Undergraduate Commencement Speaker Seeks to Make Global Impact

Darrell Omo-Lamai

It’s springtime at Drexel, and that means almost all green spaces are occupied by students reading, socializing, or lounging in hammocks. It’s Darrell Emake Mbeng Omo-Lamai's favorite time of the year in Philly – not that he has much free time to spend hanging out on Lancaster Walk.

A busy BS/MS student majoring in Materials Science and Engineering, Omo-Lamai has spent the past five years diving into everything the College of Engineering has to offer. This past February, Omo-Lamai was recognized with the Outstanding BS/MS Student Award for his work. He has focused his studies on blending materials science applications with civic engagement, creating energy solutions that may allow developing countries to thrive. Now, he’s rounding out his time at Drexel as the College of Engineering’s Class of 2023 Commencement speaker before pursuing a doctorate degree at Stanford.

When he came to Drexel from Lagos, Nigeria, Omo-Lamai had already developed a fascination with renewable energy technologies. After spending a year at Drexel, he developed an interest in the connections between materials and how they can be applied to energy storage and decided to major in Materials Science and Engineering. He quickly became heavily involved in the College’s extracurricular groups, joining Engineers Without Borders and becoming the President of Material Advantage, and participated in research with the STAR scholars program .

STAR scholars (Students Tackling Advanced Research) participate in research alongside PhD students and experts and with Drexel’s VIP ( Vertically-Integrated Projects) program. The VIP program allows students to work with a multidisciplinary group of students, faculty, graduate and research staff. His first spring quarter was spent working with Richard Cairncross, PhD , professor of chemical and biological engineering. Omo-Lamai spent the summer between his freshman and sophomore years working with Antonios Kontsos, PhD , professor of mechanical engineering and mechanics. These programs encouraged him to embrace the process of research and prepared him for future co-ops.

“I thoroughly enjoyed having the ability to use the principles I was acquiring through coursework to push the frontiers of humankind’s scientific understanding in my own little way,” he said. “It was not always easy, though. I had to learn that failure is an integral part of research that must be confronted, but I think am much more resilient because of this.”

Omo-Lamai's three co-op experiences deepened his love of research. In keeping with his community-focused mindset, his first co-op was with the Philadelphia Water Department , working with the city to test green stormwater infrastructure. These six months not only affirmed his appreciation of public systems, but also piqued his interest in data science. His remaining co-ops were working with Drexel's Materials Electrochemistry Group with Ekaterina Pomerantseva, PhD , associate professor of materials science and engineering, to develop materials that would improve battery functions and energy storage systems. Co-op not only gave him an opportunity to work in fields aligned with his values, he says, but they "were critical to my decision to pursue graduate research after my degree at Drexel.”

After graduation, Omo-Lamai plans to continue his education at Stanford University, pursuing a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering. He is Drexel’s first recipient of a Knight-Hennessey Scholarship, which awards high-achieving students with full funding to pursue any graduate degree at Stanford. The program’s goal is to educate and prepare a diverse community of scholars for leadership roles in academia, industry, government, nonprofits, and the community at large.

Omo-Lamai came to Philadelphia as a Drexel Global Scholar , a program welcoming exceptional international first-year applicants from over 40 countries. By harnessing Drexel’s many resources, he was able to excel in his field and make an impact on the Philadelphian research community.

“Receiving the Drexel Global Scholarship to study here tuition-free was life-changing to start with, but beyond this, a significant fraction of my current interests – from my curiosity about structure-property relationships in materials to my liking of radio and podcasts – are rooted in opportunities that I was granted through Drexel. Through my time here, I wasn’t only pushed to learn new things; I was also given a multitude of platforms to do so.”