One of Nigeria’s notable Scientist and Professor of Physics, Francisca Okeke was featured on ‘African Voices’, CNN’s International weekly half-hour programme highlighting Africa’s most engaging personalities.
‘African Voices’ focuses on Francisca’s journey to becoming the University of Nigeria’s first female Dean of Faculty of Physical Sciences, and how her father’s effort greatly influenced her choice of career.
In the programme, Okeke recounts her childhood ordeals in the South Eastern part of Nigeria, where education for the girl child was not that important, and how the aftermath of the Biafra war and violence almost to put an end to her education.
She tells ‘African Voices’, “When I was a child, I would wonder about the changing colour of the sky and the ability of airplanes to fly in the atmosphere without falling back to earth”.
Discovering that physics could answer these questions, Okeke was motivated to become a scientist and was one of only two women in her physics undergraduate class of 30 students in 1980. She went on to become the first female Head of Physics Department at the University of Nigeria, and later, the first female Dean of the Faculty of Physical Sciences.
Some of her accomplishments include being a fellow of the Japanese Society for Promotion of Science, the Nigerian institute of Physics, Nigeria Academy of Science, Africa Academy of Science. She is a recipient of the prestigious Laurel United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)Award for Women in Science Laureates, for her discovery of certain particles in the atmosphere.
‘African Voices’ hears how Okeke has contributed greatly to the development of physics at both secondary and tertiary levels in Nigeria, and aims at increasing the number of women in physics in Nigeria and across Africa. “Physics means everything to me. There was a lecture I gave in my inaugural lecture, I concluded by telling the world that physics is life, and life is all about physics. And that is the summary of it all. If you look around us, that I am talking now, and you are hearing me, it’s just physics, application of physics,” concludes Okeke.
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