I Loved Mathematics And Science-Related Subjects Said Prof Francisca Oboh-Ikuenobe
23 February 2018
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Prof Francisca Oboh-Ikuenobe developed an interest in science in elementary school. She said “I loved mathematics and science-related subjects. This love was cemented in secondary school, although my favourite subjects were geography and English literature. My first career interest was Medicine until I witnessed an accident involving a bicyclist and a car. The sight of blood scared me. After that, my interest repeatedly shifted from Pharmacy to Biochemistry and Microbiology, that I eventually ended up studying Geology, a discipline I was told was NOT for women”. After obtaining BSc and MSc degrees in Geology in Nigeria at the University of Ife, her interest in the field led her to a PhD in Cambridge, UK, where she worked on 'Palaeoenvironmental Reconstruction of the E2.0 Reservoir in the Kolo Creek Field, Niger Delta (Nigeria)'.
Prof Oboh-Ikuenobe now serves as a full professor at Missouri University of Science and Technology where she has been employed since 1991. She is an elected Fellow of the Geological Society of America and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a recipient of 26 academic and civic awards and honours that recognise her scholarship, leadership and commitment to education and mentorship of women, men and minorities.
Challenge overcame for science or while doing science
The notion that men are better/smarter than women in science is still out there and one that I grew up with. Several people, including members of my family, tried to dissuade me from studying geology because “women were not supposed to be out in the bush or field” as a profession. I tried to change my major in my sophomore year even though I had no clear sense of direction regarding a career path. It was after my academic advisor stepped in that I stayed in my department. There is also the perception that black scientists may not be “good” enough and are employed because of their race.
Anything that you are happy to share
I wish I had guidance counselling in secondary school. In most developed countries, high schools employ counsellors who advise students about careers. Also, many female students and scientists lack the tenacity needed to succeed in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields – they tend to give up easily if they fail at something. For example, if a research proposal is rejected, chances are that a male scientist will keep resubmitting it until it gets funded, whereas a female scientist may resubmit it once or twice before giving up!
Success will come easier and faster as a young scientist if you are confident about your abilities, are not afraid to step out of your comfort zone, seek out a mentor, and collaborate on projects. This will improve the likelihood of obtaining competitive funding, and increasing research and publication productivity.
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