looking forward and looking back

What motivates students to start this Master’s, and how do they look back on it once they finish? Daniel and Lars share their stories.

Looking Forward: Daniel

“I want to really do something”, says Daniel, a first-year student of the Master Water Technology (MWT) program, when describing the future he envisions for his career in engineering to somehow contribute to inclusion of sustainability in engineering, business, and governance.  

Daniel is from Umuahia in Abia State, Nigeria and did his bachelor’s in Petroleum Engineering at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO). Currently he is doing his master’s in Water Technology. Despite keeping a focus on engineering, this can be considered quite the switch. So, how did he get here?   

His Career

His family and his society. These were the two reasons why Daniel decided to start with a Bachelors in Petroleum Engineering. When he was younger, his family regarded him as a playful but intelligent boy. The ‘perfect recipe’ for a good engineer, they figured.

At school he loved mathematics and physics, and he loved (and still loves) fixing things – all great traits for a technological innovator. He grew up in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, the crude oil hub of West Africa. Here, the oil and gas industry is one of the best and lucrative sectors one could join. So, because of his family, society, and love for engineering, Daniel grew up believing that this was what he really wanted to do: pursuing a Bachelor’s in Petroleum Engineering.  For his Bachelor’s thesis, Daniel worked on enhancing oil recovery. In the lab, he would study various metallic oxide nanoparticles to see how they would change rock and fluid properties like hydrophilicity, wettability, and other rheological properties. Subsequently, in his final years at FUTO and after his internship with the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Daniel became more enthusiastic about hydrocarbon pollution and control. Having firsthand experienced the impact of oil pollution on water, air, and land, he wanted to participate in making a difference. In his home area, air quality is very poor, especially due to untreated gas flaring resulting in acid rains caused by the presence of sulphuric bonds in the atmosphere. Water quality is also quite poor, which is evidenced by a layer of soot resulting from fossil fuel combustion, visibly present on certain surface waters. 

Daniel worked for some years in the oil and gas sector while still searching for the right master’s program that would satisfy his interest in environmental sustainability. In his search for a master’s, Daniel never figured it would be on water sustainability because he was keen on air quality due to his experience with gas flaring. Then, fate took a little turn, and after about three years of working as a process engineer for a compressed natural gas company, he got an opportunity to study at Wageningen University and Research, and he finally decided to start the Master’s in Water Technology here at Wetsus. The rest is history. However, getting there wasn’t as easy as it might seem.

A Shift in Focus: Aim and Difficulties   

“I was more interested in air quality,” says Daniel, “and I am still interested in it, as much as I am enthusiastic about water. However, I had to choose between a graduate program in air or water quality, and water technology came calling out first. This makes sense to me because of the domestic and industrial applications of water, coupled with the pollution and scarcity of clean water in my community. Though a pressing challenge, air quality did not feel like the right focus for me compared to the more pressing challenge of water in my region.” In the end, it seemed easier to manage water, since air is “difficult to border,” Daniel said while blowing in the air to demonstrate air’s volatility. For him, water felt more tangible, especially regarding his desire to start his own enterprise someday. 

Deciding to pursue a career in sustainability is not that common in some parts of the world, and where Daniel comes from isn’t much of an exception. There are other priorities for people to focus on: employment, food and water scarcity, power supply, and other socio-economic necessities. In other words, when you’re hungry and in need, it’s a luxury to worry about sustainability. This explains why some of his colleagues thought of his sustainability ambitions as unnecessary and irrelevant. This gave Daniel the feeling that he needed to break out, and to be amongst the pioneers in sustainability. He believes that people in his home area are more likely to embrace sustainable practices when they understand how it could benefit their daily activities and goals, while minimizing environmental impact. 

That’s why Daniel wants to start up some kind of business after his academic career for people to see the value of sustainable practice. In his words: “I want to really do something.” So, he started to do something. Currently, he is pursuing the Master’s in Water Technology at Wetsus and is rounding up his Master’s in Business Administration at the Quantic School of Business and Technology. In this way, Daniel is getting ready to be “one of the changemakers for the inclusion of sustainability in engineering, business, and governance”.  

Looking Back: Lars

“The program gives you an awareness and the contextual knowledge of the problems that exist in the industrial world” says Lars, 2023 alumni from the Master Water Technology (MWT) program. At MWT the industrial world is brought to the classroom through for example various guest lectures from companies varying from drinking water producers to industrial wastewater treatments plants, and from membrane manufacturers to microbial fuel cell start-ups. Besides, students get to visit some of them on-site and dive into problems for in-class assignments.  

New Journey

After graduating the program, Lars didn’t have a difficult time finding his next steps. MWT requires that all students complete an internship and can choose from the many Wetsus spin-off companies, visiting companies from classes, or those connected in the ‘water network’ of Wetsus. He decided to intern for Econvert, an industrial equipment supplier in the field of anaerobic treatment of wastewater and found himself offered a job position in the company straight after graduating. Lars says, “I enjoy the open environment the most – how I am able to voice my own ideas and opinions despite being a newer employee”. He also enjoys the routine of the position, traveling to different countries (as his job dictates) and not having to study for exams anymore.   

“Yes of course” Lars chuckles as he’s asked whether the program gave him the necessary tools to be able to do his job. From the moment he looked at documents in his first weeks on the job, he felt it was clear why getting an MSc Water Technology degree is necessary. “The program gives you an awareness and the contextual knowledge of the problems that exist in the industrial world”. Certainly, the connections made in class between chemistry and biology helped a lot”. With visiting professors, talks from companies and PhD researchers that are also backed by companies, it is difficult to say that Wetsus isn’t a collaboration between scientific innovation and knowledge and industrial application. Lars says, “There are not many specialized hubs like this in the world”.   


While Lars now works with anaerobic reactors, he has also worked at an HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and  Airconditioning) company after his Environmental Engineering BSc and knows all about the social and political systems of the world thanks to his other BSc in Political Science. “Always striving to learn” he says, and that while he does not directly work with the topics he learned in his political science courses, he found it to be important for his own personal development. For him it’s nice to have an understanding in a topic outside of his current career and who knows, maybe it could be incorporated into his future ideas somehow: “You never know where these different topics can lead to”, he says. While he could have done without his previous degree for his current career, he definitely does not regret it.   

Seeing the value of knowledge, no matter what the topic is, fits Lars’ new motto: “Learn something new every day” and provides an example of someone who has walked different career paths, persevered through, and found a career he enjoys!   

Do you want to help out by sharing your personal story on finding your way to Wetsus and the chapters you experienced after? Or do you want to contribute to MWT in any other way? Please feel free to reach out to! 

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