Nebiyu Grigibo

D.Sc. (Tech.), Energy Technology, 2023
Postdoctoral researcher, University of Vaasa
Nebiyu Grigibo

The public examination of M.Sc. Nebiyu Girgibo’s doctoral dissertation “Results of Seaside Energy Solutions in Land Uplift and Climate Change in the Kvarken Archipelago: A Mixed-Method Investigation” was held onWednesday 13 December 2023. 

 What is the best thing about your job? What do you do? 

The best thing about my work is learning new things and meeting new people. I get excited, especially in the mornings, to have a chance to read new knowledge and write about it. While I focus on materials related to my current tasks, my love for learning always motivates me to read. This internal motivation drives me through the challenging path of academic life. 

I work as a postdoctoral researcher on the LEAP-RE project. LEAP-RE stands for ‘Long-term joint European Union (EU) – African Union (AU) Research and Innovation Partnership on Renewable Energy’. Our mission is to promote the ‘Energy Village Concept’ in Africa. This concept, which has been developed at the University of Vaasa for over two decades, aims to empower local communities by helping them understand and estimate their renewable energy potential and transition away from fossil fuel consumption.  The aim is to totally replace fossil fuels by renewable energy.  

My work tasks include writing articles, collaborating with our partners across Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Botswana, contributing to project deliverables, identifying future initiatives, and organising monthly meetings. I also had the privilege of attending LEAP-RE Stakeholder forums in Kigali, Rwanda.  

What is the highlight of your career?  

I am originally from Africa (Ethiopia) and have been living in Finland for about 18 years. I always had an intense desire to contribute to my birth nation’s progress. Inspired by Finland’s remarkable achievements, I sought meaningful ways to give back. The highlight of my career is when I joined the LEAP-RE project. Through a series of projects, we focus on developing Africa´s development in renewable energy and enhancing local energy security. LEAP-RE is one of the biggest consortiums bridging the gap between EU and AU in the realm of renewable energy.  

Additionally, completing my doctorate is also one of the highlights in my career.  

How have your doctoral studies supported you in your current job?  

During my doctoral studies, I learned many valuable skills that I now use in my job. For example, I gained experience in writing articles, deepened my understanding of renewable energy, and improved my ability to collaborate effectively. Even today as I continue to learn and grow, I am grateful for the motivation and habits I developed during my doctoral studies.  

Why pursue a doctorate? 

For me, the desire to learn and explore new things drove me to pursue a doctorate. It is an internal drive – a love for knowledge – that led me down this path.  

However, it began by chance, quite unexpectedly. Shortly: After completing my master’s degree in 2013 at Jyväskylä University, I decided to take a break and moved to Vaasa. In Vaasa, I started learning Finnish at Vamia (formerly known as VAAK). My Finnish teacher noticed my background and connected me with the University of Vaasa, for a trainee position to learn Finnish. During this process, I stumbled upon a unique chance. The energy technology department needed someone to study ground water – specifically the water that emerges during borehole drilling in ‘Merten talo’ project site. This is what I call a chance, because without this ground water study, I might never have become a trainee at the University of Vaasa in November 2014.  

Later in January 2017, despite financial constraints, I started my doctoral studies. It is amazing how twists of fate can shape our paths.  

How did you decide on the topic of your doctoral thesis?  

I initially explored another topic related to Natura 2000 and EU-protected areas, considering my background as an environmental engineer and limnologist. This seemed relevant to my previous studies. Subsequently, my first supervisor and boss, Emeritus Research Manager Erkki Hiltunen, proposed my doctoral topic: “Climate Change and Energy,” with a focus on seaside renewable energy solutions. After carefully assessing the topic’s alignment with my bachelor’s and master’s studies, I enthusiastically accepted it. In my bachelor’s thesis, written back in 2009, I included this sentence in the acknowledgment section: “If others did not show us the road of life, we might not start it at all.”  This held equally true for my doctoral research journey.  

How did you finance your doctoral studies?  

Financing was a struggle in the first years, but I received support from various sources:  
1) From the employment office through Kela, as a member of the Finnish social system, I benefited from this support  
2) I worked in a private company for a period, which allowed me to cover my expenses during that time.  
3) I later worked on Profi-4 and Prof-5 projects at the University of Vaasa. These projects were funded by the Research Council of Finland (formerly known as the Academy of Finland).  
4) I received three big grants from: the University of Vaasa Foundation (6-month grant); the Ella and Georg Ehrnrooth Foundation (1-year grant) and the Finnish Cultural Foundation (1-year grant) and two small grants from Erkki Paasikiven Säätiö.  
5) In the later years of my study, our team received a grant for the WP-14 in the LEAP-RE project. I then transitioned to working part-time and eventually full-time as a project researcher at the University of Vaasa.  

These continuous efforts, including applying for funding and hard work, enabled me to finance my doctoral studies. 

What are the main insights from your doctoral studies?  

The most valuable insights that have kept me motivated during my doctoral journey are: 
1) Advice from my English language teacher, who said: ‘’Anybody can do a doctorate, but true difference lies in how you utilise it’’. This advice prompted me to delve deeper into my doctoral dissertation. I aspire for my research to significantly contribute to the field. 
2) Guidance from relevant courses and references: Throughout my studies, specific courses and their recommended readings played a big role. Titles like ‘how to survive in academia’ and ‘writing your doctoral dissertation or thesis faster’ endorsed by my professors, provided essential insights. I would like to thank them for these valuable resources. I hope they continue to benefit current and future doctoral researchers. 

Additionally, my doctoral journey has revealed my resilience in the face of challenges and the remarkable capacity to withstand pressure. To all current and prospective doctoral students, I encourage unwavering persistence — no matter the obstacles encountered during your studies.  

Why did you choose the University of Vaasa for your doctoral studies?  

While the University of Vaasa may sometimes seem small and distant from Helsinki, the tasks and research conducted here are of the highest quality.  

I am proud to have pursued my doctoral research at the University of Vaasa. I hope that others will also consider this institution for their doctoral or other academic studies. 

What advice would you give to someone still considering doing a doctorate? 

Before starting your doctoral research journey, it is essential to recognise that it can be challenging and may take more years than you initially expect. Looking back after completing my doctorate, I am grateful for the experience, but I acknowledge that there were tough moments along the way. During those challenging periods, remember to not to give up. Prioritise your well-being and maintain balance. As my big brother once wisely said, “Knowledge, reading, and study are the best gifts you can give to yourself.” This kept me going through tough times.