From Nigeria to N.L.
Peter Ogban’s path from Nigeria to Newfoundland to pursue a PhD in mechanical engineering was slightly circuitous.
He first heard of Memorial University when he was completing a master of science degree in renewable energy in Newcastle, U.K. It’s also where he first learned of Dr. Greg Naterer, Memorial’s dean of engineering and applied science.
“Dr. Naterer is internationally respected for his research contributions to heat transfer in mechanical engineering, specifically entropy and the second law of thermodynamics,” he said.
Mr. Ogban reached out to Dr. Naterer, who encouraged him to apply to Memorial. Soon after, he received a letter stating he could start in the fall of 2016.
“The fees are quite affordable compared to other universities,” explained Mr. Ogban, who says he was ready to pick up and move to Newfoundland based upon the reputation of the professors and the program.
He was pleasantly surprised to also learn he had been awarded funding.
“That was another factor that helped me make my decision to come. I didn’t have to worry about my fees and upkeep. I can focus on my work and finish (my PhD) on time.”
Mr. Ogban says it didn’t take him long to adapt; he attended the welcome events and met other engineering students from Nigeria.
As a computational research engineer, Mr. Ogban takes fluid motion equations and models them using computer simulations in order to predict actual fluid behaviour in engineering systems.
“Higher system efficiency and optimization is what we are looking for to reduce operating costs and environmental emissions,” he said.
“We can use results from this modelling to more accurately predict and design fluid systems, such as oil and gas movement through subsea pipelines or air motion through wind turbines.”
The structure of Memorial’s research programs also helped with Mr. Ogban’s transition to his new home.
He says the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science enables students to first take courses relevant to their area of research, then take a comprehensive examination to ensure they have a sound background in their research area. Students can then develop and present a proposal of their research.
It is only after the fundamental coursework is complete that students undertake research work, publish and then write and present a thesis.
“I think that this structure helps to equip students with adequate background knowledge, and provides mentoring and guidance needed to succeed,” he said.
“Some other universities in the U.K. require students to have written a research proposal before they are admitted into the programs, and students may not be given the time to take courses before they begin their research.”
Once he has developed the necessary code, Mr. Ogban and his fellow classmates will set up experimental facilities for turbulence measurement and modelling in the engineering thermal/fluids lab. This will allow them to validate their findings and predictions.
The new computer simulation tools will allow designers to more effectively optimize the energy efficiency of devices such as turbines, fluid pumping systems, oil and gas separators, and others.
“After publishing my results in conferences and journals, I will focus on writing my thesis,” he said. “I take one step at a time.”