Monica Mame Soma Nyansa

Ghanaian

PhD researcher

#Cancertherapy
Where are you from?

Currently based in

I grew up in Tarkwa, a small town in the Western part of Ghana to parents who were basic school teachers. I am the youngest of six children and the first to go to college. Growing up, I wanted to be a teacher and so having parents who were teachers was a great motivation.

United States

What is your educational background?

I had my Bachelor of Pharmacy (BPharm) degree and Master’s of Philosophy (MPhil) degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana.

What is your current occupation?

I am a PhD student at Michigan Technological University where I study the development of fluorescent sensors and the small molecule development for cardiovascular disease and breast cancer therapy. I also double as a graduate teaching assistant.

What (or who) got you into STEM?

My desire to help people in need got me interested in pharmacy. During my undergraduate studies, I met professors who became mentors and helped me navigate the different STEM disciplines.

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

My biggest challenge was the lack of access to resources (such as equipment) needed for effective research during both undergrad and Master’s studies. I also found the graduate process more theoretical than practical. I could recite to what NMR is and what it does but had little to no experience with its use even though it was a big part of my studies.

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

It has made me focused and purposeful. Definitely more hungry and willing to motivate to pursue the impossible even if it was out of my comfort zone.

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

We need to provide more mentorship opportunities. We need the future African scientists to believe that the sky is not the limit but rather the beginning. They need to be able to tap into the wisdom and guidance of mentors who look like them whenever the need arises. We need to let them know that there are people who look like them who have tried and done what was thought to be impossible for them and that they can do the same.

What advice would you like to give to young, aspiring African’s in STEM?

Know yourself and don't let anyone make you feel stupid for being young. Every great scientist you know was once young.

Do you have any project you're working on that you would like us to highlight?

I am currently working on a blog (under construction) to highlight Ghanaian scientists and also the graduate school journey from the perspective of a young African scientist from a small town.

Social media links

Twitter: @MaunikaD

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