When I came to the United States from South America for my master’s degree at Missouri S&T, I did not know anyone in the whole country, except my adviser, Francisca Oboh-Ikuenobe, and her family.
I knew nothing about American culture or even what a real winter was. I arrived in Rolla on Jan. 4, 1994, during a very rough winter. Dr. Oboh took me to her house until she found a place for me to live, gave me all the basic household items I needed, and helped me with the basic needs for living in the United States (opening a bank account, getting a driver’s license, arranging for utilities, etc.). One day I told her I needed to buy dishes because I had to eat out of my pots. She was horrified and immediately went to her home and came back with a set of dishes, cups and basic kitchen supplies. Her help made a tremendous difference in my academic life because I felt so supported, despite living so far away from home.
Dr. Oboh taught me that academic life is not just about doing research; it is also about people. In her classes she always stressed the importance of making contacts with industry and applying our research to real-world problems. I had been working in palynofacies, the study of organic material preserved in sedimentary rocks. One day Dr. Oboh told me that what I did had applications for the oil industry. Then she introduced me to people from Mobil and in no time she had me working for them during the summer, using palynofacies applied to a particular problem that Mobil had in the area of my master’s thesis. After I finished my Ph.D., I worked full time for a petroleum company and saw the usefulness of the lessons Dr. Oboh taught me.
For a foreign student whose first language was not English, scientific writing was one of the most difficult tasks of graduate school. Dr. Oboh would take all the time in the world to correct my papers and manuscripts. I have great memories about her and about my time as a graduate student at Missouri S&T. Dr. Oboh has always been open-minded and willing to learn new things. She made staying in Rolla a great experience that changed my life. We have been in touch over the years, still doing research together, and I have sent my own students to pursue master’s and Ph.D. degrees with her at Missouri S&T.
Dr. Oboh truly made a difference in my life and I will always be grateful to her.
Carlos Jaramillo, MS GGph’95, is a staff scientist and paleontologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. He and fellow researchers recently discovered the fossilized remains of a super-sized snake skeleton while on an excavation in Colombia.