Patrick Aghadiuno & Agege Bread
Patrick Aghadiuno is a junior at Baker College. He is majoring in Chemical Engineering with a minor in Business. This semester, he joined Dr. Haotian Wang's research lab on campus in order to assist in his group's big CO2 conversion project. Patrick equipped some prior experience with polymer science and its many applications is now using his knowledge to assist Dr. Wang's research group with coating their electrocatalysts with conductive polymers that help amplify their ability to facilitate the reduction of CO2 molecules that get pumped into their reactors cells. He has been able to apply lots of his knowledge in organic chemistry and in his major courses and he is excited to build up his resume in anticipation of graduate school post graduation. In the future, Patrick hopes to change the outlooks of the energy industry and clean up its dependence on oil and gas non renewable resources.
April 1, 2021
Brendan Wong (00:06): You're listening to bowl of rice. This podcast is brought to you by the office of undergraduate research and inquiry, and a few seconds you will be hearing from undergraduate students here at rice university, conducting research or any type of creative work. We will also be exploring the Houston food scene. So stick around to find out what students are eating these days. My name is Brendan Wong,
Nyla Vela (00:30): and I am Nyla Vela, and we are your hosts. And joining us today is a junior from Baker college who is majoring in chemical and biomolecular engineering. His name is Patrick Aghadiuno. Hi, welcome Patrick.
Patrick Aghadiuno (00:47): Thank you for having me.
Brendan Wong (00:48): How are you doing? How's school?
Patrick Aghadiuno (00:51): I'm doing well. school, you know, it's a pandemic. So it was kind of a rough, no breaks, no, all gas. So it's lots of work perpetually.
Brendan Wong (01:00): Where are you right now?
Patrick Aghadiuno (01:01): I'm at my OC apartment they're in Houston. So I'm just OC really
Brendan Wong (01:08): OC is off campus, right?
Patrick Aghadiuno (01:10): Yeah. Yes. Off-campus.
Brendan Wong (01:12): awesome.
Nyla Vela (01:12): Can you give us a little bit of information so we can get to know you a little better, maybe tell us what you do on campus?
Patrick Aghadiuno (01:19): So my work on campus is revolving around my major as chemical biomedical engineer. I'd only go off campus much often during the pandemic because of the restrictions. But when I do go is for one of my classes for one of my specializations, I have like two jobs as well outside of my major, while I'm doing a on-call tech TA in which I'm stationed in a building to answer any requests from teachers struggling with zoom this school year,
Brendan Wong (01:41): I was curious first about what drew you into your major? Were you always a chemical and biomolecular engineer coming in or did that change halfway through or something like that?
Patrick Aghadiuno (01:50): Good. That's a good question, actually. So I initially intended to major in petroleum engineering, which is like, I'm not too common or like famous anymore major in college anymore. It's got a dying industry, so that's probably why. And I started to change it to come cool and biomedical engineering, because I realized that like chubby, like chemical environment and chemical engineering is more versatile than petroleum engineering and could be utilized in different industries and fields in order to like boost my careers, um, prospects in the future. Uh, additionally like concrete in there, especially in Houston, works a lot with oil and gas anyways. So it was basically having the best of both worlds. So I decided let's go ahead with it, but, um, I really just wanted to like work in the energy industry, so that's why I chose this major. Wow.
Brendan Wong (02:32): Awesome. Can you tell us about kind of an overview about your research experience so far?
Patrick Aghadiuno (02:37): So I researched variance as is just starting out really. Um, this past summer I did a research experience for undergraduates in the university of Southern Mississippi, which I studied, uh, polymers sciences applications in the medical field, mostly for bowel imaging applications. And I decided to take that research and I started over the summer and applied in the energy industry that I was originally wanting to research more in, um, truly and applied and like research over CO2 conversion. And so CO2 conversion is basically taking CO2 in the atmosphere, ambient CO2 and turning it, converting it into useful fuels. And so luckily for me, like, uh, one of the research groups here at rice, Dr. Wong's research group works heavily with this like specializing in this. And so I've worked, I'm working and within his research group in order to apply my polymer science understanding in order to advance their CO2 conversion technologies.
