UK-based Kenyan Scientist and JKUAT Alumna Bags Prestigious Fellowship

Gladys Ngetich (centre) with Eric and Wendy Schmidt during the Fellowship announcement in New York, USA. /Photo:Courtesy.

Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) alumna, Gladys Chepkurui Ngetich, currently based in the United Kingdom, has won the prestigious Schmidt Science Fellow Award at University of Oxford.

Ngetich is one of the twenty (20) fellows globally, and one of the only two (2) from Africa who have completed their PhDs and are currently working in interdisciplinary science addressing great global challenges.

Engineer Ngetich, 28, who has completed her PhD in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Oxford, went through a rigorous and highly competitive process leading to her selection to “a prestigious programme of international scientists at Oxford to investigate space science technologies that support sustainable development.”

Over 200 candidates were whittled down to 50, and further subjected to the selection process that ended up with the final list of 20 fellows who were declared the best in the world and are set to join the Schmidt Science Fellowship at the University of Oxford, an outstanding international honour for exceptionally brilliant scientists from around the world.

Ngetich’s research focuses on the development of more efficient and less environmentally damaging aircraft engines.

The Chief Executive of the Schmidt Science Fellows Dr. Megan Wheeler and the Chair of the Academic Council, Professor Sir Keith Burnett FRS, in a letter making the announcement to JKUAT through the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Wambui Ngumi, said, “as a Schmidt Science Fellow, Gladys Ngetich will move into the application of innovative space science technologies, such as satellite imaging and sensing, supporting sustainable development.”

Engineer Ngetich (right) with the President of the Royal Society and Nobel Laureate, Sir Venki Ramakrishnan /Photo: Courtesy.

According to the Schmidt Science Fellows Academic Council, “Gladys is already having a positive impact amongst the Fellows and beyond… It is our hope that her Fellowship also brings honour and inspiration to your institution and to Kenyan Science more widely.”

In a tele-conversation with Prof. Burnett, Prof. Ngumi described the good news as an exciting moment for JKUAT community and congratulated Engineer Ngetich for putting the institution on the global stage.

Prof. Ngumi said, the prestigious recognition is an inspiration to many young women in Kenya and Africa who go through many obstacles in their quest to excel in academia and other areas of human endeavour.

“JKUAT is one of the top 5 universities in Kenya, and has for the last 2 consecutive years, remained the most preferred training destination for high school students in Kenya, Prof. Ngumi stated, reiterating the University’s focus on practical orientation and partnerships with industry players has, cumulatively seen JKUAT produce well trained graduates who are currently making substantial contributions in various fields around the world.

The latest recognition of JKUAT alumna, she explained, is a testament to the good work the faculty and students are putting in to impact the society.

Engineer Ngetich was among other notable scientists featured by the BBC on outstanding women in science, and appeared in a photograph with the Nobel Laureate and President of the Royal Society, Sir Venki Ramakrishnan who addressed the Fellows at the Global Fellowship meeting at Cambridge and Oxford.

Engineer Ngetich displays the RARE Rising Stars 2018 Award that celebrates UK’s very best Black students / Photo: Courtesy.

Ngetich studied B.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering at JKUAT; graduating at the top of her class with a first class honours degree, before winning a Rhodes scholarship to study in UK, where her academic star has been rising steadily with numerous awards to her credit.

Speaking about the Fellowship, Gladys said, “I am absolutely honoured to have made it to the list of this year’s Schmidt Science Fellows. I sincerely thank the Schmidt Science Fellowship team in collaboration with The Rhodes Trust for this special chance that will enable me to hone both my engineering research skills and leadership skills.”

Gladys who says, she loves what she does and she is passionate about engineering, has some tips for female students keen on pursuing engineering. “One, build strong confidence in yourself. The earlier you do this, the better. You will, quite often, encounter people who will question your choice to pursue engineering. This can sow dangerous seeds of self-doubt if you do not have strong confidence in yourself.

She further notes, “enjoy the ride! Apart from working hard in class, explore and engage in extracurricular activities like music, sports etc that you are passionate about. This will not only greatly improve your social skills and time management but also broaden your perspective.”

Back home at Lelaibei Primary School (1997-2004) in Mau area, she scored a paltry 298 marks from the possible 500 marks in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education, and couldn’t secure admission to a good school.

Engineer Ngetich during Fellowship Global Meeting Series at Oxford.  Copyright-Schmidt Futures.

She joined Mercy Girls Secondary School in Kericho, where she performed well in 2008, winning the James Finlay Scholarship to study at JKUAT.   She has worked hard to overcome hardship and stereotypes, on her journey to the top, becoming a truly phenomenal young aerospace scientist, globally.

The JKUAT alumna and Rhodes Scholar, currently at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is expected to spend time at leading universities including Oxford, Stanford and Harvard.

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