Mandela Rhodes Scholar Strives for a Sustainable Future through Engineering
Mandela Rhodes Scholar Mr Emmanuel Balogun, a Masters candidate in Engineering at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), envisions a future where sustainable energy saves lives, inspiring his research that he hopes will add value to the industry he will join.
The Mandela Rhodes Foundation (MRF) provides these postgraduate scholarships to high academic achievers who demonstrate leadership, commitment to community engagement and reconciliation, and a spirit of entrepreneurship.
Balogun is from Nigeria, but chose UKZN for his Masters owing to its reputation as a research-led institution. He wanted to enroll in an African institution where creativity was encouraged and excellent mentorship was available. He was also excited to explore the beautiful city of Durban.
Balogun initially considered studying medicine and was deterred only by blood phobia (hemophobia). His love of mathematics and physics provided an alternative in engineering, where he could channel his curiosity and analytical skills into understanding technology and provide quality, affordable technologies to improve lives.
His research involves condition monitoring and optimisation of polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells.
‘Fuel cells are the future of energy generation,’ said Balogun. ‘Imagine driving a car not powered by fossil fuels or even batteries, but rather by a device that has an energy efficiency rate of 83%, with pure water the only waste product.’
Balogun advocates for clean and sustainable energy in an energy-hungry society suffering the consequences of accelerated development and energy needs.
‘I believe I can add to cutting-edge breakthroughs in the operation and implementation of fuel cell energy,’ he said.
Balogun said that receiving this scholarship has rewarded his drive for excellence. He has benefitted from sharing platforms with brilliant young African leaders and said opportunities provided by the MRF have increased his capacity as a young African leader and relieved the burden of sponsorship of his studies.
Balogun is a passionate volunteer teacher of grade nine mathematics at a public school. He is motivated to do well by his mother, who raised her six children on her own despite numerous challenges. She encouraged Balogun to believe he could be the best. He credits her for taking him from average to excellent, stopping at nothing to help him attain an education to free him from poverty.
Upon completion of his Masters, Balogun plans to join the energy industry, but also sees potential for continuing with a PhD.
He acknowledged God for his success, as well as his mother, and the MRF for having faith in his potential and providing an excellent platform for building strong leadership, academic and entrepreneurial skills.
Balogun emphasised the importance of being diligent in one’s work, saying curiosity and humility are important, as is self-belief and being surrounded by people who encourage improvement.
‘Never accept failure or impossibilities - spell impossible as ‘I’m possible’ and see failure as an opportunity to learn,’ said Balogun.
In September, Balogun will travel to the African Youth Leadership Summit in Morocco to discuss solutions to African challenges with other young African leaders.