A global pandemic is a unique challenge we are all facing together. Olumide O. Opeyemi is a PhD student at the Queensland University of Technology and a highly motivated IMNIS mentee. We invited Olumide to interview and share how he has been managing and navigating this hurdle.

Olumide O. Opeyemi [photo: Mr Thurman E. Clark Jr]

Have you had to end, pause or pivot your research during the Covid19 measures? What are some of the ways you have stayed motivated and productive?

Per the government guidelines, 2 of my 3 studies were deemed clinically elective so they were paused indefinitely. Motivation was impossible, the pandemic was mentally devastating for reasons belonging in the ears of my counsellor rather than this forum. Everything stopped, including my sporting and artistic outlets, which were meant to help buffer difficulty and present a positive outlook. Music is pain medicine and the pandemic took that away too.  I had family strewn across 3 continents, including a recently widowed 70-year-old father.

Motivation came in the form of long walks at 3:30am. It was a great way to start my day, clear my head, and think through problems. I started journaling, which helped me reflect on my thoughts during the walk and put my solutions down on paper.

I’m also grateful for my IMNIS mentor, Emeritus Professor Maree Smith AC FTSE, who projected mental strength and fortitude during our virtual mentoring meetings. She motivated me to remain flexible and positive, in order to adapt my work to the new circumstances.

Are you in the throes of a job hunt? What are some ways you are connecting, networking and searching for opportunities?

I’m an immigrant. I’m always in the throes of a job hunt! My very, very Nigerian name (of which I’m immensely proud) severely limits online networking, for obvious reasons. This is why I don’t use LinkedIn or any of its variants. I prefer to build solid, life-long, fruit-yielding relationships the old fashioned way – face-to-face. An old Nigerian proverb goes, “soup is only meant for the face of the bowl”.

Prior to the pandemic, I remember passing through 6 cities in a week in Europe, networking to make my research clinically relevant. I also have the habit of sticking my curious nose anywhere there’s a seminar or workshop. My father’s sonorous voice always rings in my ears, “no knowledge is lost”.

Opportunity comes from privilege, I comprehensively learned that lesson over the last decade of my life.

This was the major goal set by my mentor and me. She delivered spectacularly and it revolutionised my research and prospects for the future. Our next step is road-mapping and signalling academia and industry as I approach the finish line of my PhD.

Are you doing any online learning or professional development? If yes, what types of skills are you keen to strengthen or develop during this time?

I have an insatiable thirst for knowledge, so I’m always learning new things. I even play tennis to learn for mastery! During these trying times, I have attended webinars for Computational Fluid Dynamics, Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning, Computer programming, High Performance Cloud computing, Medical Imaging, Writing, HEA Fellowship, Statistics / data science, and most importantly, ETHICS.

This saga has eroded my trust in the world’s leadership, meaning I have to develop the ability to function in spite of the failures of our leaders. Community organisations, educational non-profit startups, and commercial entrepreneurship (micro and macro) are my long term development goals.

Is there any other advice you would share with other early career STEM researchers or graduates at this time?
  • Listen to John Coltrane, believe me, his music exorcises negativity
  • While listening to John Coltrane, his music will attune you to what makes you happy. It’s that powerful!
  • Aggressively curate what makes you happy (your favourite people and things) Yes, Coltrane wrote a fugue of that Rogers & Hammerstein Classic!
  • Strategically place them along the hours of your day
How are you staying healthy and well during this time? Please consider physical, emotional and mental health and wellness.

Exercise – A 7.5km walk over and around the Story Bridge is a great way to start my day from 3:30am. The silence is beautiful. Doing jumping jacks and push-ups in my apartment seemed unappealing to me.

Reflection – After the walk, I sit, breathe, and meditate. I write my thoughts in my journal. Writing stops time in a world moving at the speed of light.

Counselling – I am seeing a counsellor. It helps to talk. They will also petition your institution on your behalf if need be. Your institution may ignore you, but the words of your counsellor are gold, especially when spoken in advocacy and intercession for you.

Reach out – My life is deliberately populated with fulfilling relationships. I make time to reach out to them. We encourage and comfort each other, the key word is comfort (verb), very few people have that gift. I always make time to fully appreciate people like that in my life.

Gratitude – I’m grateful to be living my dream in a country that helps me thrive in every way. I highly recommend practicing this. A Yoruba proverb goes, “Yesterday’s grateful child will surely receive more gifts today.” Selah!

About the author:

Olumide O. Opeyemi was born in Ondo Town, Ondo State, Nigeria and has lived in numerous places across four continents. Olumide emigrated with his family to the United Kingdom when he was 15 years old and attended The Princess Margaret Royal Free School in Windsor, Berkshire, where he was voted Head Boy of the school by students, faculty, and staff. In his undergraduate years, Olumide studied Aerospace Engineering at the prestigious Queen Mary College at University of London and Sports Science at Kingston University with a study abroad scholarship at Grand Valley State University in Michigan in the United States. Olumide then moved to the mountains in Boone, North Carolina for graduate school. At Appalachian State University, he earned a Master of Science in Exercise Science (research focussed), completing his research thesis in the Autumn of 2014. He also specialised and published in two more areas (clinical and strength & conditioning). Post-graduation, Olumide was offered an Adjunct Professor position for two semesters. He then returned to London to start and grow a family healthcare HR business. His work experience spans charities and non-profit startups, IT, sales, University administration, pedagogy, as well as medical writing and editing. Olumide’s PhD project involves the use of non-invasive in vivo MRI scans and computational fluid dynamics to diagnose occult cardiovascular disorders.