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|Francisca Okeke, An Exciting Nigerian Female Professor Of Physics by Abiyamo: 11:03pm On Aug 17, 2013|
I love physics. A lot! While in secondary school, physics (and geography) were some of my very best subjects. Nothing made me travel out of this world and deep into the cosmos like physics. My ash CASIO calculator was my best companion and physics exams were always very exciting. I always looked forward to them. Mr. Ige, my physics teacher and a man that I still think is too intelligent for the cage called Nigeria made the subject even more dramatic. If not for the dazzling glare of medicine, I'd surely have gone for physics (or geography) -to the absolute consternation and utter shock of my parents...lol! So you can imagine my excitement today as I write about one of the most intelligent female scientists in Africa! Francisca Nneka Okeke, professor of physics and one of the most enchantingly engaging scientists around.
BIRTH AND EARLY DAYS
Born in Idemili North Local Government of Anambra State some 57 years ago, she grew up in an environment that was scientifically charged like the ionosphere that she is studying. She says: 'My father, a mathematician and educator, was a great mentor and introduced me early to advanced mathematics. When I got my degree in 1980, we were only two women out of 30 students in the physics department. My husband, an astrophysicist, was also for me a great source of inspiration and encouragement.'
EDUCATION AND THE WORLD OF PHYSICS
Like every other child out there, she was inspired by nature and her curiosity was sparked while still a tiny girl. She said of how she developed her interest in physics:
While small, I was fascinated by the sky. I wondered why it was sometimes white and sometimes blue, why the planes flew instead of crashing to the ground. That's when I discovered at the school that physics could give me the answers to these questions and at that point, I knew I wanted to do.
Hearing this brilliant woman speak makes you feel the tingling sensation of watching Einstein speak at TED. Or Stephen Hawking at a Grammy Awards night. She speaks with so much charm and excitement that you can literally catch the fire of physics from her (see video). Hear the Nigerian expert of upper atmospheric physics:
It (the ionosphere) is this part of the atmosphere located between the mesosphere and the magnetosphere, approximately between 60 and 600 kilometers. It is at this level that the various ionization phenomena occur....changes in gas molecules (oxygen, nitrogen and carbondioxide) into positive and negative ions and they have gained or lost electrons...
THE IMPORTANCE OF HER WORKS
One of the things about her that really wowed me and left a lasting impression is the scale and scope of her work. She is studying the ionosphere and specifically, a phenomenon in the ionosphere called the equatorial electrojet (EEJ)! Okay, the ionosphere is one of the layers of our atmosphere, the eerie blanket of gases that surrounds and protects our planet from frying as a result of the devastating cosmic rays. The ionosphere is also the layer where one of the most beautiful phenomena in nature occur -the auroras. Currently, the United States has a very controversial project which they started in 1993, the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP), with which they are modifying the properties of the ionosphere. Radio waves propagation is possible only with the ionosphere, and it is because of this layer that your mobile phones, radar systems, shortwave broadcasters for radio stations, navigation systems for ships, avionics (for aircraft) all work.
As for the specific phenomenon that she is studying, the equatorial electrojet (EEJ) is a narrow band of current that flows towards the east during the daytime in the equatorial regions (of which Nigeria is one) of the Earth's ionosphere, causing a dip at the magnetic field to change almost five times more than anywhere else on the planet. This abnormal phenomenon was noticed as far back as 1920 at the Huancayo Geomagnetic Observatory in Peru. Today, observations still continue using satellites, geophysical observatories, rockets and advanced radar systems. Scientists have still not been able to fully explain the wide and sudden variations in electricity at specific times in these regions but giant strides have been made in this regard and that is truly heartwarming. And knowing that our very own Professor is also contributing to this global pool of knowledge and research makes it all more delightful. Yes, I pray for a Nobel Prize in physics for her! I'd so go gaga that day that Stefani Germanotta will be ashamed of her gagarity. Take it or leave it, scientists are the true rulers of this vast blue planet.
But Professor Okeke is not just stopping there. Her hope is that her research on the activity of the Sun in its interaction with the Earth's atmosphere can give humanity a better understanding and deeper comprehension of climate change and help us locate accurately the origins of some natural events like earthquakes and tsunamis. She has dedicated her life to studying the ionosphere. The least Abiyamo can do is to highlight the stellar achievements of this Amazon, one of those who make us look at the future with hope.
-'My PhD supervisor, Professor Onwumechi, I went to him and said: I am interested in your area. He said: If you want to be a physicist, you have to talk physics, eat physics, sleep physics, wake physics, live and die physics.'
