Scholar in Japan to harness Space Exploration Skills

AFRICA-ai-JAPAN Project is a Joint Initiative involving JKUAT, PAUSTI and JICA.  In line with one of the project’s goals, to develop human resources for industry development in the area of Science, Technology and Innovation, the project undertakes long term training for JKUAT staff in Japanese universities, through the JICA long term PhD fellowships. The project was a response to the recognition that scientific and technological knowledge was crucial to socio-economic transformation of African economies.

Ms. Sachiko Oda, the Project Coordinator at AFRICA-ai-JAPAN Project, talked to with Mr. Bernard Owiti, a beneficiary of JICA long term training in Japan in the field of Engineering, on his work leading to attain a PhD in Tottori University.

Ms. Sachiko: What motivated you to study a PhD? 

Mr. Owiti: I grew up in a society faced with numerous challenges, fundamentally food insecurity and limited knowhow basically in every aspect. The latter attracted my attention and I strongly believed that solving it would go a long way in solving the former. This has been the driving force behind my continued pursuance of education, and a major contributor to the motivation for my Ph.D. study.

At the peak of Tottori Daisen during laboratory mountain climbing activity

Q2: Why did you decide to apply for PHD program in Japan?

Japan has always led from front in updated technology, especially in the field of engineering. Being among the leading competitive countries in space exploration missions, it was only imperative for me to join the leaders to become a leader. After being here for nearly two years now, I confidently confirm the above statement and that my choice to study in Japan was not in vain.

In the Thermal Energy Engineering Laboratory




Q3: How do you find studying in Tottori University? How is it different from studying in Kenya? (In terms of school environment, teaching method, etc.)

Studying in Tottori university is quite interesting although at first I found it a little draining due to continuous rigorous work coupled with weekly seminars, uncommon in the Kenyan system. I am fully integrated into this system now and I find it even more beneficial. Although Tottori is a very quiet and beautiful place favorable for studies, the environment was a little unaccommodating for me especially during my first experience with winter season. I have since adapted.

With Dr. James Mutua, long term training beneficiary, at Engineering Laboratory Building

Generally, studies in Japan are the reverse of the Kenyan system. Tottori university in particular, studies are more practical oriented which places one in a better position to tackle real societal problems. This methodology draws me closer to the hope of achieving my ultimate goal in Q1 above. The Kenyan education system is majorly theory-based, which only ends up with ideal solutions that are very much divorced from the solutions required for the real problems we face in our day to day activities. Ideal solutions are trivial in cases where practical problems are to be solved and therefore offer very economical input, if any.

With Thermal Energy Eng. Lab MSc. students

Q4: What is your goal after completing your PHD program?

Once I am done with my studies, I intend to come back to Kenya and continue working for my current employer, JKUAT and further the knowledge I acquire here into our system. I am currently studying hypersonic flows in extreme temperature environments. In a nut shell, it is the study of fluid flow past space exploration mission vehicles. This, I believe, will be quite useful for me and JKUAT especially now that we are venturing into this area of research. We are in the process of developing Aerospace Engineering course in the department of Mechanical Engineering, and my input may be critical, desirable and timely.