Korea Village is celebrating one of its sons for his academic achievements.
Dr Kiran Nandlal, who is no stranger to academic success, has a bachelor’s degree in petroleum geosciences at The University of the West Indies (The UWI), St Augustine, but the Presentation College alumnus didn’t stop there. After he was awarded a second scholarship which led him to Edinburgh, Scotland, to pursue his master’s degree at the Heriot-Watt University in reservoir engineering, the scholar returned home to put his knowledge to use at the Ministry of Energy as a stipulation of his service to the country for being awarded the national scholarship.
Following a few years at the ministry, Nandlal decided to pursue his PhD and applied and was successful in obtaining a research assistantship in petroleum engineering at the Texas A&M University. Nandlal has since returned home to work for a local oil and gas company.
Nandlal, who recently spoke with the Express about his road to success and what motivated him along the way, has co-authored eight publications on the research he performed, with one last publication currently under review at a leading petroleum journal, the Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering (JPSE).
Nandlal said his aim is to make a difference. For him, achieving his PhD means more than just publishing articles or journal papers.
“It was the ability to make a difference in a field that I believe to be important to society, as well as learning invaluable skills and knowledge along the way. My PhD work was focused on the use of semi-analytical solutions, coupled with reservoir simulation models, to visualise the drainage of subsurface oil and gas reservoirs. Hopefully, this work will be implemented in the field to maximise the efficient recovery of these natural resources.”
The importance of education, Nandlal said, was passed on to him. “My dad (Dale Nandlal) was the first in our small village of 500 residents to attain a tertiary education at UWI, St Augustine. He is a former director of research, Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries. In fact, he has two master’s degrees and would often tell us that we have to at least match his master’s degree. My mom, Ajdaye Nandlal, is a former laboratory quality co-ordinator at CARIRI. My two other brothers are also national scholars.
“Since a very young age, my family has always instilled the importance of a sound education. Both sets of my grandparents never achieved more than primary schooling, but always pushed my parents to study as hard as they could,” Nandlal said.
Achieving the dream
“So achieving this level of study, one of the highest possible in engineering, means the culmination of both my grandparents’ dreams and aspirations, as well as mine. I will always remember one of the last conversations I had with my grandma, who passed away just before I left for Texas. I was still not convinced that I could do a PhD, but she said to just try it and never forget the world can take everything you own but it can never take away your education,” Nandlal said.
Nandlal enjoyed growing up in his small community, but he always aimed for success. “I grew up in Korea Village, which is situated along Roopsingh Road in the town of Carapichaima. My paternal great-great-grandfather settled in Korea Village around the early 1900s, together with a few other families. They worked in the nearby Wyaby Sugar Estate. In those days, they reared animals and grew crops to sustain themselves, a tradition which trickled down to each generation.
“As a child, I remembered the abandoned rice fields nearby and catching crabs, as well as swimming in the nearby rivers. I was also fascinated with the hustle and bustle of the reaping of the sugar cane in the dry season, and my grandfather would often take me on his bicycle for a ride through the cane fields,” Nandlal said.
Nandlal said managing his time allowed him to structure his schedule for both his academic and personal life. “No person can ever be focused 100 per cent of the time. You need to allow yourself time away from work to recoup and come back stronger. For me, this meant allowing time for liming with friends at pubs and college football games, as well as staying physically active, either hiking in Texas’ amazing national parks or at the university gym. As such, to stay focused, I ensured I had a healthy work-life balance and made sure to plan and schedule my days as much as possible beforehand.”
Challenges didn’t stop Nandlal from succeeding. “For every challenge I came across, I listed the steps I believed would help solve them. Of course, not every step worked, and I just had to be flexible, with a mentality to keep trying as many times as it would take to solve the problem. Whether this was a course assignment or a coding error in my research.”
He learned valuable lessons while working on his PhD. “The most important thing was never giving up. My PhD experience would have taught me one of the most valuable life lessons thus far is the importance of a sturdy support system. From arriving in Texas amidst Hurricane Harvey and having to sleep on the carpet for a week while trapped inside, to wishful longing for home when I felt despondent while stuck in my apartment when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, all the while meeting my academic commitments, through it all, I was fortunate to be blessed with the most amazing parents, family and friends, both here at home and abroad.
“I believe I have achieved most of what I wanted to in a formal academic setting. Right now, I am looking forward to putting all I have learnt to use in industry to help our country’s energy security. When I do go back to academics, I hope it can be in a role to teach and mentor those upcoming aspiring engineers as a lecturer.”
Nandlal is confident of a bright future ahead. “Even though I have my PhD, I strongly believe in the saying that you are never too old to learn. As such, in the future, I see myself continuing to learn from much more industry-experienced engineers than myself to round out my technical knowledge with operational leadership skills. Hopefully, I can sometime in the future be in a leading role at a multinational energy company.”