-'My research is on atmospheric geophysics. It has to do with the flow of ions in the ionosphere and interaction with geomagnetic fields. We have discovered that the solar quiet-day variations which is what we study in the upper atmosphere could be could be used to determine the upper mantle conductivity in West Africa which has never been carried out before in that area. A great moment indeed! (Honestly, at this point, I just had to clap for her, for both the depth of her brilliance and charming eloquence).
-'I am proud that my work is going higher and higher and that more students are coming. My group is growing fantastically.'
-On women, she says: 'We need to encourage them. Which is why I always write more comments encouraging women, encouraging girls to participate. Because if they do not participate in the development of science and technology, invariably, it means (they are not participating in the) development of a nation... '
-On physicists: 'Physicists must engage in greater participation because I have said once that life is all about physics, and physics is life. '
WHAT OTHERS SAY ABOUT HER
-She is a motivator and a go-getter.
-PERPETUA C. OKONKWO, MSc Student, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Nigeria.
-She is very determined and can be quite dogged.
-EMEKA OKOYE, Dean of Faculty of Physical Science, University of Nigeria.
-I am giving her moral courage to even be bigger than me, and I think she is almost getting bigger than me now, and I enjoy it. -PIUS NWANKWO OKEKE, Professor of Physics and Director for Basic Space Science, University of Nigeria. PN Okeke is also the President of the African Astronomical Society and a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. If we are to develop as a nation, these are the kind of people we need to honour and celebrate and not moronic and slow politicians whose only claim to fame is daylight (plus nighttime) robbery. By the way, if the name of the man quoted above does not ring any bell to you, then you are either not a science student or always skipped your physics classes while in school...lol! Why? This man wrote the popular PN Okeke, one of the most popular physics textbooks in Nigeria. I still have mine, carefully cellotaped all over...lol!
-'She is someone who pushes you to the brink of any research she has given you to do. It is a fantastic way of supervising.' -KINGSLEY OKPALA, Lecturer, Department of Physics and Astronomy, UNN.
LOVE, MARRIAGE AND FAMILY
Well, well, well! This is another very lovely part of her story! The atmospheric physicist we are celebrating today is married to none other than the legendary PN Okeke himself, quoted above Their marriage is blessed with six children and they are both proud grandparents. Omo, see correct genes! She got married at the age of 18 and their children are aged between 27 to 33.
RECOGNITION, HONOURS AND AWARDS
-UNN was established in 1960 and for 40 years, there was no single female head of the physics department until she came and broke the jinx. She was appointed the first female head of the physics and astronomy department, University of Nigeria. After her, another woman took over.
-On the 22nd of April, 2009, Professor Okeke delivered her inaugural lecture at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State and it was entitled Geomagnetic Research in Physics: The Journey So Far.
-In 2013, she was named L'Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards Laureate for Africa and the Middle East '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'. UNESCO also lauded her for the fact that 'she demonstrates exceptionally original approaches to fundamental research in the Physical Sciences.' For this award, she got a grant of $100,000 at the awards ceremony in Paris, France on the 18th of April, 2013. On the award, she expressed her joy saying: 'I felt very excited, was full of joy and I knelt down to worship God'. The panel that selected her as the winner was chaired by the 1999 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry, the father of femtochemistry, the Linus Pauling Chair Professor of Chemistry, Professor of Physics and the Director of the Physical Biology Centre for the Ultrafast Science and Technology, California Institute of Technology, Professor Ahmed Zewail.
When I received the call that informed me that I was selected as one of the five recipients in the ‘For Women In Science L’Oreal-UNESCO’ for the Physical sciences, I jumped up and then knelt down and praised my God. I knew I had worked hard, but it’s not all hard work that has been recognised. It was really an exciting and a great moment in my life, that was in October, 2012.
On the award, she expressed her joy saying:
'On 28th March 2013, the award ceremony took place in Paris. A fantastic, prestigious, and impressive award ceremony. To my greatest surprise, on getting to Paris airport, mighty pictures of all the Laureates were placed at strategic positions all over at the airport, even in streets. Oh I shared tears of joy; therein the encouragement started. It is impossible to describe effectively all that happened on this day. I just summarize by saying that; it is a day that will ever live and be fresh in my memory till I die. Even when I have lived and died, it will live in my children’s and grand children’s memory, who all attended the award ceremony. The 28th of March, 2013 is an indelible date in our family for ever and ever. It is an event to be reckoned in my life and my family’s life. There were so many inspirational women around me in the ceremony; someone like Emerita Professor Grace Olayina-Taylor, who was there to witness the ceremony. She is the first African Laureate for the award.
