I’m an environmental microbiology PhD student. My research focuses on the impact of nanoparticles on the microbial community. Stephen Techtmann is my advisor. I have a lot of respect for him. Before I applied to Michigan Tech, someone mentioned Stephen Techtmann and the University on Twitter. I was interested in water research and I thought being near the Great Lakes would be the best place to study water, so I said, “Okay, I will go there then!” I contacted Dr. Stephen and he accepted me into his lab. I have been here for almost two years so far and have another two years to go to the finish.
One day I stopped at a grocery store in Merida, Mexico, and met a man who I would later find out was Dr. Richard Donovan of Michigan Technological University’s Sustainable Futures Institute. He was lost and needed directions. I took him where he needed to go. He asked me about my background and I told him I was completing my master’s in social anthropology while working for an NGO and teaching in a college. I told him I wanted to do my PhD in the environment and human rights someday and he said, “We should talk.” But, he was a stranger! I was just trying to help someone; it’s something I like to do—if a person or an animal needs help and I can do it, I do it.
Two or three days later I got an email from the man introducing himself. His email said, “I’m very impressed with your background. You said you wanted to do a PhD and Michigan Tech just opened this new program called environmental policy, so I would like to talk to you more about it.” I was shocked! We had a first interview and I remember he told me about a project he was working on and asked me what I thought about it. I was very honest because it was something I cared about. He said, “I’ll give you a recommendation letter.” That’s how I heard about Michigan Tech and I started my adventure here.
I started learning about alternative energies in high school through a program that also had us do a garden restoration. And that kind of sparked my interest in urban forestry and it kind of got me on the path of saying, “Hey, maybe I can pursue this path.” I didn’t see a lot of people that looked like me that were pursuing this path. So I said, “Hey, let me be a trailblazer in a sense and start this.”
When I first started college as an undergraduate, I didn’t do urban forestry because I didn’t know my school had a program. I did the closest thing to it, which is environmental science, but then I found out from the agriculture department that they had an urban forestry program, but it was still in the development stages, so I said, “Hey, let me get back to what that spark was.” And as I started taking the classes, I realized that this was really what I wanted to do, it was something I could see myself doing for years to come.
I applied to Michigan Tech because it is one of the few schools in the country that has its own experimental forest area. I didn’t really know what to expect. I’m from New York City, but I spent my undergraduate years in a small town at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Being there helped me understand how small towns work, like the sense of community that’s there is much stronger than it is in a city.
For my master’s thesis, I did a canopy assessment of the trees on campus—looking at the canopy to see how it changes over time. I did two tree tours on campus. I really like telling people about the different types of trees we have on campus. I honestly can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked the campus looking at trees and saying to myself, “Okay, that’s a northern red oak, that’s a sugar maple, that’s a buckeye…” I have a big passion for this and I really want to try to set a precedent for people like myself. I want to show that you don’t have to be pigeonholed in certain areas. You can pursue careers in natural resources.
I like making an impact. I got my BS in industrial and production engineering; as an engineer, I always wanted to do something new, something innovative. And as the fourth of six children, I looked to what my older siblings were doing to make sure what challenged them, didn’t challenge me.
After graduating, I worked in oil and gas, which is serious business in Nigeria. But I started having different feelings about environmental pollution, the global temperature increasing, the vulnerability of some highlands, and the damage being caused by conventional energy, so I felt I couldn’t continue to be a part of that anymore—I don’t want to be part of the problem in energy, I want to go to green energy—so I started reading about that and doing some certificate courses online.
My interest in renewable energy is how I hope to make an impact. I know my strengths and boundaries, and things that really concern me I try to go for. So I think that’s why I care so much about energy policy and sustainability. Perhaps another factor is my religious background. I’m a Christian and am motivated by my faith.
I came to Michigan Tech from Germany where I did my master’s in energy and environmental management; I was involved in several renewable energy projects in Scotland, Germany, Kenya, Ghana, and Uganda. I saw that Michigan Tech faculty were interested in a broader view of environmental policy and so am I.
My family and I moved to Houghton in the summer of 2018. My kids like playing in the snow and eating snow. I’m passionately into music: I play the drums (drum set and local drums), bass guitar, and I sing, too. I play in bands, with locals, and I played at Africa Night. I also attend salsa dancing class where I network with other MTU students and faculty.
Adewale is an environmental and energy policy PhD student.
I’m a second-semester PhD student in the Department of Social Sciences. I’m also a teaching assistant, but I’m doing more than that—spending a lot of time with students. It’s just the nature of the job experience I’ve had thus far that makes it easy for me. I really enjoy it.
I’m originally from Atlanta, Georgia, but I moved here from Honolulu, where I lived for eight years because of the Army. They sent me there and then I refused to leave. I was a 12N [an enlisted heavy equipment operator]—which in these wars means drive ‘til you hit something—and a chaplain’s assistant. I deployed to Afghanistan and spent a little bit of time in Kuwait as well.
After being in Hawai’i eight years, I was ready to continue graduate school, but they didn’t have the programs I needed. So that’s how I got here. And then here I am. Literally, here I am. Like it sort of happened that way. I applied to a few other programs before knowing about Michigan Tech. I needed a GRE score. I took the GRE and at the end they ask you, “Click the box if you want to hear from other schools.” So I heard from Michigan Tech. And I looked at it and was like, ”Why didn’t this come up in my exhaustive searches for programs? Cuz it hadn’t.” And then it went from being, ”Oh, I’ll apply here, too,” to my top choice in three weeks. And it moved fast, too. With other places I applied, there was this long process, and I had to be approved to even apply. With Tech, I applied and then I knew something about six weeks later. Like, in December I applied, May I got out of the Army, and June I moved here.
I love living here. Love it. I grew up in a combination of Atlanta and the wilderness of Georgia. And then ya know, I was in the Peace Corps as well, and then lived in Honolulu, so I’m like used to being outside doing different, interesting things. I’ve never been in a place like this. It’s not just snowy like it has snowed; no, like it snows every day. And people get outside in it [the snow]. The weather is not your enemy; it’s a huge adventure to me.
I live a blessed life. It is amazing. My grandpa couldn’t read. I’m first generation college student. It’s mind-blowing. I think most of my family has no concept of what I’m doing. “Is she lazy? We don’t know.”
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