He is only 28 years old, but he is already rubbing shoulders with scientists and inventors at the highest level of advanced technological research.
It’s not simply because Chinemelu Ejiamatu Ezeh has, at such an early age, earned a PhD. It’s to do with the field – Assistive Robotics – in which he has earned his doctorate. It’s also because he earned this from the University College London (UCL), one of the world’s renowned institutions in scientific research.
But, more than anything else, it’s because Dr. Ezeh, who initially studied at Imperial College, London, is the developer of a novel device for sharing control between a wheelchair user and a smart wheelchair. He has, subsequently, developed a smart wheelchair prototype using Gazebo, the Open Source Robot Operating System (ROS), in a modular standardised distributed architecture as a proof of concept towards a large European collaboration on the smart wheelchair production (ADAPT project).
Dr. Ezeh is the second child of former director-general of the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), Emeka M. Ezeh, a civil engineer and one-time president of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), and Veronica Ezeh, a director at the National Agency for Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). Chinemelu is taking after his elder sister Onyinye, who has MEng Chemical Engineering from Imperial College London and a PhD from University of Reading, UK. His younger brother Olìsa is taking after their civil engineer father and is a final year PhD student of structural engineering of the University of Sheffield, Sheffield UK.
Chinemelu won a UCL PhD scholarship worth £27,500 p.a. for three years (2014-2017). Before then, he had been selected as Google’s Top Black Talent in 2012.
He started showing his talent in science while still a high school student at the Turkish Nile College in Abuja, when he placed seventh in the National Mathematics Olympiad, Nigeria in 2008.
In the course of his doctorate programme, he was co-founder and president of the UCL Robotics Society (2015-2017), during which he led in the design of the protocol for the society, as well as setting the society’s vision, determining leadership structure, building the website and newsletter structure as well as forging collaboration with institutions, including the UCL Computing Department.
During this period, he raised funds for, and took the lead in, the development of the first robot prototype for the society’s participation in Eurobot, an international robotics contest dedicated to universities.
He developed and taught beginner robotics workshops to more than 50 people. He also organised a hackathon, where the society developed an automated robot arm.
Being familiar with the challenges of deploying technological solutions to his country’s developmental challenges, Dr. Ezeh has no qualms returning to Nigeria to make his skills and knowledge available. In the light of this, he made a brief visit to Nigeria recently to explore opportunities, including the prospects of work with the armed forces. He is yet undeterred by the grim prospects of working in an environment in which allocations to the technology sector or in the company of those with a significantly low appreciation of research and development compared with the Western world.
But will he find the Nigerian environment, in terms of the tools to work with, auspicious enough to give his best in the task of solving Nigeria’s myriad problems?
Tommy Odemwingie, email@example.com