March 1, 2019, by pmzmah

Meet Omomayowa Akele

Omomayowa Akele (Mayo) is a mathematical sciences PhD student who is anything but average.

Starting with undergraduate and masters degrees in Chemical Engineering, a Maths PhD wasn’t where Mayo expected to be. Mayo describes it as “daunting from a distance”, but she soon fell in love with the discipline. She is currently completing the second year of her thesis on the sustainability of drinking water, focusing on desalination – the process that removes salts and other minerals from seawater. The official title is “Ensuring sustainability of drinking water resources by optimising energy efficiency for desalination techniques”.

Coming from a non-maths subject meant that Mayo had to quickly come to terms with mathematical modelling, but it also gave her the ability to think about situations and topics in novel ways. Mayo notes that it’s been an interesting and challenging year, partly because she’s in control of her own time and project. But passion is the key to her success.

“With time you realise that every new challenging task you take on has a steep learning curve and that’s what I faced in the beginning, however I’m now at the point where I can talk to mathematicians about mathematical modelling comfortably.”

Belonging in a team

Mayo is part of the School of Math’s Modelling and Analytics for a Sustainable Society (MASS) group. MASS is an interdisciplinary doctoral training centre that recognises the strength and insight of people like Mayo who come from outside of mathematical sciences.

MASS aims to bring researchers together to tackle global sustainability problems, focusing on challenges in energy, food, water and society. Despite Mayo completing a thesis focused on only water, participating in MASS has helped Mayo to understand both her own area and sustainability problems outside of her project.

“I’m really happy with the MASS group I’m a part of as we’re working on sustainability topics I’m passionate about. PhD’s aren’t easy and you need the motivation from yourself, so having people in your office that you can relate to and who have similar goals is really nice.”

Omomayowa Akele delivering her recent MASS presentation

Gaining confidence

All MASS students deliver a talk during their second year of study. This gives them a chance to showcase their own work and develop their presentation skills. Mayo’s talk was during our busiest MASS seminar to date, and she shared the stage with Professor Chris Budd, known for his contributions to non-linear differential equations and their applications in industry.

 “This time last year I would have been very anxious about delivering a presentation to mathematicians. However, presenting my work felt good – I showed how much progress I had made and convinced the audience I can make a difference with my project. It was well received and I am delighted with the positive feedback I have received.”

Industrial experience

Mayo had been thinking about a placement in the industry to gain more experience in the field. But when Mayo asked for a tour of the Thames Gateway Water Treatment Works (the only desalination plant in the UK) she found herself becoming an event organiser! She is now helping lead an event with the Institute of Chemical Engineers (IChemE). The event has been so popular with industry that tickets sold out after just one week. Mayo describes how she couldn’t quite understand how all of this happened.

“It went from 0 to 100 really quickly! I wasn’t expecting this to become as big an event as it has, though it’s brilliant at the same time. I have made so many industry connections and I was appointed as the deputy event co-ordinator for the IChemE water group! I’m feeling a little nervous about the discussion that I will be chairing to close the event but it’s a new experience that I’m sure I will learn a lot from.”

As you can see there’s more to a PhD than meets the eye. There are so many opportunities out there, you just need to find them. We can’t wait to hear how Mayo’s event goes in London and what her future has to offer.




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