Serah (Kenya) at work at Chimie ParisTech
ParisTech has launched in 2019 a cooperation with the University of Nairobi (UoN) in Kenya. After obtaining fundings from the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs that allows some of the network’s schools to visit the University of Nairobi, ParisTech was awarded with Erasmus+ fundings. Serah Wanjiku Njoroge applied to the call of interests and is now spending 6 months at Chimie ParisTech to do an internship in the Synthesis, Electrochemistry, Imaging and Analytical Systems for Diagnostis Team (SEISAD) in the Institute of Chemistry for Life and Health Sciences (i-CLeHS).
Can you introduce yourself?
I am Serah Wanjiku, I was born in Nyandarua county, Kenya.
I am a Master 2 student and now working on my research thesis. I am studying master’s in Analytical chemistry in the Department of Chemistry (Faculty of Science and Technology) at the University of Nairobi. I got my Bachelor’s degree in education (chemistry/biology) at Kenyatta University in Kenya. I changed the university because UoN has more resources and the training is better. It’s a world-class university and offers more opportunities.
Why did you choose to come to France?
I have never been to Europe before and I always dreamt of visiting Paris. When the opportunity arose, I was glad to apply.
How did you know about the partnership between ParisTech and the University of Nairobi?
We got information about this program through an email sent to all students. I applied by sending my CV and motivation letter in February 2022 and then I had an interview with Fethi Bedioui, Cyrine Slim, and Laura Trapiella, researchers at Chimie ParisTech. All students at UoN always get information about opportunities by email. Then I met Fethi Bedioui in November when he came to Nairobi for a electrochemistry workshop.
What did you know about Chimie ParisTech before coming?
Frankly nothing. I had a look at the website, when applying for the internship position and was impressed by the history of the school. I was suprised to know they offered opportunities in chemistry as it is an engineering school. But I learned that the SEISAD team from the Institute of chemistry for life and Health Science (i-CLeHS) fits with my research interest. During the application process, they had included the research topic for the internship, and asked questions about my knowledge in chemistry to define the topic. I am now working with Cyrine Slim, Laura Trapiella, Sophie Griveau and Fethi Bedioui.
What interests you here?
The topic first : Fabrication of biosensors. I am excited to learn more about it. And for now we are developing a biosensor to detect pharmaceutical pollutants.
What does this internship bring to you ?
It’s interesting because researchers come from different countries : Brazil, Mexico, Italy, Lebanon, China and Cambodia. I am able to experience and learn more about different cultures.
I also get to learn a new language, as the school offers French classes.
It’s is also big plus for me as I get to enrich my professional career. Companies in Kenya always look for people having expertise and international experience. They value the experience in Europe.
The way how researchers are working here is also quite different. In Kenya, we have lab technicians in the lab to help with everything. Here you have to be confident, you have to operate everything and do a lot by yourself. So I’m learning a lot.
And in Kenya, we don’t work in a team group. Here we work together; we have to work with different people. There is a team meeting every week. Everyone talks on what he/she is doing and if we have some difficulties, someone will help. They always find a solution. I am learning to be a team player.
And the facilities and resources here are easily accessible. If you know how to use it, you can use it and if you do not, they teach you on how to operate the instruments.
What is your outlook after the internship?
I am now writing my master’s thesis on sensors under the supervision of Dr. Michira, from the University of Nairobi in Kenya as I do the internship. After attaining my certificate I would love to do my PhD here if an opportunity arises.
Do you enjoy life in Paris?
Yes for sure. I had some challenges at the beginning as it was a bit difficult to find accommodation in Paris. But thanks to a Kenyan students network in Paris I got it to apply for a visa. Then I had to adapt to the weather here, I got a cold during Christmas time. But now everything is okay.
I have French classes with other students and PhD candidates here so that I can learn French language. I visit Paris and nearby regions during the week-end. I also visit museums in my free time. I visited Château d’Ecouen with the French class and I have also visited Musée du Louvre and Musée d’Orsay. I enjoy the architecture in Paris.
What would you advise Kenyan students who would like to come to ParisTech schools?
I strongly encourage them to come to ParisTech schools. The schools are versatile, professional and inclusive; you get to learn a lot. If also they want to experience French culture, to discover something you see only in movies and books, ParisTech schools a good way to experience that.
I enjoy my time here. I learn more than my part on biosensors. I learn what other students are doing, how they use the facilities. The team is helpful. Working and studying here is smooth and easy.
And thanks to the Erasmus+ funding, there is no issue with my upkeep.
With support of Erasmus+ (International Mobility of Credits, 2020-2023)