Brendan Wong (03:29): Okay. Wow. Could you help me out a little, what is polymer ?
Patrick Aghadiuno (03:33): Polymers? Uh, it's basically this many parts. And so there does molecules that are made up of molecules. So polymers can be applied and the, some materials like plastics and other things, but those have been utilized in catalyst. And so it's something I've really been really passionate about recently, especially since I took some courses on polymer and polymer science, and I really wanted to see your work in gold, especially in the energy.
Brendan Wong (03:54): That's true. And can you briefly explain what catalysts are?
Patrick Aghadiuno (03:59): You know, like chemical reactions, you know, turning two reactants into a product, you know, they require energy. And so in order to boost like reactions to, towards creating more products in a quicker rate, like faster on these people utilize the catalyst that lowered the energy required to, in order to achieve that desired product. And so there's so many different types of catalyst. You know, I was talking about like heterogeneous and there's homogenous and all types of things and all it relates to just the kinetics of reactions and how you can boost the rate at which products are formed. So like taking like oxygen and hydrogen and creating water as a reaction, but that's like a very slow reaction. So if we use a catalyst, you can make water at a quicker rate, so more molecules, same amount of time.
Brendan Wong (04:48): Got it. And then, so that's where the polymers also come into is like their relationship with these catalysts.
Patrick Aghadiuno (04:56): Yes.
Brendan Wong (04:57): Wow. That sounds so complex
Nyla Vela (05:00): Now that we know a little bit more about, um, I guess like the finer details of what you're working with, how do you see it, um, being applied to the energy industry more broadly,
Patrick Aghadiuno (05:12): This is something that I'm really passionate about, but CO2 conversion could really change the energy industry, especially since it's so dependent on oil and gas. And so one thing that really hurts like the oil and gas industry is the pollution that it produces. And one of the major pollutants that is very political right now is CO2 pollution because it leads to global warming climate change. And so by applying this research in the making polymers against support catalysts, that boost CO2 conversion, that CO2 conversion could be utilized to reduce the pollution caused by CO2 produced from oil and gas industries. And so why are we converting that CO2 into something useful like fuels it's not only cleaning up like the energy industry, but also boosting getting away that we'll be able to overcome like you, the non renewable aspects of energy resources, no oil and gas is not gonna last forever. This is all finite supply. And so by able to take their final end product or by-product, and we were converted into the original source, then we can make a complete loop of like the energy cycles, the carbon cycle, but yeah, there's to support it and also cleaning it off at the same time.
Brendan Wong (06:19): Wow. So it sounds like you're trying to recycle the carbon dioxide that's produced. Is that correct? Yes. For people like me who like don't really know too much about these chemical compounds, why is it important that like the lab was able to make these discoveries?
Patrick Aghadiuno (06:38): The energy industry has been so reliant on such basic rudimentary, like thermal reactors that utilize heavy amounts of oil and gas or to run the reactions. I feel as though with Dr. All Dr. Wong's research, not only is he trying to solve the problem of climate change, but he's also trying to reinvent the way that we actions are run to like electrochemistry and stuff. And so if I buy like overcoming this great obstacle, like climate change and seeing how well electrochemistry could be applied for renewable electricity, I feel as though Dr. Wong's research group will make it more common to see electrical reactors in play in money, like chemical reactions, because that's like a really new found type of way to do these types of reactions.
Nyla Vela (07:21): That sounds so interesting. And so cool. Like, I I'm truly amazed like at, at the work you guys are doing in the lab. Um, but I did have a quick question just cause, um, I come from more of a social sciences background where it's usually like interviewing people and that's what we do in the lab. So I was wondering what is like a day in this lab look like, like, what are you typically doing?
Patrick Aghadiuno (07:43): We attended the lab meetings in which we would go over the results on the different catalysts that we're working on for different projects. It's really just running these different cells that they have created and like trying to fi fine tuned them. So they're more efficient, so they can scale dope one day and actual industrial settings.
Brendan Wong (08:00): Yeah. Now that we're in a pandemic, do you actually go to lab every day or how has that changed kind of your involvement with the research project?
