"As an international student, I always craved for a community where I will be accepted and my difference won’t be a divide. I am happy that I found such a community here, I actually go to the lab every day knowing I’m going to work with friends and not just co-students/researchers. "

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Student Profile: Emmanuel Balogun

Chemistry PhD Student in the Faculty of Science

April 23, 2021
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I grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, and as a child, I have always been interested in helping people. As a kid, most of the professions that were fascinating to me was service-related, such as being a policeman or a doctor. I was considered too fragile and I hate to see people getting hurt, hence I had to cross being a policeman off my list. However, in my science class, I learned about greenhouse gases, their devastating impact on our environment, and how our world is developing itself into extinction. My new-found knowledge sparked my passion for renewable and sustainable energy and has formed the motivation for the choices I have made since then until now. My life’s goal has since been to help people and save lives, by providing a clean, cheap, and sustainable substitute for ‘killer’ fossil fuels. Currently, I am studying towards a Ph.D. in Dr. Holdcroft’s lab in the Chemistry department, and my research is focused on designing environmentally friendly, durable, and optimized fuel cell energy converters. When I am not in the lab, I enjoy reading and watching documentaries about random facts. I love to hike and also take long walks, as it gives me the opportunity to clear my head and just live in my own thoughts. I also enjoy working with children, teenagers, and young adults. It’s fascinating how much one can learn to appreciate life’s beauty from the eyes of children and teenagers.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?

During my M.Sc. program at the University of Cape Town, I noticed that many of the best papers I read always had a name consistently present in them, Steven Holdcroft. I choose SFU primarily because it offers me the opportunity to work directly with one of the best minds in the fuel cells industry, in the person of Prof. Steven Holdcroft. Also, SFU prides itself on being an engaged university, attracting the best students from across the globe and the potential of being a member of such an elite community was particularly exciting to me. Lastly, the weather and the beautiful scenery in B.C were extra motivators.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR RESEARCH OR YOUR PROGRAM TO A FAMILY MEMBER?

There is a new buzz in the media about a ‘hydrogen-driven economy’, i.e., a world where hydrogen instead of fossil fuels are the energy drivers. Like batteries, fuel cells are energy converters. However, unlike batteries, they don’t need recharging and can supply a continuous flow of energy once there is a continuous supply of fuel (often hydrogen) and air. The challenge to their wide adoption is mainly due to its high cost and durability issues. My research is focused on reducing the cost, optimizing the performance and durability of these fuel cell devices by using cheaper, efficient, and environmentally friendly starting materials. Eventually, the goal is to make them cheap enough that they are not just a green alternative, but a more cost-effective one to the internal combustion engine.

WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOYING ABOUT YOUR STUDIES/RESEARCH AT SFU?

The quality of the faculty and grad students here is just amazing. In my research group, for instance, I always feel privileged to have the opportunity of working with some of the smartest and extremely passionate individuals. As an international student, I always craved for a community where I will be accepted and my difference won’t be a divide. I am happy that I found such a community here, I actually go to the lab every day knowing I’m going to work with friends and not just co-students/researchers. Also, I like the fact that I work with a supervisor and friends who know how to have fun! We don’t just aim to do cutting-edge research together, I like that we also endeavour to live our best lives while at it.

HAVE YOU BEEN THE RECIPIENT OF ANY MAJOR OR DONOR-FUNDED AWARDS? IF SO, PLEASE TELL US WHICH ONES AND A LITTLE ABOUT HOW THE AWARDS HAVE IMPACTED YOUR STUDIES AND/OR RESEARCH.

During the course of my program at SFU, I was a recipient of the BCAA Environmental Studies in Transportation Award. I was also a recipient of the MITACS Research Training Award. I have been awarded the Chemistry Graduate fellowship on 3 occasions. I am also a recipient of the NSERC Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship. These awards have helped significantly in ensuring that I focus squarely on my research and not be distracted by the extra difficulty of balancing teaching responsibilities with research and classes.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PROGRAM/POSTDOC POSITION TO SOMEONE STILL SEARCHING FOR A PROGRAM OR POSTDOC POSITION?

The Chemistry Ph.D. program at SFU is a center for excellence, where next-generation chemists and scientists are trained. Coming from an engineering background, I expected a lot of difficulty in adapting to and the new curriculum. However, I had the softest landing possible. The faculties and staff are quite supportive and very understanding, allowing one the opportunity to learn at one’s own pace. The laboratories are well equipped enabling the possibilities to engage in cutting-edge research. Also, the connection with the industry, the opportunity to be mentored by A-grade professors, and accessibility to funding opportunities, teaching, and research assistantships make it an ideal place for any student.

Contact Emmanuel: ebalogun@sfu.ca