International Day of Women and Girls in Science: 16 Prominent Nigerian Women That Have Inspired Young Ones

In a male-dominated space there are unique women who, despite all odds against them, have made excellent achievements just as their male counterparts in various fields of the Sciences. Some of these female scientists are;

1) Professor Grace Alele-Williams

Professor Alele-Williams is a first at different levels of achievements. She is the first Nigerian female to earn a Ph.D. in Mathematics, the first female Professor of Mathematics, and the first female Vice Chancellor of a university in Nigeria.

Professor Alele-Williams received her university education at the University of Ibadan, the University of Vermont and University of Chicago, respectively.

Finding herself in the “space age”, which symbolized the era of stiff competition between the two major powers (the United States and the Soviet Union) over scientific discoveries, Alele-Williams increasingly developed interest in Mathematics in the US.

Professor Alele-Williams’ interest was further buoyed by her stint at the African Mathematics Program in Newton, Massachusetts, under the mentorship of MIT Professor Ted Martins.

Besides being a former Vice Chancellor, Alele-Williams has held different leadership positions in the development of Science education at local and international levels.

She was Chairman, Curriculum Review Committee in 1973 and a member of the Governing Council of UNESCO Institute of Education.

She held the position of Vice President of the World Organisation for Early Childhood Education and a Regional Vice President for Africa of the Third World Organization for Women in Science.

Alele-Williams received the National Honor of the Order of the Niger in 1987 and was a member of the Vision 2010 Committee.

2) Francisca Nneka Okeke

Professor Nneka Okeke is by all standards a distinguished scientist who has made tremendous contributions to her field – Physics.

Professor Okeke gained international prominence after winning the highly respected L’Oreal-UNESCO Women in Science Award worth USD 100, 000 in 2013. The award was in recognition of her notable contributions to the understanding of daily variations of the Ion currents in the upper atmosphere.


Presently a Professor at the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), Okeke was the first female Head of the Department and a former Dean of the Faculty of Physical Sciences in her university.

Born in an environment where female education was discouraged, Okeke was motivated to study Physics by her father, a Mathematician, whom she saw as a mentor.

As a young girl, she was very inquisitive and asked intelligent questions about nature and objects around her. She was particularly interested in knowing the wonder behind airplanes and how they fly without falling on the earth.

Professor Okeke is exceedingly passionate about the education and empowerment of women particularly in the Sciences. As HOD and Dean at UNN, she was instrumental to the employment of more women in the faculty.

From her mentorship of young women, one of her Ph.D. products was a recipient of the AU-TWAS young scientist Award in 2010. Professor Okeke has successfully supervised 12 Ph.D. and about 28 MSc students.

3) Deborah Ajakaiye

Deborah Ajaikaye

Professor Deborah Enilo Ajakaiye is Africa’s first woman to be appointed a Professor of Physics in 1980.

Ajakaiye completed her Ph.D. in Geophysics at the Ahmadu Bello University (A.B.U.), and her Master and Bachelor’s degrees at the University of Birmingham and University of Ibadan, respectively.

She lectured at Ahmadu Bello University and later the University of Jos where she rose to the position of Dean in the Faculty of Natural Sciences.Deborah Ajakaiye

Her contributions to the field of Geophysics through her works on ‘Geovisualization’ has been significant in Nigeria’s location of its abundant mineral resources.

Professor Ajakaiye has been recognized at local and international forums. She was awarded by the Nigerian Mining and GeoSciences Society. She was also the first black African to be named a Fellow of the Geological Society of London.

Professor Ajakaiye was one of the 50 Women of Distinction awarded by the First Lady, Dame Patience Goodluck Jonathan in 2010, in celebration of Nigeria’s 50th independence anniversary.

Ajakaiye is currently working with the NNPC on its drive for alternative crude oil reserves with the exploration of the inland sedimentary basins in other parts of Nigeria.

4) Olabisi Ugbebor

Professor Olabisi Ugbebor is dubbed the “Queen of Mathematics” for her outstanding record in Mathematics.

Professor Ugbebor studied at Queen’s College, Lagos on G.B. Ollivant Scholarship for her West African School Certificate Course (WASC), and because of her brilliant academic performance the scholarship was specially extended for her to cover the Cambridge Higher School Certificate Course also at Queen’s College, Lagos.

