give hope to these young minds. I’ve also been blessed to sponsor three students from the same high school, one of whom is now a CPA student here at Strathmore. To unwind, I play pool with my friends, I think they’ll tell you I’m prolific,” says Dr. Omondi with a comical grin.
Concluding an enthusiastic narration, he says, “Don’t just aspire, do! You’ll be surprised by just how much you impact someone’s life. And if you aspire to be a scientist, drink coffee! It stimulates thinking. Scientists and coffee are Siamese twins.”
This article was written by Francis Kabutu.
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