From the dreadful study experience in Ekiti State to receiving the highest honour awarded to a graduating Ph.D. student at the Oklahoma State University, Babajide speaks on how he conquered the odds and rose to become an outstanding student with multiple awards.
Thirty-one-year-old Babajide Ojo has a Bachelor’s Degree in Biochemistry at Ekiti State University (EKSU) but his pursuit for richer knowledge made him proceed to Oklahoma State University (OSU) in the United States of America.
Recounting his experience while in EKSU, Ojo said it was a fun and challenging experience especially as a science student who was continually loaded with theories but with minimal hands-on laboratory experience.
“I understand this was not entirely the fault of the staff as they could only use what was made available to them at the time due to inadequate funding.
“Nevertheless, the final year project and writing experience I had with my supervisor, Professor (Mrs.) F.L Oyetayo was very instrumental to my experience and decision to pursue a graduate degree in an area related to nutritional biochemistry,” Ojo said.
Other factors that made learning dreadful for him in Nigeria include the studying conditions marred by the epileptic power supply.
“Studying conditions were dreadful at the time, as we usually lacked electricity and had to study in the lecture theatres at night using candles. No one deserves to study under those conditions and I can only hope the situation has improved.”
The Quest To Improve Human Health
Ojo is passionate about understanding how certain foods and nutrients interact with the beneficial bacteria in human intestines, and the implications on the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes markers.
“All humans live with millions of bacteria in our intestines. These bacteria were recently shown to play an important role in the initiation or prevention of several diseases, including type 2 diabetes induced by obesity,” he said.
Since obesity is an epidemic in both developed and developing countries, his hope is that identifying nutrients that benefit the human intestinal bacteria will assist in the management of obesity-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes.
His dissertation also sought to understand how supplementing a western diet with whole foods may improve outcomes of diet-induced obesity and type 2 diabetes by modulating the intestinal bacteria and immune system.
Interestingly, the United States Department of Agriculture took an interest in his findings during the research and sponsored further studies that are currently ongoing in humans.
Studying in the US and Nigeria: A Student’s Comparison
Ojo may not be able to speak for all US or Nigerian students but he cherishes his academic experience in the United States.
In comparison with Nigeria, students in Ojo’s school in the US are given a voice at every-decision making process and even review their professors. This review determines the promotion or retention of the lecturer.
“Here in the US, students are given a genuine voice at every decision-making step, like identifying the direction of your research, the employment of new professors, and sometimes have a say in course design through regular class feedbacks
“You are allowed to review your class and professor at the end of the semester which counts towards promotion or retention of the professor. As such, everyone takes the job seriously and they realise that they are employed because of the students,” he boasted.
Looking back at his experience while in Nigeria, Ojo believes the academic template in Nigerian institutions is a sharp contrast with that of the United States.
“I feel like it’s the other way round in my personal and acquired experience in some Nigerian universities where some professors are not easily approachable and students feel helpless in cases of misconduct.
“There are also structures in place in US universities to improve the physical and mental health of students to better cope with academic stress.”
Education As A Service Industry
Ojo believes the Nigerian education sector can be improved if lecturers, professors, teachers and members of staff adopt, embrace and believe that education is a service industry.
His advice is that structures be put in place to ensure that lecturers and others realises that the sole purpose of their employment is all about providing quality service to the students who mostly foot their salaries.
“Education is a service industry and they are occupying those privileged positions mainly because of the availability of students to teach and not the other way round.
“This can be achieved, in part, by developing a system for anonymous course reviews after each semester and making sure the reviews matter in some way.”
He also believes that Nigeria needs to improve funding to universities especially for research and development, conferences, and periodic training of staff.
“For example, the budget for Oklahoma State University for fiscal year 2019 was $1.3 billion, while that of Nigeria as a whole was about $1.72 billion (N620.5 billion).
“However, we will only be kidding ourselves if we continually pump money into our universities and do nothing to get rid of loopholes that enhance systemic corruption with little consequences in our society.”
Life As A Black Student In Oklahoma
His experience in white-dominated Oklahoma can be described as smooth sail. He described residents of his host community as “the nicest people to be around both on and off-campus.
“I have a very much collegial relationship with my classmates and professors.
“Here, professors treat us as colleagues, with much dignity and respect. Their doors are always open for discussion and they will sometimes come over to your desk to discuss as well if they know you have developed expertise in an area.”
He explains that this was a huge culture change for him in comparison with his home country Nigeria.
“The way some of our professors in Nigeria relate with their students can sap all the confidence in your ability to relate with older professionals if you don’t experience life elsewhere.”
A Student With Many Laurels
Ojo is a student who has worked his way to the top. Upon arrival in the US, he had to improve his hands-on laboratory experience from EKSU standard to the standards in the US due to the huge differences.
Among tackling other challenges, his doggedness and diligence earned him the Honorary Marshal award which is the highest honour awarded to a student during the graduation season.
He explains how he got the highest honour.
“Each program in the university nominates one applicant for this award and the university selects only two candidates noted for their academic achievements, scholarly contributions, and service to the university and community.
“I was deeply honored with this award which meant that I got to lead my esteemed colleagues in the procession at graduation, have reserved seats for my proud family, recognized at the ceremony among other perks,” he explained.
Other awards Ojo received during his Ph.D. include the 2016 top five Minority Investigator award by the American Society of Nutrition, the 2017 most outstanding Ph.D. student award by the College of Human Sciences, and the 2018 excellence in mentoring undergraduates in research award also by the College of Human Sciences, in Oklahoma State University.
His Next Move
His next program centers around inflammatory bowel disease research with a team led by Michael Rosen at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Ohio.
In addition, he hopes to continually use his Bestman Academy platform to enlighten good students all over the world on how to take advantage of graduate degree opportunities that exist all over the United States.