What is your educational background?
I am a postgraduate student of the Department of Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Chemistry, School of Pharmacy, University of Nigeria where I major in Applied Computational Chemistry and Molecular Modeling Research (Computer Aided-Drug Design). I also studied Pharmacy as an undergraduate in the same institution.
What is your current occupation?
I am an Applied Computational Chemist and a Pharmacist. As a researcher, scientist and academic, my goal is to apply novel tools and techniques from molecular simulation to biological systems relevant to human disease. My research aid and inform the process of drug discovery, for instance in the design of well-defined combinatorial libraries of synthetic compounds, or to assist in structure-based drug design using in silico techniques.
What or who got you into STEM?
I am the first in a family of four children. Both parents of mine are currently civil servants. But, before then, they were more into hard laboring works. My mother loves education so much but she was denied one by her family. It is a long story I plan to share someday. But, her educational denial is what inspires and motivates me till date to pursue a career for myself. I owe my achievements so far to her. I grew up in an environment where one needs to challenge a lot of odds in order to be educated. My high school was at that time, the least in terms of “quality” and also can be regarded as the poorest in my city. It took a lot to graduate and move to the next phase of education. Nevertheless, I thrived. Thanks to self-motivation and my mother. Well, I think I can identify myself as a “family person”. What do I mean by that? The version of me that most people will see depends on me, my friends and family. I am also soulful and passionate and I see the world very different from most people. As a young scientist from Africa, I have been seeking for a platform to connect with fellow Africans in STEM. In my search, I found Visibility STEM Africa!
What is the biggest challenge/barrier you have faced as an African in STEM?
One of the biggest challenges I have faced as an African in STEM is visibility. Not much is usually heard of African researchers or academics. Therefore, there is little or no mentorship. I have also faced the barrier of not having access to the right research material due to its unavailability.
How do you think your background/upbringing has been beneficial in your journey/career?
My background has been beneficial in my journey so far because it got me inspired for life. It made me believe in the statement by Robert Heinlein – “Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done”
How do you think we can start to change the narrative surrounding African contributions
to global STEM research & careers?
We need to connect with more researchers in STEM and find better platforms to make African STEM research works very visible.
What advice would you like to give to young, aspiring Africans in STEM?
Extra works are needed to measure up to what the Western world is doing. Therefore, you need to seriously work hard. Let your works be known. Make it visible.
Do you have any projects you’re working on that you would like us to highlight?
Yes I do. I have my personal blog (https://www.raphaelonuku.wordpress.com) where I post some details about my work and connect with people.