Get to know our 2015 Vanier Scholars
Ifeanyi Nwachukwu is a dedicated researcher, volunteer and role model. Using a blend of biochemistry, molecular biology and food chemistry, his doctoral studies involve the development of food protein-derived peptides from flaxseed that could be used to produce functional foods and nutraceuticals to help manage cardiovascular disorders. He is one of four U of M students who have received the 2015 Vanier Scholarship.
Nwachukwu obtained BSc and MSc degrees from Nigeria and the United Kingdom, respectively. He was recruited to Manitoba based on his academic excellence and practical experience in the planning and execution of high quality biochemical research projects. Despite his intense course load and ongoing research, he finds time to serve as the graduate student representative on his department’s Graduate Program Committee and has just completed a one-year tenure as President of the Human Nutritional Sciences Graduate Students Association.
Nwachukwu spoke to UM Today about receiving the Vanier Scholarship.
UM Today: How did you feel when you found out you received the Vanier Scholarship?
Ifeanyi Nwachukwu: I literally hopped around the lab on one leg in delirious joy! Thankfully, it was past 11 pm and there was no one there to ask me to explain the cause of such extreme excitement.
Who was the first person you told after finding out you received the Vanier Scholarship? How did they react?
I instantly called my wife, Chinwe, to tell her that the results of the competition had been released but that I wasn’t sure I had been selected. Since I had thought that the subject of the e-mail would be more congratulatory if I had received the award, I had quickly assumed that my application had been unsuccessful. She gently brushed off my trepidation and encouraged me to read the e-mail. So, with my heart now fully in my mouth, I proceeded to open the e-mail and then the drama began… I entered my ResearchNet account password wrongly two times before I calmed down and eventually saw that I had indeed received the scholarship. Usually, whenever each of us has something huge to tell the other, we’d begin by asking them to start dancing. As you would imagine, the Vanier Scholarship merited the deployment of that bit of family tradition and that was all the cue Chinwe needed to let out squeals of pure delight. She was to later tell me that as soon as I got off the phone, she went down on her knees in joyful gratitude.
What do you like best about doing your PhD?
My research sometimes makes me feel that I am paid three times to do the same work. Apart from the stipend from my scholarship, it is infinitely rewarding to know that the work I do in the lab has the potential to provide practical solutions to real problems faced by people everywhere, and this is what makes me head to the lab every day. The third “stipend” for me comes in the form of seeing my name in print. That thrills me to no end and makes me want to work hard for yet another scientific publication.
What has been one of your most memorable experiences at the U of M so far?
Attending the U of M Distinguished Alumni Awards ceremony last May and learning of the dazzling accomplishments of the five award recipients. It was both humbling and inspiring.
What keeps you busy when you’re not pursuing your research?
I have had the privilege of serving on over 11 committees since I began my studies at the U of M. I also serve on other committees outside the university, for example the board of the Red River Valley Junior Academy, a private school in Winnipeg. These extra-curricular activities afford me the opportunity of continuing to do something important and useful when I am not pursuing my research.
- Nwachukwu’s work is of such high calibre that three review articles currently submitted to peer-reviewed journals for publication arose from the term papers he wrote as part of his course requirements.
- His volunteer work has included fundraising for muscular dystrophy and cancer research, providing a feasibility study to help a rural community in Ghana, and teen health education in Nigeria.
- He has served on the Executive Committee of Inspire Nigeria, a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization interested in contributing to the growth of democratic principles in Nigeria.