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Faculty Research Profile

Laila Jallo

Dr. Laila Jallo

Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering

Assistant Professor of Chemical and Materials Engineering
at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Dr. Laila Jallo grew up in Guana, part of West Africa and also part of the British Virgin Islands chain in what is also known as the Caribbean. She attended school in Guana in her formative years and earned her Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Science and Technology, now known as the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. Dr. Jallo recalls that the school system there was “the British system so we have elementary school for the first six years and then five years where you take an exam called the Ordinary Exam. You then get a certificate for that and then do two more years to get the advanced degree before you can go into college.”

School for Dr. Jallo wasn’t easy at first, not because of the schooling itself, but because of the expectations of society around her. “Mostly parents would send their boys to school and the girls would stay home and help” she stated. “I’m a Muslim,” she continued, “I grew up in a society where the way people see education is like it’s a western thing. You’re really not encouraged so much to pursue that.” Dr. Jallo was taught to “respect her elders,” and said that, on more than one occasion, “some older person would call me and say, I know you’re going to school and you like it, but you should quit school and get married.”

Dr. Jallo’s parents had no formal education and her seven siblings (four brothers, three sisters) never pursued any higher degrees. Dr. Jallo is the first person in her family to obtain a Bachelor’s degree, a Master’s of Science, and a Doctorate in Philosophy. Her mother “sent everybody to school” and has “always been and still is the person who’s always been there for education” in Dr. Jallo’s life. Her father “didn’t get it. He had the attitude of ‘you’re female. You’re going to marry or something like that.” She continued pursuing her education and her father’s attitude changed. “People who said ‘why would you let your daughter go to school?’ used to bother him, but after I got into college, he’d say ‘no. Leave her alone.’ It’s like, you know what you’re doing. Live your life.”

After completing her Bachelor’s degree, Dr. Jallo was accepted to an MS in Pharmaceutical Engineering at New Jersey Institute of Technology which led her to pursue her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at the same institute. For Dr. Jallo, the school system in the U.S. “was a different experience. When I went to school for undergraduate studies, professors never gave us homework. We’re only ever graded on midterms and finals…When I first started here and went to classes, there was all this homework. In the beginning, it was overwhelming like, ‘oh my god, that’s a lot of work.’ But then I realized no, I’m studying. I don’t wait until the last minute to cram everything. In the beginning, it was stressful but then I was able to adjust because I learned it’s not much, you just have to do it a little at a time.”

Once Dr. Jallo had a handle on her homework load, the rest of graduate school went well; “I joined as a research assistant so I started doing research from day one. I was almost done with all of the research that I needed to do before I even did my proposal.” She further expressed, “When I did my proposal, I had a few months left to graduate. It was so funny. I just did it and put the results in and I had published most of what I was doing already. I defended it and, yeah, I got my Ph.D. through an engineering research center sponsored by NSF. I was just lucky, I guess.”

Now, as an Assistant Professor in the College of Engineering, Dr. Jallo finds herself motivated by her students. “I just love waking up and coming to school and being able to teach something and see somebody understand.” She often finds herself in the role of mentor for her students as well through “a lot of senior projects” and has even published work in the past with her undergraduate students. The biggest thing Dr. Jallo wants students to understand “is that students should ask questions.” She elaborated further and said that “If you ask a question, if the person you ask doesn’t know, they may know somebody who knows – that’s the first thing. First-generation students need to know that.” For Dr. Jallo, asking questions opens “all of these different avenues” to students, no matter what their background.

Dr. Laila Jallo is ready, willing, and able to mentor students in undergraduate research. If you are interested in having a faculty member like Dr. Jallo mentor your research, please contact the Office of Undergraduate Research at our-cpp@cpp.edu.