SPOTLIGHT

Margaret Ikape

#Astronomy
#Mathematics
#Nigeria
#Physics

Where are you from?

I’m from Nigeria.

I am currently based in Toronto, Canada.

What is your educational background?

I have a BSc (Physics and Astronomy) from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, an MSc (Mathematical Science) from the African Institute for Mathematical sciences, Cameroon,  and another MSc (Astronomy and Astrophysics) from the University of Toronto

What is your current occupation?

I’m currently a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto studying Astrophysics. My research focuses on understanding the events in the early universe.

What or who got you into STEM?

Around age 5 or 6, I saw a shooting star from our family home in Lagos, and I remember having lots of questions. Fast forward to senior secondary school geography class. We learned about the solar system and I had even more questions. I read all the astronomy books I could find in the library till I figured out that people study these incredible objects and those people are called astronomers. That’s when I decided to be an astronomer.

What is the biggest challenge/barrier you have faced as an African in STEM?

I think my biggest challenge was finding a mentor that looked like me, someone with similar experiences. There are very few women astronomers from Africa and I needed someone to look up to when my motivation was low.

How do you think your background/upbringing has been beneficial in your journey/career?

It has made me persevere even when roads are tough. There are times things don’t work in your favour but with determination, you will always conquer. I have also learned that there is no one path to a destination. Life may take you through bends and corners but you can still get to your destination if you don’t quit.

How do you think we can start to change the narrative surrounding African contributions
to global STEM research & careers?

First, Africans should believe in themselves. It is not about what the world thinks of you but what you think of yourself. Also, we/ the media should endeavour to focus on the positive. Africans are doing great things all over the world and need to be showcased. Moreover, so many implicit biases exist in industries/careers that make it difficult for Africans to break through. These biases need to be removed so everyone is treated equally.

What advice would you like to give to young, aspiring Africans in STEM?

My advice to young Africans aspiring for a career in STEM is to believe in themselves. If you can think it, you can be it. Don’t let anyone/anything tell you otherwise.

Do you have any projects you’re working on that you would like us to highlight?

I’m an instructor in the Pan-African School for Emerging Astronomers, PASEA, a bi-annual summer school that introduces young African science students to the basics of astronomy. This school was founded by Dr. Linda Strubbe and Dr Bonaventure Okere and has held various editions in Nigeria and Ghana. I’m excited to be a part of the instructor team. https://www.astrowestafrica.org

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    SPOTLIGHT

    Hello World

    I think it’s about time you heard my story.