Following her brilliant performance at the Higher School Certificate Course, the Federal Government of Nigeria awarded her a scholarship to study Mathematics at the University of Ibadan from 1969-1972, where she was the only female in a class of seven Mathematics majors.

She graduated from the University of Ibadan in 1972 with a Second Class Upper Honours degree in Mathematics. Again, on account of her outstanding academic brilliance, she was given a scholarship by the University of Ibadan to undertake Postgraduate studies at the University of London.

She was awarded the Postgraduate Diploma in Statistics at the University College London in 1973 from the first university statistics department in the world. She then embarked on her Ph.D. degree course in Mathematics in 1973 at the University of London, which she completed in 1976 at the age of 25.

After obtaining her Ph.D. degree in 1976, Professor Ugbebor returned to the University of Ibadan and joined the Department of Mathematics, where she rose to become a Professor, thus making history as the first woman to attain that position in the department at the University of Ibadan. At different occasions, she also served as the Acting Head, Department of Mathematics.

In 2014, Professor Ugbebor was elected the first President of Nigerian Women in Mathematics at the Inaugural Meeting of the Nigerian Women in Mathematics.

Some of her products have recorded outstanding achievements in the discipline of Mathematics. These include Professor Steven Onah, the Head of National Mathematical Center and Professor Ayoola, a former Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academics) at the University of Ibadan.

5) Ayoka Olufunmilayo Adebambo

Ayoka Adebambo

Professor Ayoka Olufunmilayo Adebambo is a renowned Animal Scientist at the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta (FUNAAB).

She is presently the Director, Biotechnology Centre, and Project Leader, FUNAAB Poultry Breeds Development at FUNAAB.

Professor Adebambo made history as the first graduate of Animal Breeding at the University of Ibadan, and the first female Professor of Animal Breeding and Genetics in Nigeria. She was also the first Head of Department, Animal Breeding and Genetics at FUNAAB.

She has served as Dean, College of Animal Science and Livestock Production, FUNAAB and a member of the Governing Council of the same university.

Professor Adebambo was the only woman that contested for the position of Vice Chancellor at FUNAAB in 2007.

She spent 16 years at the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, where she researched on the improvement of indigenous pig breeds for commercialisation.

She was a Visiting Scholar at the Roslin Institute, Scotland and Visiting Professor at Poultry Breeding Research Institute, Hessaraghata, India and Ohio State University, USA.

Professor Adebambo established the FUNAAB Alpha Poultry Breeds Production project to drive her interest in the empowerment of women and youth.

She also assists local farmers in the areas of pig farming through capacity building and training workshops.

Some of her awards include the British Council Award, the Commonwealth Fellowship, Royal Society of England’s Third World Fellowship, World Bank Research Award, Indian Technical Cooperation/SCAAP Fellowship, National Universities Commission Outstanding Research Awards and many others.

6) Adenike Osofisan

Professor Adenike Oyinlola Osofisan is the first Nigerian female to hold a doctorate in Computer Science, and the first female Professor of Computer Science in Africa.

In addition to her specialization in Computer Science, Osofisan also excelled in Business Administration as she received the best result in the 1993 MBA class of the University of Ibadan.

As Head of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Ibadan, Osofisan began post-graduate programs in the department and her tenure has recorded more staff with Ph.D. degrees.

Professor Osofisan

Osofisan made history as the first woman to serve as President and Chairman of the Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria between 2005 and 2009. Professor Osofisan was also the Pioneer President, Nigeria Women in Information Technology (IT).

She is married to a renowned professor of theater and literature, Professor Femi Osofisan, and blessed with four children.

7) Folasade Ogunsola

Professor Folasade Ogunsola is a renowned Medical Scientist with specialization in the treatment and control of HIV/AIDS.

She is the Principal Investigator of the AIDS Prevention Initiative in Nigeria (APIN) (a PEPFAR grant) at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos and Site Principal Investigator of the Medical Education Partnership Initiative in Nigeria (MEPIN).

Between 2004 and 2007, Professor Ogunsola was the Principal Investigator for the clinical trial of the HIV microbicide 6% Cellulose Sulphate in Lagos.

Professor Ogunsola obtained a Masters in Medical Microbiology from the College of Medicine, the University of Lagos followed by a Ph.D. in Medical Microbiology from the College of Medicine, University of Wales, Cardiff.

