Celebrating Black History Month: Juma Orach

February is Black History Month, an important time dedicated to honouring the achievements and contributions of Black individuals throughout history. While it’s important to acknowledge and learn from our history and legacies of racial discrimination, it is equally important to broaden the narrative and highlight the richness of accomplishments. 

This month we are celebrating students who are playing an integral part in shaping the UBC graduate community. In their own words, they share their lessons at UBC and their insights into their personal experiences.

Please join us in celebrating the achievements of our Black graduate students; explore options to participate in UBC’s virtual events; and contribute to the conversation online using the hashtag #BlackHistoryMonth


Juma photo and quote

Juma Orach: Balancing academic responsibilities, nurturing personal recreation, and inspiring the next generation

Juma Orach is a PhD candidate in Philosophy in Experimental Medicine at the Faculty of Medicine. 

His research focuses on the health effects of air pollution, with a focus on diesel exhaust. Notably, Juma was the runner-up in the 2019 Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, awarded for his presentation on diesel exhaust exposure. He found the experience was a significant and pivotal moment.

“I was encouraged by my peers and it gave me a vote of confidence early in my career, I was able to see what I could achieve. I also got to meet lots of people and was astounded by how broad graduate studies are," says Juma. “The 3MT allowed me to gain presentation skills, and take on challenges with courage and curiosity." 

What strategies have you found helpful in balancing your academic responsibilities? 

“When it comes to recreation, regardless of what it is, or how you’re feeling, it should be something that recharges you. I am always conscious of any busy week I’ve had and balance them with recreation. During my undergraduate degree at UBC, I did salsa dancing which was a great way to meet new people and build connections. I am also a big fan of movies and video games, something I’ve carried to this day. Recreation is about escapism and getting some time to yourself. You don’t have to think of all your stressors at that moment. Keep in mind that recreation is important no matter how small, and it’s important to create a balance in order to carry on with project work.”

What advice do you have for incoming students or students of colour?

“Be kind to yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others around you as your circumstances are different – in many different ways, for better or for worse. Understand that you are your one baseline, so just try to be better than you were yesterday.”

“One thing you’ll learn as an international student studying in academia here is that many funding opportunities require Permanent Residence or citizenship status, so it’s important to not compare yourself to other people’s circumstances. Effort translates to results. Regardless of your identity, keep going and your success will be a testament to your abilities.”

Looking ahead, what are your aspirations and goals beyond your time as a student? 

“For me, one of my biggest goals is to give back to my community, to collaborate and train the research in Uganda.”


We will be posting more profiles of Black graduate students throughout the month of February. Visit our Black History Month page to learn more.

Monday, 05 February 2024