The interviewer, Eng. Hans JWB Mwesigwa has more than 30 years of Career Guidance experience, particularly in technical careers related to engineering, planning, architecture, surveying, and information technology.
This compelling and informative interview is about a young lady chemical engineer, Hannah Kasule, who has secured her future through excelling in Chemistry and good role-modeling by her father, Eng. David Kasule, among others.
Hannah Kasule is a 2022 graduate of Kyambogo University, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical and Process Engineering. She attained a high university score of CGPA 4.70 out of 5.00! She garnered accolades for being the best female student in the Faculty of Engineering, and the best female chemical engineering student of that year. From 2019 to 2020, she served as the Vice President of the Association of Chemical Engineering Students (ACES) at Kyambogo University.
As a notable achievement, Hannah undertook this interview while in the field in Madi Okollo, Northern Uganda. There she was, sitting near a tree and the sun had newly risen behind her, at 8:00 a.m. She had warned me that she would “take off “for duty” come 8:30 a.m. She was working to deliver clean water to Refugees. She was already achieving her self-proclaimed dream of serving communities using her knowledge, or rather chemistry! The interview also shows how her father acted as a role model and positively influenced Hannah to discover her talent in chemistry.
Question (Qn.): Good morning, Hannah! Tell me about yourself and your work.
Answer (Ans): My name is Hannah Kasule and currently a water engineer. I work as a water engineer for an NGO in Northern Uganda, in the district of Madi Okollo. My background is in chemical and process engineering.
Qn.: What do you want to do with chemical engineering?
Ans.: I believe in utilizing my engineering skills and knowledge to innovate sustainable water treatment and monitoring technologies, and methods for improved public health within communities.
Qn.: What do you see yourself doing and where would you want to be in the next five years?
Ans.: I see myself becoming a water supplier and distribution expert within Uganda, and hopefully pursuing career opportunities with other organizations, probably also in government departments.
Qn.: Mathematics and science subjects are not the easiest. Chemistry is commonly deemed the hardest, particularly for ladies. How did you fall in love with it?
Ans.: Oh! My love and interest in chemistry began at the Ordinary Secondary School level. It started in S1, under the tutorship of my chemistry teacher, Mr. Bakebwa. He would take us to the laboratory, I remember. At first, I used to wonder why we studied chemistry in the laboratory, whereas the arts subjects were conducted in classrooms. But then, I simply loved the way he conducted chemistry experiments. I recall this experiment, in particular, where he mixed potassium with water. Potassium is a group one element and it is very reactive with water. In my imagination, the laboratory almost exploded!
Ans.: Oh yes, and I loved seeing the whole process. It was very interesting to see that one could mix two compounds, which on their own, were different and stable. But when they reacted, they formed something new that potentially detonated the whole laboratory. A creation of sorts?
Qn.: Hannah, are you telling me that, actually the explosions in the laboratory and the explanations by this great teacher were part and parcel of what sparked your interest in chemistry?
Ans.: Yes, yes, and yes! So I was seeing things happening in real life. I was not reading fiction nor hearing it from the teacher’s mouth. I was fascinated by the reactions. There was a way chemistry excited me.
Qn.: Oh yes, I think I understand you. Your father, Eng. David Kasule is a renowned civil engineer. Could he have influenced you to love chemistry and engineering? Did he motivate or force you into engineering?
Ans.: Oh no, my father did not force me into anything. (laughs…) I think I just was inspired by him in a way. He has been an engineer for about thirty-five to forty years. I have watched him ever since I was young. He is the one who used to build and fix things in the house. I enjoyed watching him solve problems. He inspired and motivated me to also become a practical problem solver. Ah, so I think that my Dad motivated and role-modelled me to engineering!
Qn.: In career guidance, the first principle we teach is for one to know as many careers as possible. By your Primary and Senior School levels, how many careers did you know? Were you aware of “chemical and process engineering” as a career?
Ans.: At the Primary School level, I certainly did not know anything about chemical engineering. I used to hear the common talk of being an engineer, a doctor, a lawyer, an accountant, or a teacher. At the Secondary School level, teachers provided more information and details about various careers. We were told which subjects rhymed with what future careers. But for the first two years, we had to study all subjects on the timetable. We soon understood that there would be a time when we would be allowed to drop some subjects and take our preferred ones. We were to continue with the subjects which align well with personal interests and strengths. So, I think that is the kind of exposure you’re talking about.
Qn.: By the way, Hannah, it’s a few minutes past eight, early morning, and up north, 390km from your home. Yesterday we failed to carry out this interview because you finished work late and there was poor network. Far out there in the field, isn’t it boring and tough?
Ans.: Ah, (laughs again) It is not boring nor tough for me. The work I do here is designed to push you out of your comfort zone. It helps you to become a better engineer, and that is my objective. In the field, we are exposed to a lot of social, economic, and professional challenges which help us to learn a lot through invaluable experiences. So, I don’t look at the long distance from home, nor the poor network here and there. All these challenges and shortcomings strengthen me.
Qn.: To a layman, a career in chemical engineering may sound like complex numbers. What is it?
Ans.: Chemical engineering relates to the design, operation, and optimisttttation of industrial processes, where chemical, physical, and biochemical transformations of materials and energy are carried out. The focus is on raw materials, processes, equipment, design and operation, and safety.
Qn.: This is a mouthful. Imagine you explaining to your layman uncle, who lives deep in the village. How does chemical engineering, your career, relate to improving the lives of others around you?
Ans.: That is a very good question! I would explain the work am doing like this:
“My dear uncle, Refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Southern Sudan, and Rwanda flee to Uganda. However the refugee settlements often have no water, or the water we find is dirty and contaminated. In the dirty water are very small organisms that you and I can not see with the naked eye. There are also tiny materials that we call contaminants. All these are harmful if taken into our bodies. My work is to clean the water and treat it from contamination and diseases. I help to supply it to the people in the camps for drinking, cooking, and washing. Without chemistry, their lives would be a nightmare.”
Qn.: What are the suitable subjects for the Ordinary level and those at the Higher Secondary School level, for chemical and process engineering?
Ans.: Ah! From Senior One to Senior Four, studied all the subjects that the school taught. At this stage, I would advise students to be open-minded and focus on all subjects, so that they discover themselves fully. But by Senior Three or Four, I would advise someone to have known if they see themselves becoming a scientist, an art person, or somewhere in between.
By my Advanced Level (Senior five) I knew that the subjects that lead to engineering with a bias in chemistry were physics, chemistry, and mathematics. So, during my A level, those are the subjects I chose.
Qn.: There are young girls at the Primary School level and ladies at the Secondary School level, who may not be as brave as you when they read about your chemistry adventure and your present job in the wilderness. What encouragement would you give them?
Ans.: Be tough! Be brave! Why? Bravery is the most important part for women, especially with this kind of work. Fortunately, there are campaigns encouraging girls to pursue science careers. Sometimes there is a bias that uhm Hannah is a girl, Hannah can’t do this or that. You just have to put up with such and simply move on. Stay ambitious and aggressive to get your dream career. Being a woman is not unfortunate. It may be a challenge but it is a strength. Give your opinions boldly and ambitiously and eventually, you will be successful.
Hans: On that note, I thank you very much, Hannah. I wish you success in engineering and your future.
Hannah: Thank you sir, and goodbye.