FROM IAESTE DeKUT TO SEIZING MORE INTERNATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES
Meet Samuel Kiiru– A Researcher in Food & Nutrition and use of Sustainable Fauna
“Just like most high school candidates, my only source of information about university courses was my trusted high school teachers (at Karuri High School, Kiambu). Mr. Kayesi, HSC- who is still my good friend, was vastly knowledgeable on the potential that Food Science had/has as a career and the value to the society as well. I also got encouragement from the Director of Food Bioresources Technology at Dedan Kimathi University of Technology (DeKUT); the Director then was Dr. Beatrice Mugendi - now a Deputy Vice Chancellor at Murang’a University of Technology. When most of the first year students were applying for inter-faculty transfers, she was there to offer career counseling and that’s when I took an opportunity and asked her if majoring in food engineering would earn me the title of an engineer. She smiled and told me that I will be much better than that. This warmed my heart and I embarked into the field of Food Science & Technology happily. She was right; I feel more than an engineer as I focus on Food and Nutrition innovations and use of sustainable fauna such as edible insects products in feeding the increasing human population. ” - Samuel Kiiru.
Opportunities and breakthroughs in life come to people in different seasons and in different ways. For Kiiru, it was through the DeKUT Exchange Programme coordinated by the International Office. Just a month before his graduation, Kiiru was privileged to attend the IAESTE internship at Gottingen University, Germany. This opportunity was funded by DAAD and later, it opened doors for other research opportunities and an in - country M. Sc. scholarship. He joined Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) for a M. Sc. degree in Food Science and Technology and continued for Ph. D in the same field under the HEALTHYNSECT project; a project whose aim is to accelerate insect farming and insect consumption for improved nutrition, health and livelihoods in Kenya, Ghana and Uganda. Since graduating here at DeKUT in 2016, Kiiru has spent most of his years pursuing postgraduate studies and research as well as applying the skills and knowledge he has been continually gaining in various ways. Thus far, he has worked as an associate consultant on Food Technology, Safety and Nutrition for Mitons Limited and Sweetam Limited; from 2019 to 2020 he worked as a part-time lecturer at the Institute of Food Bioresources Technology (IFBT) and the Institute of Tourism and Hospitality Management (IToHM) here at DeKUT; he has also worked on several internship jobs in universities in Germany, Poland and taken casual jobs in the United Nations under the World Food Program - Somalia. Further, he is a start-up entrepreneur in the Food and Beauty sector.
When you look around the nicely tarmacked paths and different routes within DeKUT, you’ll see students skating as a sport; especially to unwind after a long day in class and in the laboratory. It was interesting to learn during the interview with Kiiru that he was in the pioneer group that started DeKUT Skating Club; attracting the attention of the Taifa Leo Newspaper. He was also not the bored/boring scientist who just focused on research work and books but took part in more co - curricular activities like the Mr & Miss Kimathi competitions as well as Mr & Miss Nyeri, 2015. He attests that all these opportunities and taking part in the IAESTE club then the active training and involvement by the lecturers opened him up to the world and equipped him with soft/life skills, technical skills and industrial exposure that enabled him land opportunities that he has continued building on in the career world today.
Asked what inspires him, Kiiru says that every season comes with new inspirations and gives different aspirations. He however adds that what has remained a constant drive is his family, his background, a great circle of friends and a mantra he goes by: "Do it like no one else can do it better.” At the moment, he is working on developing protein-rich foods from edible insects which he says are by far the most promising sustainable source of animal proteins. In the long run, he seeks to improve the conventional complementary foods (nutrition, textural etc.) and also, develop personalized diets for children. In all this, Kiiru looks at the path he has taken as a great achievement and every step of the way, he hopes to inspire and contribute to the greater good through his work as he keeps riding on the shoulders of giants who he says have been/ and continue to be of great influence: Dr. Kinyuru, Dr. Monica, Dr. Owaga, Dr. Njoroge, Dr. Runkua, Mr. Mbae among others.
For his parting shot, here is what he had to say: “I am honored to be a beneficiary of a great organization like DAAD through DeKUT; a University I am proud to be an alumnus of. Special gratitude to DeKUT - IFBT faculty members who nurtured us like family and transformed us. The exposure you gave us was monumental. I look forward to giving back in a bigger way.”