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Biography of Nneka francisca OKEKE

Nigeria > Science : Nneka francisca OKEKE

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Biography :

Francisca Nneka Okeke is a Nigerian scientist, Professor of Physics at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. She recently received the L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science Award for her significant contributions to the understanding of daily variations of the ion currents in the upper atmosphere which may further our understanding of climate change. She was also the Dean in the faculty of Physical Sciences at her University, from 2008 to 2010.

This L’Oreal-UNESCO Award given to me is a big challenge; it has strengthened me to continue to encourage girls and women to participate in the development of science and technology by offering these core sciences courses in schools and universities. This invariably furthers the development of a Nation

When Nigerian Francisca Nneka Okeke was a child, she would wonder about the changing colour of the sky and the ability of aeroplanes to fly in the atmosphere without plummeting back to Earth.

Discovering that physics could answer these questions, Okeke was motivated to become a scientist and was one of only two women in her physics undergraduate class of 30 students in 1980. She went on to become the first female head of physics at the University of Nigeria, and later the first female dean of the faculty of physical sciences.

Now she is a laureate of this year’s L’Oréal-UNESCO Award For Women in Science, or FWIS. University World News spoke to her after the prize-giving ceremony at the Sorbonne in Paris on 28 March.

The world has changed since Okeke graduated, but high-profile women scientists are still few and far between, especially in developing countries.
She told University World News that she was lucky to have a mathematician father who was a great mentor. Qualified young women are still too often being denied their dreams of entering science.

People used to think that when you got into these core science subjects, like physics, the characteristics that are most worthily accepted for females in our society such as passivity, emotionality, intuition and receptivity would no longer be possessed by that female. Therefore, they fought against women trying to embark on studying these core subjects.”

In remote areas, despite the presence of ‘enlightened’ people, the situation could be worse.

“Sometimes you have girls who are very brilliant but are forced into early marriage,” Okeke said. “We can make parents aware of the advantages of their daughters becoming scientists, and that society has more to gain when they are scientists than when they given out in marriage so early.”

Okeke, who is currently professor of physics at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, said that higher education institutions could introduce awards and scholarships for women in sciences to attract more students.

Last update : 04/13/2013

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