Patrick Aghadiuno (08:11): So before the pandemic, I would have saw myself in the lab going pretty and honestly cutting into my schedule, but yet, you know, the restrictions that would be easy to go. So very slowly in order to ensure people's safety, I haven't really gotten too much lap time. Um, I've just been fully introduced into my place in the project. I'm working with the polymers and the catalyst. And so I will be going to do more lab work in the future right now. It's just been mostly zoom calls and discussions, and really doing lots of like literature, literature reviews, and wanting to understand what I'm gonna working on in lab.
Brendan Wong (08:44): Yeah. I guess this might be a silly question, but I'm just wondering polymer discovery seems to be like a key points of this. Um, I'm wondering when you talked about scaling this project up for an industry level, what does that look like?
Patrick Aghadiuno (09:03): Nobody explained like the application department. Well, but be whatever you're pumping the polymer into the air, the air into the polymer, bigger containment is like, I don't know the form of cash behind you. You know, I'm still a chemical engineer and all kind of guys in here, but like, like scale up in size and also distribution and just getting them out to places so that they can be applied in a more diverse setting.
Brendan Wong (09:27): So can you tell me about your interest in particular, um, either in Houston or Texas more broadly, like, did that affect your decision to come to Texas when you're looking for schools? Or was that something that you were able to discover later on?
Patrick Aghadiuno (09:44): So like, even like when I was coming, to rice, I knew that I found a school or this a city I'm going to probably going to spend a majority of my life in this is like the energy capital basically. And like lots of only guys companies are set up here and it's different things, but the energy industry is, is based in Houston. So I feel as though, even like I went to another school for graduate school, I probably ended up coming here for my professional career. And so like, I'm kind of happy with that and I have families and I love them. I visit them often. It's not, it wouldn't be too much of a shift even though I'm from Atlanta, Georgia originally.
Brendan Wong (10:16): I'm wondering, um, what is it like being a young person who is looking at entering the energy industry? Um, cause I would say definitely like conversations around energy or you've been in Texas about oil and gas has shifted, especially, um, to incorporate more discourse around climate change. So what is that experience like? Um, as a young person heading into the energy industry?
Patrick Aghadiuno (10:41): My take on it is kind of unique, especially because of my background as a Nigerian-American I feel as though, like I view it from point of Nigeria, I feel as though the oil and gas industry should be in such a big thing in Nigeria, the reason why we went down this path and my career, I feel as though like on guys being such a big thing in Nigeria, that if I could find a way in order to make it better, make it more sustainable, make it more profitable for the country would be the best thing I could do for people just like me. And that's why I never was intimidated by the idea that maybe climate change might be the end of the oil and gas industry, because I feel as though there's a way to save it and also give back to communities that could truly use it in a way that wouldn't have jeopardized such the future of generations. You know, I feel as though like I am intimidated because it's just a huge field, so many people doing things in it, but at the same time, like I feel as though like my ideas, my creativity, I guess my perseverance to make sure these things work out in the most, um, I guess clever way possible as what's driving me through the arts to become more and more invested in it.
Brendan Wong (11:43): Yeah. What are some challenges that you're facing with, I'm doing research right now, but also what are challenges that you anticipate more in the long run as well?
Patrick Aghadiuno (11:54): Like taking the time to really like invest in read about all the things out there. One thing I quickly, like I realized about making like innovation is that you're not the only one thinking about these things. Like there's other people out there who have the same idea at the same time or racing to get this idea realized. And like, I, when I was first like this past summer, I was like, when I was first getting introduced to his ideas, he would do reduction. I was kind of humbling myself, looking up all the ways that this has been already done and implemented. Like I found the carbon engineering company, like there's old company already doing it. Some other company actually like Switzerland is doing it. Like there's people that have figured this out already, but they haven't really put advanced it to the point where it should be, you know? And so really just making sure that my ideas are just not overwritten from Derek. And like even the ideas that I find are truly unique, figuring out ways to implement that and make it make sense. And the research field is really based on ethics and like, I need to build up my name in the field. I'm interested in before I can really get an advance, the point that I needed to be. And as an undergraduate, I don't have to have any ethics going behind my name. I am still like it as a, a side character in this research group, you know, but it's, it starts somewhere. And like, I feel as though I'm making good progress. I know another challenge I guess, is just understanding it all. You know, I'm still learning my major. A lot of these things I'm seeing are kind of complicated. Um, I haven't really had a class on electrochemistry before and we're all we're doing is electrochemistry and like electric catalysis. Um, so really just learning more about that. But even then, like, I know the general topic, I know the general things I'm interested in looking more into and it's finding time to learn it right now. So I'm really chunk, forcing myself to go through.
