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Celebrating Nigeria Women in Science!!!

By Godwin Maryann

The International Day of Women and Girls in Science is celebrated on 11 February to promote full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls.

According to UNESCO, about 30% of Researchers are women. On this day, let us celebrate outstanding female scientists that have made excellent achievements in Nigeria are;


She is the first Nigerian female to earn a Ph.D. in Mathematics, the first female Professor of Mathematics, and the first female Vice Chancellor of a University in Nigeria. Besides being a former Vice Chancellor, she has held different leadership positions in the development of science education at local and international levels.

She held the position of Vice President of the World Organisation for Early Childhood Education and a Regional Vice President for Africa of the Third World Organization for Women in Science.


She is by all standards a distinguished scientist who has made tremendous contributions to her field- Physics. Professor Okeke gained international prominence after winning the highly respected L’Oreal-UNESCO Women in Science Award worth USD 100, 000 in 2013. The award was in recognition of her notable contributions to the understanding of daily variations of the Ion currents in the upper atmosphere.

Presently a Professor at the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), Okeke was the first female Head of the Department and a former Dean of the Faculty of Physical Sciences in her university. Born in an environment where female education was discouraged, Okeke was motivated to study Physics by her father, a Mathematician, whom she saw as a mentor. As a young girl, she was very inquisitive and asked intelligent questions about nature and objects around her. She was particularly interested in knowing the wonder behind airplanes and how they fly without falling on the earth.

Professor Okeke is exceedingly passionate about the education and empowerment of women particularly in the Sciences. As HOD and Dean at UNN, she was instrumental to the employment of more women in the faculty.


Professor Deborah Enilo Ajakaiye is Africa’s first woman to be appointed a Professor of Physics in 1980. Her contributions to the field of Geophysics through her works on ‘Geovisualization’ has been significant in Nigeria’s location of its abundant mineral resources.

Professor Ajakaiye has been recognized at local and international forums. She was awarded by the Nigerian Mining and GeoSciences Society. She was also the first black African to be named a Fellow of the Geological Society of London. Professor Ajakaiye was one of the 50 Women of Distinction awarded by the First Lady, Dame Patience Goodluck Jonathan in 2010, in celebration of Nigeria’s 50th independence anniversary.


Professor Olabisi Ugbebor is dubbed the “Queen of Mathematics” for her outstanding record in Mathematics. After obtaining her Ph.D. degree in 1976, Professor Ugbebor returned to the University of Ibadan, wher she studied and got scholarship to continue her studies in University of London, she joined the Department of Mathematics, where she rose to become a Professor, thus making history as the first woman to attain that position in the department at the University of Ibadan. At different occasions, she also served as the Acting Head, Department of Mathematics.

In 2014, Professor Ugbebor was elected the first President of Nigerian Women in Mathematics at the Inaugural Meeting of the Nigerian Women in Mathematics.


Professor Ayoka Olufunmilayo Adebambo is a renowned Animal Scientist at the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta (FUNAAB).

Professor Adebambo made history as the first graduate of Animal Breeding at the University of Ibadan, and the first female Professor of Animal Breeding and Genetics in Nigeria. She was also the first Head of Department, Animal Breeding and Genetics at FUNAAB.

Professor Adebambo was the only woman that contested for the position of Vice Chancellor at FUNAAB in 2007.


Professor Adenike Oyinlola Osofisan is the first Nigerian female to hold a doctorate in Computer Science, and the first female Professor of Computer Science in Africa.

In addition to her specialization in Computer Science, Osofisan also excelled in Business Administration as she received the best result in the 1993 MBA class of the University of Ibadan.

Osofisan made history as the first woman to serve as President and Chairman of the Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria between 2005 and 2009. Professor Osofisan was also the Pioneer President, Nigeria Women in Information Technology (IT).



Folasade Ogunsola is a renowned Medical Scientist with specialization in the treatment and control of HIV/AIDS.

She is the Principal Investigator of the AIDS Prevention Initiative in Nigeria (APIN) (a PEPFAR grant) at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos and Site Principal Investigator of the Medical Education Partnership Initiative in Nigeria (MEPIN).

Between 2004 and 2007, Professor Ogunsola was the Principal Investigator for the clinical trial of the HIV microbicide 6% Cellulose Sulphate in Lagos. She is a member of the WHO Technical Working Group on Infection Prevention and Control, a member of the WHO AFRO Regional Rapid Response Group of Experts for Epidemics and member of the Global Infection Prevention and Control Network. She is the current Chairman of the National Association of Colleges of Medicine.


Professor Chinedum Peace Babalola is the first female Professor of Pharmacy at the University of Ibadan. She is also the first female Pharmacist in Nigeria to be inducted as Fellow of Academy of Science (FAS).

Professor Babalola is notable for her research that produced a novel High-performance liquid chromatography Method for the analysis of quinine in biometrics. This outstanding research led to the elucidation of the pharmacokinetics of quinine in Africans and formed the basis of dose optimization in malaria patents.

Professor Babalola is one of the scientists that produced the first pharmacogenetic study in healthy and sickle cell patients in Nigerians.


Professor Olubola Babalola is the first female Professor of Quantity Surveying in Africa. She studied Quantity Surveying at the Obafemi Awolowo University, where she was not only the female student in her set but also the best graduating student.

