Gradie Ngaruka | Student Spotlight
"Choosing to become a chemical engineer was a turning point in my life, and it all began during my junior year of high school. It was in my chemistry class that I first encountered the incredible impact of elements like Cobalt on our world. This was followed by shock at how Congo, my home country, accounted for a staggering 70% of Cobalt production worldwide. It didn't make sense how a nation listed among the ten poorest countries in the world could be one of the main drivers of the tech world that dominates our lives. This was just the tip of the problematic exploitation of Congolese resources, and the continent at large. The truth is that this made me so angry at the injustice and unfairness that I decided to stop complaining, take matters into my own, and fix it. I would gain knowledge and skills, return home, start factories, and uplift Congo and Africa at large. I would be a chemical engineer and help us reap the benefits of the industrial revolution in Congo and, ultimately, all of Africa.
With that mindset, I came to Stanford and I am still pursuing my dream in the Chemical Engineering department. I am extremely grateful for being in ChemE. I have had the opportunity to be surrounded by friends and colleagues who push and support me as I strive to be the best version of myself in this challenging major. I am also thankful for my amazing professors. They not only teach us and challenge us academically but also inspire us to be the engineers of the 21st century who understand that replicating the past isn't enough. We have a responsibility to innovate and act responsibly toward our fellow humans and the environment which has deeply shaped how I view myself as an engineer. Concepts like self-healing biodegradable polymers, sustainable ammonia production, engineering biopolymers, and new catalysts for various industrial purposes are just some of the amazing subjects I've encountered in the department as I stay inspired.
One of my inspirations led me to the Bao lab during my freshman year. It has been one of the highlights of my college experience that I never left and kept gaining invaluable hands-on experience and excellent mentorship in projects related to self-healing polymers. After graduation, I plan to pursue an MS and gain a few years of experience before returning home to realize my dream of helping to create and build a cleaner industrial system in Congo and Africa at large."