Gladys C Ngetich
Jet Engine Cooling Researcher
I was born and raised in a family of nine in a tiny village of Amalo in Rift Valley Kenya. I studied in a local primary school called Lelaibei Primary, which had very limited resources (many teachers couldn’t converse in English even though we were supposed to be taught in English, and our national exams were in English). As a result, I graduated with paltry marks, which made getting admitted to a good secondary school almost impossible. With my mother as my strongest advocate, Mercy Girls Secondary School saw great potential in me and offered me a chance.
With the help of the exceptional teachers in the school, I went from not being able to construct a grammatically correct English sentence to graduating at the top of my class, emerging as the best student in the Kipkelion district. I was awarded a scholarship to pursue undergraduate studies in Kenya. The influence from two of my brothers who are engineers, combined with the passion I had developed for maths and physics in school, influenced my decision to delve into engineering.
I attended Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) to study Mechanical Engineering, and was one of the only nine girls in a class of about 80 students. I kept a resilient spirit and aimed to maximize the myriad of opportunities that laid before me – consciously getting involved in sports and leadership roles in school. In my fourth year of undergraduate studies, I majored in Thermofluids. It was during this time that I realised I had a strong passion for thermofluids. In my five years studying engineering, I earned top awards in sports and academics, and ultimately received a Rhodes Scholarship to pursue a PhD in Engineering Science (Aerospace) at the University of Oxford.
I joined Oxford Thermofluids Intitute as a PhD student in October 2015. My research aims to develop advanced cooling schemes for jet engines and I work in a close collaboration with the Rolls Royce Plc – I’ve received a patent for my work! Alongside my research, I tutor engineering undergraduate students at Oriel College.
I am still passionate about sports. I play football for my college team and I am also an Oxford Blue Athlete for 400 m hurdles and 100 m hurdles.
Having beat the odds and continued climbing the academic ladder from a local primary school in a remote village in Rift Valley Kenya to the world’s best university, I am deeply committed to helping empower girls and women. My mother has remained an icon in my life – challenging me to always go higher and holding my hand when I failed; and therefore I understand how important mentorship is to achieving success. I co-founded an organisation called ILUU, headquartered in Nairobi which mentors, inspires and empowers girls from the rural parts of Kenya. In July 2018, I was named one of the UK’s Top 10 Rare Rising Stars.