KFUPM: Meet Gazali, best graduating university student in Nigeria and Saudi Arabia

Gazali Tanimu, 28, has emerged as a best graduating PhD student in Chemical Engineering at the King Fahad University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM), Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

Dr Tanimu, who was Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria’s best graduating student in 2012 and now teaches at the same institution, told Blueprint, in an exclusive chat, that some lecturers’ attitude negatively affects students’ performance.


How has your journey to King Fahad University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) been?

Well, I first got to know about KFUPM through some senior colleagues in 2012. Then I was still an undergraduate and in my final year at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria. But I later got to know more about the specialised Saudi university through my elder brother and one of our neighbours who were both offered a post-graduate admission by KFUPM. After I graduated from ABU in 2012, I applied and the university instantly offered me a scholarship. The scholarship is meant for persons who graduated with either First Class or Second Class Upper from some selected countries. It was then called “Full-time scholarship by the Ministry of Higher Education Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”. Among other things, the scholarship covers tuition fee, stipend, housing, textbooks and healthcare. Around mid-2014, KFUPM sent me my visa authorisation number through e-mail. But it was not until August of the same year, that I finally departed Nigeria for Saudi to begin my M.Sc. programme at KFUPM.

What were your academic feats at KFUPM?

To the special grace of God, I graduated with Distinction after successfully defending my M.Sc. thesis in May 2016. Considering the outstanding grade I completed within my Master’s, KFUPM offered me another admission to do my PhD. To the glory of Almighty Allah again, I just graduated as the best PhD student in Chemical Engineering during KFUPM’s 2019 post-graduate convocation in March this year.

Were you always the best among your school mates?

I don’t mean to sound pompous, but the truth is, I always emerged tops among my classmates right from the outset. I was the best graduating student in primary school. I replicated the same feat in my secondary school and then in 2012, I emerged as the overall best graduating student at the convocation ceremony of ABU. I think it is my Creator’s doing. I thank him for blessing me with a razor-sharp intellect. The exceptional mentors I came across in my academic journey, also contributed immensely to my accomplishments at various schools.

Did you encounter a language barrier at KFUPM, since Arabic is Saudi’s language?

King Fahad University and most of the universities offering post-graduate studies in the Kingdom use English as a medium of instruction. So, other international students at KFUPM and I did not encounter any kind of language barrier.

What inspired you to study Chemical Engineering at ABU?

Initially, I had two courses that were my priorities. They are Medicine and Chemical Engineering. And this is because I was very good in Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics, which are core science subjects. At that time, I approached my tutors and I was strongly advised to choose the one I prefer most. They were confident I could do well in both courses. I got to know that both Medicine and Chemical Engineering have bright prospects, based on the discussions I had with those studying them. So it was challenging to make a decision. But as fate will have it, I finally settled for Chemical Engineering. And there have been no regrets so far.

What methodology did lecturers at KFUPM use to enhance your performance and other students’?

Over here, the lecturers are very, very friendly, unassuming and hospitable towards students. The aspect of lecturer-student interactions is quite high and impressive. This is possibly due to the moderate ratio of students to lecturers in various departments at KFUPM. Also, the lecturers have office hours, which is an avenue for students to table their complaints before their lecturers. In return, they politely counsel their students. The lecturers and supervisors over there assist in proffering solutions to students’ academic problems. And that is how it should be. Lecturers in every tertiary institution, should not incite fears into the minds of their students. They should eschew threatening students with carryovers. They should rather be epitomes of humility, kindness and compassion, who desire the best for their students. Some lecturers in Nigeria can be said to be the reason students perform badly in school. And categorically, I think friendly and erudite lecturers impart productive knowledge better than harsh and unfriendly lecturers.

How come you, as a Nigerian,  performed brilliantly at KFUPM?

I adopted no any special way of studying at KFUPM. It is just that the university had already provided a conducive environment for students to study efficiently. The only thing is that I was surrounded by erudite mentors that armed me with necessary advice and mentorship at every point in time. During my PhD research, I was lucky to receive proper guidance and instructions from the consultant professors at KFUPM Research Institute. I gained a lot from their rich expertise, which enabled me to have an excellent research output. Also, I cannot forget to thank my project supervisors for their beneficial tutelage.

Can we know what your PhD research is all about?

The research I carried out in my PhD programme was entitled, “Novel Process for the Oxidative Dehydrogenation of LPG to High-Value Olefins”. It falls under refining and petrochemicals; whereby Liquefied Petroleum Gas (low-value product) is converted to ethylene, propylene and butadiene (high-value products). The target of the research was to improve on the selectivity of olefins and diolefins from Normal Butane (N-Butane). So what we were able to achieve was a catalyst designed base on commercially available metal oxides which gave good performance (in terms of activity, selectivity and stability) for the desired products. And the desired products are ethylene, propylene and butadiene, which are the backbone of most petrochemical industries.

What is the next plan after obtaining a PhD?

I am a patriotic Nigerian. Therefore, the only plan I am nursing now is how to gather my luggage and head back to my country. I am so passionate about contributing my quota towards the sustainable development of our Fatherland. Furthermore, I want to contribute my quota towards the accelerated growth of science and technology in Nigeria as an academic.

What if KFUPM decides to employ you as a lecturer?

Already, I had a job in Nigeria before coming to the Kingdom. I work with ABU as a lecturer. I only came here for a study fellowship. So I plan to return to ABU very soon and impart the knowledge I garnered in my students.

Which day was your most memorable at King Fahad University?

My most memorable moment was when I got A+ in all the courses I registered for a particular semester. Let me also say that I will live to remember the auspicious occasion of my PhD convocation, where I was called out as the best PhD graduating student from the Department of Chemical Engineering. It was a fulfilling moment for me, honestly.

Source: Blueprint


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