As the current Provost at the College of Medicine at the University of Lagos, Professor Ogunshola is reckoned as the first woman to hold such position.

Professor Ogunsola’s research activities are instrumental in setting up infection control programs in many institutions in Nigeria, and she was the Chair of the Infection Control Committee of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital until December 2012.

She was the Chairman of the National Tuberculosis Laboratory Working Group and is a member of the Management board of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, National Hospital Igbobi and the National Psychiatrist Hospital Yaba.

Professor Ogunsola received the Medical Women’s Association of Nigeria Distinction in Medicine Award in 2013 and the Distinguished Alumni Lecturer at the 7th Prof. T. Adesanya Ige Grillo Memorial Lecture of the Obafemi Awolowo University in 2014.

She is a member of the WHO Technical Working Group on Infection Prevention and Control, a member of the WHO AFRO Regional Rapid Response Group of Experts for Epidemics and member of the Global Infection Prevention and Control Network. She is the current Chairman of the National Association of Colleges of Medicine.

8) Chinedum Peace Babalola

Professor Chinedum Peace Babalola is the first female Professor of Pharmacy at the University of Ibadan. She is also the first female Pharmacist in Nigeria to be inducted as Fellow of Academy of Science (FAS).

Babalola obtained all her degrees at the Obafemi Awolowo University (O.A.U.), with specialization in Pharmacokinetic Option in her doctorate.

Professor Babalola is notable for her research that produced a novel High-performance liquid chromatography Method for the analysis of quinine in biometrics. This outstanding research led to the elucidation of the pharmacokinetics of quinine in Africans and formed the basis of dose optimization in malaria patents.

Professor Babalola is one of the scientists that produced the first pharmacogenetic study in healthy and sickle cell patients in Nigerians.

Currently, the Dean of Faculty of Pharmacy University of Ibadan and Adjunct Professor in Genetic & Bioethics unit, IMRAT, College of Medicine University of Ibadan, Babalola is a Fellow of the African Academy of Sciences and the Nigerian Academy of Science.

Professor Babalola’s research earned her selection alongside Dr. Adeboye Adejare of the University of the Sciences in Pennsylvania for research on the interaction between compounds and small endogenous compounds as targets for drug action.

9) Olubola Babalola

Professor Olubola Babalola is the first female Professor of Quantity Surveying in Africa. She studied Quantity Surveying at the Obafemi Awolowo University, where she was not only the female student in her set but also the best graduating student.

With specialization in General Procurement Advice, Contract Documentation, Contract Administration, Construction Management, Construction Economics and Research Development for Building, Mechanical, and Electrical Engineering Services, Professor Olubola completed her Ph.D. in Quantity Surveying and made history as the first woman to obtain such degree in West Africa.

Professor Olubola was appointed the Acting Head of Department of Quantity Surveying, Obafemi Awolowo University in 2007, which made her the first female to hold that post. She was also a two-term Vice Dean of the Faculty of Environmental Design and Management at the same university.

Professor Olubola is a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (NIQS), and a registered member of the Quantity Surveyors Registration Board of Nigeria (QSRBN). She is the Chairperson of the Women Association of Quantity Surveyors of Nigeria (WAQSN) and many other professional bodies related to her field.

Professor Olubola received an award of Excellence for Development of Quantity Surveying Training in Nigerian Higher Institution by the Women Association of Quantity Surveyors of Nigeria (WAQSN) in 2008. She also received an Outstanding Achievement Award by Great Ife Alumni Association in 2010.

Professor Olubola won the Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Fellowship for Female Academic Staff on Ph.D. program in 2005. She is the pioneer Patroness of the National Association of Quantity Surveying Students, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife Chapter and College of Technology, Esa-Oke Chapter.

Professor Olubola is a member of the Accreditation Team of the National Universities Commission (NUC) National Board of Technical Education (NBTE), Quantity Surveyors Registration of Nigeria (QSRBN) and the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (NIQS).

She is the current Editor of The Quantity Surveyor, Journal of The Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors and a member of the editorial board, International Journal of Project Planning and Finance (based in Ghana) and the Journal of Construction Business and Management (located in South Africa).