With specialization in General Procurement Advice, Contract Documentation, Contract Administration, Construction Management, Construction Economics and Research Development for Building, Mechanical, and Electrical Engineering Services, Professor Olubola completed her Ph.D. in Quantity Surveying and made history as the first woman to obtain such degree in West Africa.

She is the current Editor of The Quantity Surveyor, Journal of The Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors and a member of the editorial board, International Journal of Project Planning and Finance (based in Ghana) and the Journal of Construction Business and Management (located in South Africa).


Dr. Rabia Salihu Sa’id is a great inspiration for the female scientists of the younger generation. Although she completed her Ph.D. in Physics in 2013, her contributions have speedily given her local and international recognitions as a foremost scientist.

Dr. Sa’id was one of the winners of the Elsevier Foundation Awards for Early Career Women Scientists in the Developing World in 2015. She was featured in Nature (The International Weekly Journal of Science) and in the BBC Radio Program: Discovery Science. She was also listed on the BBC 100 inspirational women of 2015. Currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics at the Bayero University in Kano (BUK), she was appointed Deputy Dean (female) at the Student Affairs between 2012 and mid-2016.

She is a volunteer for several non-governmental organizations including the Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund. She mentors girls and boys in the STEM field for which she volunteers the Visiola Foundation and the Peace Corps Nigeria Alumni Foundation (PCNAF/ICEADA) Young Women Mentors Programme.

Dr. Rabia Salihu Sa’id is a trained facilitator for the British Council Active Citizens’ Programme; run by the British Council with civil society organizations and universities all over the world to empower youths to engage peacefully and more efficiently with others for sustainable development of their communities.


Sylvia Uzochukwu is a professor of Food Science and Technology at Federal University, Oye-Ekiti. Prof. Uzochukwu is dedicated to encouraging University faculty and scientists in sub-Saharan Africa in the use of the tools of modern biotechnology, so that they and their students can help tackle the problems of poverty, hunger and diseases plaguing the region, using this technology, in a safe and responsible manner. She has organized 14 molecular biology workshops for training and re-training of university lecturers, scientists, and post graduate students in Nigeria and West African Sub-region between 2000 and 2009, and has also organised National conference of Biotechnology Society of Nigeria,in 2008.


An environmental biochemist, soil scientist and toxicologist, Eucharia Oluchi Nwaichi, Ph.D , is one of Nigeria’s shining lights in the sciences, as far as research and awareness are concerned. The astute scientist whose work focuses on waste management, pollution prevention and phytoremediation – the treatment of environmental problems (bioremediation) through the use of local plants that mitigate the environmental problem without the need to excavate the contaminant material and dispose of it elsewhere, is an expert in elimination of toxic heavy metal such as cadmium, copper, mercury, lead and arsenic from contaminated soil. Thanks to her doggedness and her unending desire to contribute to humanity and science through her research, Nwaichi was made an international fellow at the 2013 L’Oréal-UNESCO Awards.


Rosemary Ogu, Ph.D , MBBS, FWACS, FMCOG, FICS, is a consultant obstetrician/ gynaecologist and senior lecturer at the University of Port Harcourt, Port Harcourt, Rivers State. One thing that has marked Ogu out is her doggedness as a career scientist and her ability to fit into her environment and go about her work with as much commitment as she faces her tasks as a mother. Ogu, a distinguished scientist and a fellow of many organisations across the world, has carved a niche for herself in the field of gynaecology and, to boot, she is a fellow of both the West African College of Surgeons and the National Post-graduate Medical College of Nigeria. She has special research interest in the areas of non-communicable diseases, sexual/reproductive health, and feto-maternal medicine. As president of the Medical Women’s Association of Nigeria (MWAN), Rivers State, Ogu has been coordinating MWAN activities on cancer screening and health promotion.


In world dominated by men, one of Nigeria’s bright lights and a globally renown scientist, Folasade Olajuyigbe, Ph.D, who is also a senior lecturer in the Department of Biochemistry, Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), reached a new high when she was announced the winner of the 2017 Fulbright African Research Scholar Programme (ARSP), award for advanced research in the United States for the 2017/2018 academic session. Olajuyigbe, whose research into enzyme biotechnology and environmental health has won her recognition, she is all these and more and, what’s even more interesting is that she keep s going strong in the field, both home and abroad.


A consummate professional and dyed-in-the-wool microbiologist, Stella Ifeanyi Smith, Ph.D , has made and is still making a name for herself across the globe as one woman who knows her onions and cuts it right. She is not just a renowned researcher, she also inspires her students and guides them in their projects (whether doctorate, masters or undergraduate degree levels). By her action, she has raised a number of scientists who are willing to go the extra mile to contribute their knowledge and time to the development of what man knows today, especially, as concerns Nigeria. She has written many books on the molecular epidemiology of infectious diseases, conducted researches (through global collaborations) on same and carried out a number of projects on these areas of interests. Nine of her books have won awards between 2002 and 2012. In 2001, Smith was listed among the ‘Who is Who in the World’. She is a member of the African Microbicide Advocacy Group (AMAG), Third World Academy of Science (TWAS), Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD), World Academy of Young Scientists (WAYS), List of Productive Scientists on the ISI Web of Science (2007), amongst others. Also, Smith is a Fellow of the African Scientific Institute (ASI, 2013).

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