Sheltering a Fascination for Science, Teaching and Research

Dr. John Patrick Ojwando
Published: May 2019

With the closure to his thesis inching closer, if in the past the involvement of Titus Mathew on campus delved beyond the routine demands of research studies, today, the Microbiology research scholar tells Dr. John Patrick Ojwando that he remains overly conscious about time.

Even though his affable demeanour betrays the pressures that his doctoral studies have thrust upon him, extra-curricular activities and fun have all but taken a backseat in the scheme of things for Titus Mathews. Those who meet him on campus may be excused for thinking he is a guest on a visit or one of the newly arrived international scholars.

“I had to be mindful of the demands of my research and that meant little time for all else outside the lab,” informs the lecturer from Kuta, a town in Nigeria known for producing the famed yams, a staple diet of the local people.

“After completion of the coursework and data collection, I have presented a colloquium and hope to be through by the first quarter of the coming year.”

It is a feasible projection and gives him a lot of confidence as he pushes towards the end of his research stint at the School of Sciences of Jain (Deemed- to- be University) and he has only good words for his research guide; faculty at the Department of Microbiology, School of Sciences; Dr. Sandeep Shastri – Pro Vice – Chancellor; Dr. Mythili Rao – Research Coordinator; the International Students and Scholars Advisory Centre; his colleagues and others in the University who have stood firmly behind him as he goes through a demanding and energy sapping exercise that is called research.

“I have been impressed by what I found doing research at the school. The commitment of the academic staff and management has been wonderful,” he says.

Arriving in Bengaluru a couple of years back to a calm welcome and weather that is just as pleasant as in his home town of Kuta, may be slightly humid, he could foresee that he was in for a different challenge.

“I had the option to pursue my research elsewhere but the advice of one of my former students carried the day.”

“He was my student in high school and had joined the university for his degree course,” recalls Titus. Having been convinced to relocate to the city, Titus has been fully immersed in his research with a deeply rooted goal of finding answers to issues that are a vexation to mankind and to unravel answers.

At the heart of his quest is a craving to bring about change in his community back in Nigeria. Although his research career has already taken off, he believes he has to rake in newer experiences, accumulate background in research fields besides developing a strong research foundation that should position him as a scientist and academic when he finally earns his doctorate degree.

“Now that I got a good hold on research and its demands, I am equally gladdened by the fact that I have been exposed to the use of advanced scientific equipment that I didn’t have the opportunity to use before,” he explains.

“It is by far one of my greatest returns and I have gained more knowledge in my newly found discipline in the process as well.”
Over the last couple of months, Titus has also been seeking more research exposure in diverse areas of the discipline through field visits, working in the lab and attending to conferences and paper presentations as he claws closer to attaining his thesis titled, “Effect of Potassium Solubilizing Bacteria/Fungi and Arbuscular mycorrhiza on the Growth of Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum) Plant”.

“I realised from my review of studies that this remains by far an overlooked area in my discipline,” says Titus.

According to Titus, while there are numerous researches conducted on Nitrogen and Phosphorus, comparably less work has been done on Potassium. The research project aims at bridging this gap as its focus is on Potassium and he is ever so grateful to get thorough and incisive tutelage from his research guide, Dr. Sri Vidya Kumar.

Throughout his research work, Titus has always been driven by a craving to help unearth practical solutions that would help mitigate the food requirements of his community. To attain this noble agenda, he is pinning his hopes on making available a bio-fertilizer that will not only be good for the growth of plants but will help farmers gain a lot of yields from their toil. To date, he has been able to accomplish a good chunk of the work that will go into firming his thesis.

“The focus of my research study is to unearth more rhizosphere microorganisms that can solubilize insoluble potassium in the minerals that are present in the soil,” he further divulges.

But getting to where he finds himself today wasn’t in any way easy. A native of Kuta, an agricultural locale famed for Nigeria yams, the first challenge was identifying a sponsor and good research institutions. There were several options floated but he opted to come to JAIN after the advice of his former students carried the day.

“He was already studying here and I was convinced this would be the right place,” he recalls.

But that was the easier part. Once here, he had to be equally prepared for the demands of research activities: “Time management, adequate resources and utmost sacrifice are the prerequisites,” he says.

To find his footing, Titus has had to cut down on his personal expenses, routine activities or events he attends or engages in.

“It is never easy on a person and if you also have a family far away,” he reflects on his time at the University. “But in one way or the other, I had to find ways to surmount the hurdles that have been aplenty.”

As for his early days, Titus recalls a life that was built around schooling and routine chores at home.

“Along with my siblings, we grew up in a family that put a lot of premium on hard work and discipline laced with love and care from our parents and relatives. Schooling on the other hand was fun. I really loved it and was lucky to be enrolled in good public schools that had fabulous teachers,” he recalls.
That early support from his teachers would perhaps have been the trigger for his chosen career, teaching.

“If you ask me what I wanted to be in school, secondary or university, it has been teaching, teaching and teaching. It has not changed. I am a teacher and will still remain a teacher when I finally retrace my steps back home,” emphasises the astute researcher who would like to be remembered for the love he has for self and others, devotion to Jesus Christ and his teachings, and being a person fascinated by learning, teaching and research.

Once his stint comes to an end, Titus hopes to return back to teaching as he takes back home, gains made in a distant land. May be a rethink on post-doctoral research could also feature in future plans.