10) Rabia Sa’id

Dr. Rabia Salihu Sa’id is a great inspiration for the female scientists of the younger generation. Although she completed her Ph.D. in Physics in 2013, her contributions have speedily given her local and international recognitions as a foremost scientist.

Dr. Sa’id was one of the winners of the Elsevier Foundation Awards for Early Career Women Scientists in the Developing World in 2015. She was featured in Nature (The International Weekly Journal of Science) and in the BBC Radio Program: Discovery Science. She was also listed on the BBC 100 inspirational women of 2015.

Currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics at the Bayero University in Kano (BUK), she was appointed Deputy Dean (female) at the Student Affairs between 2012 and mid-2016.

Dr. Sa’id obtained her P.hD in Physics from Bayero University, Kano. She holds an M.Sc. and B.Sc. in Physics from the same university. She also holds an M.Sc. in Environment and Development from the University of Reading in the United Kingdom; a study she undertook with a fellowship from the Ford Foundation in 2002.

Dr. Rabia Salihu Sa’id spent four months in 2010 at the Institute of Applied Physics, University of Bern, Switzerland as a visiting research scientist, working with the renowned scientist in terrestrial and atmospheric remote sensing, Prof (Dr.) C. Matzler.

She is a volunteer for several non-governmental organizations including the Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund. She mentors girls and boys in the STEM field for which she volunteers the Visiola Foundation and the Peace Corps Nigeria Alumni Foundation (PCNAF/ICEADA) Young Women Mentors Programme.

Dr. Rabia Salihu Sa’id is a trained facilitator for the British Council Active Citizens’ Programme; run by the British Council with civil society organizations and universities all over the world to empower youths to engage peacefully and more efficiently with others for sustainable development of their communities.

11) Lucy Jumeyi Ogbadu

Ph.D Lucy Ogbadu, Ph.D , a professor of microbiology, enrolled for a bachelor of science in microbiology at the Ahmadu Bello University(ABU), Zaria, before bagging a doctorate degree in industrial fermentation in 1988. In recognition of her contribution to scientific advancement, Professor Ogbadu has received several awards. She secured a UNESCO fellowship in 1980 for a training programme in Tripoli-Libya in food microbiology and, again, in 1983 for a training programme in b io – technology in Jenna/Leipzig, Germany. In 2004, she participated in the United Nations University MERIT Innovation programme at Maastricht Netherlands and facilitated the hosting for the first time of such programme outside Maastricht by Nigeria.


12) Prof. Sylvia Uzochukwu

Sylvia Uzochukwu is a professor of Food Science and Technology at Federal University, Oye-Ekiti. She got her B.Sc in Biology and Ph.D Food and Science Technology at the prestigious University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN). Currently lecturing at the Federal University Oye_Ekiti, Prof. Uzochukwu is dedicated to encouraging University faculty and scientists in sub-Saharan Africa in the use of the tools of modern biotechnology, so that they and their students can help tackle the problems of poverty, hunger and diseases plaguing the region, using this technology, in a safe and responsible manner. Her love for food science and technology has seen her lecturing at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, where she taught food biochemistry, food microbiology, food biotechnology, food microbiology, food fermentation technology, fats and oil technology, malting and brewing technology to undergraduate and post-graduate students and supervised research projects at both levels. Apart from her lecturing job she has developed winning proposal to source grants to set up a well-equipped and functional molecular biology laboratory. Organized 14 molecular biology workshops for training and re-training of university lecturers, scientists, and post graduate students in Nigeria and West African Sub-region between 2000 and 2009, and has also organised National conference of Biotechnology Society of Nigeria, 2008. ???

13) Eucharia Oluchi Nwaichi, Ph.D

An environmental biochemist, soil scientist and toxicologist, Eucharia Oluchi Nwaichi, Ph.D , is one of Nigeria’s shining lights in the sciences, as far as research and awareness are concerned. The astute scientist whose work focuses on waste management, pollution prevention and phytoremediation – the treatment of environmental problems (bioremediation) through the use of local plants that mitigate the environmental problem without the need to excavate the contaminant material and dispose of it elsewhere, is an expert in elimination of toxic heavy metal such as cadmium, copper, mercury, lead and arsenic from contaminated soil. Nwaichi, a former employee of Shell Oil Company between 2009 and 2010, Dangote (2003-2004) and Coca Cola (2004-2008), before joined the University of Port Harcourt as a senior lecturer, before she worked her way up to bag a doctorate in biochemistry from the same university. Thanks to her doggedness and her unending desire to contribute to humanity and science through her research, Nwaichi was made an international fellow at the 2013 L’Oréal-UNESCO Awards.Eucharia Oluchi-Nwaichi