Brendan Wong (13:39): Yeah, totally. And like you said, everybody does definitely start somewhere and Nyla, and I definitely can already sense that you're heading for greatness right now. Um, so yeah, it sounds very interesting. I was curious. Um, so maybe it is a little early since you were still a junior, but maybe you've had many thoughts already and it seems like you do, but where do you think junior year, spring semester, will take you senior year will take you. And also how will that then lead to kind of what you want to do post undergrad?
Patrick Aghadiuno (14:12): So I'm definitely gonna stay in this research group. I learned about Dr. Wong's research group my sophomore year, but I wasn't sure if I could join just yet. Cause like I wasn't, I didn't have much going, going for me on this. I didn't, I had done my, I already knew about polymer science. I didn't know what exactly what to do with catalysis. Like I I've been thinking about this for a long time by different, I didn't know, had the right knowledge, you know, I just started applying it and advancing it. So I was just waiting. And I'm part of this research group. You don't have all the tools and resources and the trust in them, the group to start like pushing my ideas forward and getting things done and helping with their research and stuff. So I guess like next semester, just more lab work, you know, more literature reviews more of that over the summer date. If I don't like internship or do another REU apply, just stay on campus and just help with their research. Some more, you know, really does help drive the projects that are already being done senior year, even more lab work, senior design
Nyla Vela (15:08): To, to clarify. Um, usually typically in like, um, like the prep, the profession, I guess, that you're going into does research and like, after you're done with, um, like the school that you're going through. So, um, like after you're done with graduate school, is it more like now we're transitioning into professional life and like I'm using the research that I've done to like facilitate whatever I'm doing now or do you con or do you see yourself continuing to do research even into your professional life?
Patrick Aghadiuno (15:40): Yeah, it does. I think this was told to me by adult, but you never stop learning. You never stop taking tests. You never stop researching, doubling to keep researching for majority of my life because there's always different ways to do the same thing. Um, I guess that would probably be like a bedtime, I guess, tradition from like graduate school research into professional researching was be the difference of pay. So probably get paid more for the work I'm doing when I'm in a professional. And I feel like I'll be more comfortable doing the research and do the analysis and the implementation when, as a professional, after going through so much schooling, you know, like it wouldn't be a new thing to me that usually I'm really used to. I know, like I had the free connections to help me as a professional by then, but she, since going into graduate school, like I feel as though just be a natural flow of things and I'll be able to get more substantial work done, especially since I'm in a more like professional setting, put actual resources and serious matters at hand. So yeah, like it was just going to be a continuous process of learning this and implementing it. Um, I guess the implementation will be a lot more as a professional.
Brendan Wong (16:42): So it seems like, like chemical engineering is a very difficult major for sure. Yeah. And or people who are not in the chemical engineering major, it seems like, Oh, it's like a completely different world. So I'm wondering, how do you find support within your major? Who do you talk to? How do you y'all support each other?