[The prize money] will definitely improve my research work; it will help in solving some of our problems. It will help in alleviating the problem we face in attendance of international conferences, where we present our work, interact with academic colleague and exchange ideas.'
I leave you with one thing she said about her hubby: “While I monitor what goes on, on the earth’s surface into about 1,000 kilometers into space, my husband monitors from 1,000 kilometers into space.''
In my opinion, that's the real definition of a power couple.
THANKS FOR YOUR TIME.
SEE MORE PICTURES FROM SOURCE: http://www.abiyamo.com/francisca-nneka-okeke-nigerias-most-exciting-female-professor-of-physics/
1 Like 1 Share
|Re: Francisca Okeke, An Exciting Nigerian Female Professor Of Physics by Saraben(f): 11:10pm On Aug 17, 2013|
|Re: Francisca Okeke, An Exciting Nigerian Female Professor Of Physics by tpia5: 12:21am On Aug 18, 2013|
No hometown or home state?
|Re: Francisca Okeke, An Exciting Nigerian Female Professor Of Physics by Abiyamo: 12:33am On Aug 18, 2013|
|Re: Francisca Okeke, An Exciting Nigerian Female Professor Of Physics by Abiyamo: 12:36am On Aug 18, 2013|
|Re: Francisca Okeke, An Exciting Nigerian Female Professor Of Physics by tpia5: 12:55am On Aug 18, 2013|
|Re: Francisca Okeke, An Exciting Nigerian Female Professor Of Physics by Nobody: 10:44am On Aug 18, 2013|
Hmmmm, I appreciate women with splendid and enigmatic track record also combining such with the challenging responsibility of marital life ...... I say Kudos to Prof. Okeke !!!
Eh, ehrrmm and now this ;
abiyamo: Take it or leave it, ''scientists'' are the ''TRUE RULERS'' of this vast blue planet.
Except U re referring to collection of all scientists including we SOCIAL SCIENTIST I would be pretty jealous here !!!!
I raised the above points because U, ''pure scientist'' whether, Mathmatician,Physicist and/or a Chemist (Chemistry), only create,construct and invent!!!
The Succesful application and embrace of pure scientist works is our job,Social Scientist, in using ur models to solve societal problems!!!
I have interacted with a lot of pure scientist and I discovered that they can never make Good Ruler Nor Leader unless they take a course in Social Science which shall broaden their knowledge on the application of their models in maintaining balance in the Inter-relationship between HumanBeings and the succesful provision of solutions to societal problems!!!
U pure scientist only see the world and whatsoever therein from one single perspective using Norms in atom and molecules ,gravitation,force blah,blah in adjudging social issue ...... Where humanBeing Change dynamically every second!!!
It is in pure science that ''matter'' will dey Up and Na Up ihm must always dey cuz a law guiding it states so and, so shall it be but we in social science believes a ''Matter'' fit dey Up,Ceteris paribus(all things being equal), the matter soul fit dey ground at the same time ....... Na so we go attack am for Up, defend am for ground !!!
Therefore,We social scientist are the true ruler of the vast blue planet while pure scientist are our tools to justify the ends
As for ''ART'' it is a weaker means of providing solution to global problems!!!
|Re: Francisca Okeke, An Exciting Nigerian Female Professor Of Physics by Abiyamo: 11:29am On Aug 18, 2013|
Hahaha...lol! Don the Donroxy! I meant all scientists in general ....the matter soul fit dey ground at the same time ....... Na so we go attack am for Up, defend am for ground, you killed me with laff there
donroxy: Hmmmm, I appreciate women with splendid and enigmatic track record also combining such with the challenging responsibility of marital life ...... I say Kudos to Prof. Okeke !!!
|Re: Francisca Okeke, An Exciting Nigerian Female Professor Of Physics by Nobody: 11:38am On Aug 18, 2013|
Abiyamọ: Hahaha...lol! Don the Donroxy! I meant all scientists in general ....the matter soul fit dey ground at the same time ....... Na so we go attack am for Up, defend am for ground, you killed me with laff thereAhahaha Na so e be jare ...... Na now e finish for my belle!!
Thanks and looking forward to the next piece !!!
|Re: Francisca Okeke, An Exciting Nigerian Female Professor Of Physics by MMotimo: 4:12am On Aug 19, 2013|
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