Michael OchejeBiochemistry alumnus Michael Ocheje received the Governor General’s Gold Medal for academic excellence during Fall Conovocation ceremonies.

Science grad earns Convocation honour

Science alumnus Michael Ocheje (BSc 2016, PhD 2022) is one of this year’s Governor General’s Gold Medallists for academic excellence at the graduate level and was recognized during Fall Convocation ceremonies on Friday, Oct. 14.

“When I found out I won, that was a big surprise,” says Dr. Ocheje. “There are a lot of talented people in my cohort and amongst all those people, they chose my thesis.”

During his doctoral studies, the chemistry and biochemistry graduate developed organic bioelectronic materials that can stretch and imitate properties of human skin.

“Usually when you strain electronic devices, the inorganic brittle materials will break, but my research deals with using organic materials that can stretch and still be conductive,” says Ocheje.

“Essentially things like polyethylene, or plastic bags, are stretchable but not conductive and cell phones are conductive but not stretchable. I’m trying to create conjugated polymers that are the best of both worlds.”

One of the targeted uses for these materials is medical application.

“We want to make them wearable and potentially bio-implantable,” says Ocheje.

“It has to be at least as stretchable as your skin, so you’ll barely notice it is there.”

Ocheje says he fell in love with this type of chemistry when he took an undergraduate course with Tricia Carmichael. Then he joined Simon Rondeau-Gagné’s lab for his graduate work.

During his time at the University of Windsor, Ocheje travelled to do characterizations of his materials at the Argonne National Lab in Chicago and the Canadian Light Source in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He spent four months interning at the National Research Council in Ottawa. He also co-authored 25 scientific publications.

He is currently pursuing post doc studies in the Swager Research Group at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and says he owes a lot of his accomplishments to his Nigerian parents and to his strongest advocate, Dr. Rondeau-Gagné.

“Michael is someone who can easily adapt to any situation, who jumps into challenges and brings creativity to help move research to the next level,” says Rondeau-Gagné.

“He is focused and determined to reach excellence.”

Ocheje is the third biochemistry and chemistry graduate in four years to win the Governor General’s Gold Medal.

—Sara Elliott