Meet Joseph Oloo, Commonwealth scholarship 2016-17, PhD in Mathematics

Commonwealth Scholar Joseph Oloo What were you doing before you came to Keele?

I have been lecturing in the Faculty of Science, Department of Mathematics and Actuarial Science, at The Catholic University of East Africa, which is a regional university based in Kenya that serves students from over 25 countries in Africa. I have taught there for two years and it is the same institution where I got my Masters of Science degree.

Why did you choose to study at Keele University?

I searched a list of universities in the UK via the internet and came across Keele. My main goal was to find a PhD supervisor for my project.  I went through a list of universities and was lucky to come across a faculty member in the School of Computer Science and Mathematics, Professor Victor Shrira, who had lots of experience in my area of research. We had initial contact via email and his response was very prompt and positive, we started discussing on my proposal and exchanged emails and immediately organised a skype interview. Beside this I also sent him my MSc thesis for his perusal and advice. It took 3-4months working with him, to develop my PhD research proposal before applying for the Commonwealth Scholarship. After submitting the proposal to the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the UK, it took another 4 months before getting any feedback, this was the most stressful period due to the competitive nature of the scheme, and competing globally with students from over 53 Commonwealth countries globally.  On 1st April 2016, I received notification that I had been provisionally selected, and this was the beginning of the light at the end of the tunnel.

How have your first few weeks been? What are your first impressions of Keele and being in the UK?

It has been a wonderful experience for me but being several miles away from home is a tough experience. I was longing to have an education in the UK. One of the things that really encouraged me when I arrived in the UK was my supervisor, who picked me from the airport and it was very encouraging and motivating to have that support. He helped me to complete a number of things on that day and left me after I had settled in my room. Living on campus, the hostels were easy to locate and this helped with settling in, since I had booked my accommodation while in Kenya. Settling in is not easy bearing in mind you have come from far and left people behind but I think the environment is very conducive for learning and everyone is friendly. I appreciate the diversity of cultures, with students from over 180 Nationalities at Keele University. So far, I have not experienced anything in a very negative way but I am trying to adjust more in terms of food; this has been more of a challenge. I miss my traditional delicacies and staple meals such as fish, Tilapia and Omena.

Keele has got the best sporting facility.  I like the gym and the entire sports complex, and have joined the volleyball team too. One person who will always remain in my memory is The Director of Postgraduate Research, Prof Greenough. He helped and guided me throughout the application and admission process. I would also like to thank the Vice Chancellor of The Catholic University of Eastern Africa for granting me  study leave to complete my 3year research PhD.

What does your research involve, and what will you be doing during your PhD studies?

Mathematics is fun!!! and it is meant to provide a real world solution to a real world problem. The research is mathematical modelling of the evolution of wind waves under storms and hurricane conditions.

The research will focus on an area that has been an issue for Kenya. We have had instances where people lose their lives in large water bodies like Lake Victoria, Indian Ocean within the Coastal city of Mombasa. 90% of Kenyan international trade takes place through Indian Ocean, many fishermen die each year and properties worth billions are lost due to strong waves in the water bodies. My main goal is to mitigate and provide timely forecast of wind waves due to storms and hurricanes. My work will deal with modelling and simulation of waves under different wind speeds and get to understand the dynamics, with the main aim of providing timely wave focused into the users of oceans and lakes in Kenya and other African countries.

I will have the opportunity to visit the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMFW), to learn more about modelling and simulations. I will also have the opportunity to attend conferences in Europe and the United States. There are a lot of laboratories for wave modelling in the United States. I am already attending departmental workshops and seminars and these are good opportunities for learning from experts, who come from outside to present on my area. Meeting students across the UK is equally paramount and also good for networking.