14) Rosemary Nkemdilim Ogu, Ph.D

Rosemary Ogu, Ph.D , MBBS, FWACS, FMCOG, FICS, is a consultant obstetrician/ gynaecologist and senior lecturer at the University of Port Harcourt, Port Harcourt, Rivers State. One thing that has marked Ogu out is her doggedness as a career scientist and her ability to fit into her environment and go about her work with as much commitment as she faces her tasks as a mother. Ogu, a distinguished scientist and a fellow of many organisations across the world, has carved a niche for herself in the field of gynaecology and, to boot, she is a fellow of both the West African College of Surgeons and the National Post-graduate Medical College of Nigeria. She has special research interest in the areas of non-communicable diseases, sexual/reproductive health, and feto-maternal medicine. Ogu is the secretary of the WHARC World Health Organisation/Federal Ministry of Health Maternal Newborn Child Health Study Team for the Reduction of Maternal & peri-natal mortality in Nigeria. Also, she is one of the PI of the GDM control programme funded by the World Diabetes Foundation (WDF16-1347) in the Niger Delta. As president of the Medical Women’s Association of Nigeria (MWAN), Rivers State, Ogu has been coordinating MWAN activities on cancer screening and health promotion.

15) Folasade Olajuyigbe, Ph.D

In world dominated by men, one of Nigeria’s bright lights and a globally renown scientist, Folasade Olajuyigbe, Ph.D, who is also a senior lecturer in the Department of Biochemistry, Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), reached a new high when she was announced the winner of the 2017 Fulbright African Research Scholar Programme (ARSP), award for advanced research in the United States for the 2017/2018 academic session. Following her award, the FUTA don is now affiliated with Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. The Fulbright African Research Scholar Programme (ARSP) offers senior faculty members from top African universities the opportunity to conduct independent research at U.S. institutions. Folsade OlajuyigbeShe was picked from a pool of 700-strong candidates who initially applied for the fellowship from Nigeria. Of these, 16 were shortlisted for the interview, from where five finalists were picked. Olajuyigbe, whose research into enzyme biotechnology and environmental health has won her recognition, will focus on this area during her stint in one of the most prestigious international exchange programmes in the world. Fulbright Scholars (Senior Research Program category) are highly motivated academics with strong academic background, professional achievements, high leadership potential, passion for increasing mutual understanding among nations and cultures and serious commitment to completing the programme and returning home. Fulbright Scholars serve as cultural ambassadors and are prepared to speak about their countries, cultures and research to academic and community groups. Olajuyigbe is all these and more and, what’s even more interesting is that she keep s going strong in the field, both home and abroad.

16) Stella Ifeanyi Smith, Ph.D

A consummate professional and dyed-in-the-wool microbiologist, Stella Ifeanyi Smith, Ph.D , has made and is still making a name for herself across the globe as one woman who knows her onions and cuts it right. Smith, who holds a doctorate degree in Medical Microbiology from the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, has marked herself out as an exemplary scientist and academic. She is not just a renowned researcher, she also inspires her students and guides them in their projects (whether doctorate, masters or undergraduate degree levels). By her action, she has raised a number of scientists who are willing t go the extra mile to contribute their knowledge and time to the development of what man knows today, especially, as concerns Nigeria. She has been the recipient of grants from the EEC, Alexander von Homboldt , INSERM, TWAS and, currently, the IFS and IECGB grants. Smith, who understands three languages (English, German and French) has written many books on the molecular epidemiology of infectious diseases, conducted researches (through global collaborations) on same and carried out a number of projects on these areas of interests. Nine of her books have won awards between 2002 and 2012. In 2001, Smith was listed among the ‘Who is Who in the World’. She is a member of the African Microbicide Advocacy Group (AMAG), Third World Academy of Science (TWAS), Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD), World Academy of Young Scientists (WAYS), List of Productive Scientists on the ISI Web of Science (2007), amongst others. Also, Smith is a Fellow of the African Scientific Institute (ASI, 2013).


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