Patrick Aghadiuno (17:01): So I have this, uh, advising network in our major. That's actually how I was connected with Dr. Wonga initially through my other past professor who focused on polymer research. My name is Dr. Marcio. So it was actually in her class or when she was teaching me in three Oh one, which is intro to chemical engineering. I, we had like a lesson on polymers. That's what I initially thought, how they idea of old polymers are kind of cool. Let me do, let me look more into this. And then I found the REU experience at Southern Mississippi doing Polymer science. And after I did that, I was set on polymrt science and how that could apply to energy industry. So really just my professors in my major, I have classmates that I talked to, they really support me well, you know, I support them as well. You know, we all take the same classes to graduate, so we're kind of how to support each other. Cause we're all we have really in our major or a small class I've seen NSBE has been a great support, really DSP is the national society of black engineers. And so it's basically a goal to show black engineers on campus. Well, let's save time. And NSBE is such a great opportunity for many black engineers in order to like help them build up the resumes, their statements, their elevator pitches and things like that in order to like talk to companies and actually get to know how group professional settings, another great community, especially for research is SER sustaining excellence in research. There are programs that helps students connecting them with research opportunities or, um, campus, and also paying them due to research. And so actually I talked about how am I paid for my research I'm doing with Dr. Wong. I'm actually paid for the through SER in order to do my research, a shout out to Dr. Eich for all her work, helping me so far with this semester and last semester, um, she has really helped support supported my research endeavors since my sophomore year. Uh, yeah, I guess my parents do. I haven't been, I don't want to talk to them too much about them, about technical things, you know, they're they would understand, but yeah, they pray for me a lot and so I always feel their support. Yeah.
Brendan Wong (19:03): Yay. Um, that's such a great thing to hear about. So we're kind of nearing our time. So I definitely want to switch gears a little and toss you our curve ball question, as you may know, this podcast is called bowl of rice. So in line with the food theme, we always like to ask our interviewee this question, are you ready?
Patrick Aghadiuno (19:26): Yeah.
Brendan Wong (19:27): So, um, you know, you sit in is known for its oil and gas industry, but it's also known for its diverse food scene. So we were curious where do use than did you have the best meal?
Patrick Aghadiuno (19:40): So, you know, I are Nigeria by nature. I was born here, but my made parents from Nigeria. And so like my favorite, like it's not really a restaurant, but there's the Southwest market, which is located off Bisonnett street that I've go to when I'm like visiting my cousin in Houston and they serve like the best Agege bread I've ever ate. So I can't get bread. It's like a pastry based juice to spread, but it's really sweet bread. And so I really like eating it. Like I stopped by that market all the time just to eat the bread and suya, which is like a chicken on like it's a kebab, but it's like with the pepper that goes on there, the anyways it's Africa. So yeah, just like Suya yeah, Agege bread, which is delicious. Like I can explain to you how good it is. This, this is so good. And like, I guess that's like, I I've never eaten a gigabit ever before coming to used. I didn't even know it was a thing. Like, even as I said, I thought it was a foreign term and now that I've actually eaten it, I like talked to people about it. Like it's like such a common thing to eat. And so I'm really happy I came to use and I found this bread, my parents, it too. I literally have to pack it in my suit bag as I go back to them some times. Cause they love Agege bread back there too. So yeah, really just that
Patrick Aghadiuno (20:55): Is the bread part of a Nigerian cuisine
Patrick Aghadiuno (20:58): Agage is Nigerian. I really, I like it. So yeah.
Patrick Aghadiuno (21:02): Well have you been able to go since, um, the pandemic hit? Yeah.
Patrick Aghadiuno (21:08): I mean, isn't it all, this is a mask and a trip down the street, so I've, I've gone a couple of times. Um, they require more restrictions still while shopping there. I guess he had to wear a mask it with gloves, you know, but it's still the same old Mark market that I've gone to.
Patrick Aghadiuno (21:25): So that's good. So at least the bread's keeping you company. So from polymers to Nigerian bread, we've talked so much today and um, Nyla and I are so happy to hear about your research and we're so excited to hear more about where this takes you. So thank you so much for sharing it and thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. Thank you.
Patrick Aghadiuno (21:47): It's been a great opportunity. Um, I feel guy like shout out to people that thank as well.
Brendan Wong () : Go Ahead. It's all your
Patrick Aghadiuno (21:55): Own. I think Dr. Wong for letting me to this research group, I want to think of my mentors for his research group, Dr. Marciel and Dr. Eich. I want to take all my CHBE professors. I want to take all my friends at a race on deck, my family. Um, yeah, absolutely. Everything. Thank you so much.
Brendan Wong (22:17): Yay. This is your Oscar's speech. Wow. All right. Awesome. Okay. So I guess we'll catch up soon. We'll see you next time. Once again. Thank you for listening. If you're interested in being on this podcast, feel free to reach out to email@example.com. That is BW firstname.lastname@example.org.