Richard Kipyegon Koech is a Kenyan RSIF Scholarship recipient pursing a PhD in Material science and engineering at the African University of Science and Technology (AUST), Abuja-Nigeria and currently at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) on a sandwich programme.
Throughout his academic journey, the dream of being one of the best scientists with the ability to address societal challenges and to mentor young scientists has always lingered in his mind. Getting the RSIF PhD scholarship opportunity was a step towards fulfilling this dream, because the scholarship has already opened doors for him to connect with renowned researchers in his field of research. The RSIF scholarship has also helped him to build a network of people from diverse disciplines who have shaped him in ways unimaginable.
When Koech joined African University of Science and Technology (AUST), one of the PASET African Host Universities (AHU) in Abuja, Nigeria in 2018, he did complete the required core courses while working on the literature review and writing his research proposal. While at the AHU, Koech also got opportunities to participate in workshops and conferences which provided avenues for him to interact with experts in different areas of material science. In one of the workshop that was organized by the Joint Undertaking for an African Materials Institute (JUAMI) in Kampala-Uganda, Koech interacted with many researchers from various regions across Africa and US from whom he got exposure on various hands-on activities on materials characterization.
He is currently progressing well with experimental work on the fabrication and characterization of perovskite solar cells at WPI which is one of the PASET international partner institution (IPI). Being in WPI portends well for him as a student and an upcoming researcher. He joined the energy research group; led by Professor Wole who is a renowned researcher in material science; through which he has been able to deepen his understanding on various aspects related to solar cells, light emitting diodes and energy storage devices. Together with the research team, he has co-authored seven publications in peer reviewed journals. With this teamwork, and the support he receives from his supervisors, he has a lot of hopes that he will accomplish his research goals in WPI and broaden his research collaboration network.
As a student, nothing is as good as seeing the hope of achieving what your heart has always yearned for. Koech has always hoped to be among the best researchers who will inspire many young scientists and with the progress he is making he sees this dream slowly turning into a reality. With the skills he has acquired, he hopes to be seriously involved in research and training other upcoming researchers in his field of specialization.
He admits that Covid-19 is a disaster that has affected everybody in different magnitudes. As a researcher and a family man, Koech says that the effects of Covid-19 have not spared him. Throughout the lockdown period that was meant to curb the spread of Covid-19, he could neither go to the lab to do the experiments nor visit his family back in Kenya. He had to convert his room into a study area and had to spend most of the time doing the write ups; as his research work was mostly experimental and needed physical presence in the Laboratory. Many challenges came along with this, spanning from boredom, psychological disturbance to those related to long period of physical inactivity. Covid-19 therefore affected his research plan which he is now trying to catch up with to be able to finish on time.
He is very grateful for the RSIF scholarship and calls upon more African Governments to come together and invest in the fund so that more bright and talented African youths can have their dreams turned into realities. Investing in the youth is the best way to transform the African continent given the nature of its demographic distribution.