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“The biggest challenge that we are facing is funding,” said the Dean SONAS, Dr. Joseph Owino. Dr. Owino’s presentation was based on a survey they carried out on the challenges of completion rates in the School. “Before you embark on a postgraduate journey, you have to know where funds will come from,” he advised. He also pointed out lack of focus and motivation as another key challenge. “What is your motivation for doing a Masters or PhD? If you start here, it will have an impact on your completion rate,” stated Dr. Owino, adding that the SONAS Graduate Studies Committee has decided to have periodic reports on the progress of students.

Speaking during the Seminar, Prof. William Shivoga, Professor of Aquatic Ecology in the Department of Biological Sciences, said that postgraduate students are the drivers of research in all departments. Prof. Shivoga spoke about the common mistakes that postgraduate students make. “Some students select a topic just to graduate. Picking an area of research is very important because that might be your specialization for the rest of your academic journey. Choose a topic that excites you,” he stated.

Further, he said that students tend to think that the best supervisor is one that is friendly and easy-going. “Select a supervisor that is suitable for you. What is his or her area of specialization and does it match with your interest? Pick a supervisor that is experienced. Check whether his or her publications tally with your topic.”

“Another mistake that students make is taking shortcuts. One is already thinking of graduating immediately if they enroll for a Masters or PhD. At postgraduate level, we expect you to think critically. If you are a postgraduate student and you don’t read, you are in the wrong place. Work closely with your supervisor, learn from them and your life will become better,” said Prof. Shivoga, adding that students should always operate in an academic environment.

Prof. Nyongesa in his opening remarks urged students to focus on serious matters in terms of research. “As a postgraduate student, if you want to succeed, you should always prioritize research and have a passion for it. Seek mentorship if you want to develop personally as well as professionally,” he said. Prof. Nyongesa reminded students to observe humility as it is an important virtue when it comes to accepting guidance. He termed it a simple ‘catalyst’ for postgraduate success.

Senior lecturer in the Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry, also the Chair of the Department, Dr. Lilechi Barasa, gave an insight on supervisions and expectations. As stated by Dr. Barasa, supervision is a collaborative process. “Before embarking on supervision, both parties should agree on ethical and professional issues,” he said. In his presentation, he talked about what is expected of both a supervisor and a student. “A good supervisor should advise, listen, be organized, helpful, approachable and ready to reassure students. On the other hand, a good student should be self-driven, be eager to learn and be able to familiarize with new trends.

Senior lecturer and researcher in the Department of Biological Sciences, currently the coordinator of Webometrics and Short Courses, Dr. Dennis Ochieno, talked about moving from postgraduate students to publishing credible scientific journals.  “Your original research should be published in accredited journals for it to benefit others. As a researcher, publishing in these journals will guarantee you recognition, competition for scholarships or jobs, completion of studies and earning Webometric points on your research,” he said.

Dr. Ochieno gave students some tips to ensure that their studies are published in credible journals such as Elsevier. “Your study should relate to the scope of the credible journal. In addition, consider the universality of your study. For example, use well known landmarks like Kakamega forest, Mount Kenya region or Lake Victoria basin.

Moreover, Dr. Ochieno explained in detail the peer review process that articles go through for relevance, quality and adherence to scientific standards and the editorial standards of the journal before they can be accepted for publication.

Prof. John Muoma, Associate Professor in MMUST with lots of experience in plant biology and one that has been cited more than three hundred (300) times, took the participants through sourcing for research funds, saying that students should always apply for funding to enable them to do better research. Clearly, SONAS is being steered in the right direction. 

by Mary Wangari Wambugu

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