In celebration of Youth Month 2020, we focus on young women scientists and researchers who are making waves and changing the world through science. They have used their talent to deal with many obstacles including asserting themselves in a male dominated space fraught with societal stereotypes. Our second science boffin is Dr Abimbola Helen Afolayan, a lecturer in the Department of Information Systems at Federal University of Technology, in Akure in Nigeria.
Dr Abimbola Helen Afolayan knew at a tender age that she wanted to become a scientist and use her skills to contribute towards efforts to find a lasting solution to the myriad of challenges that face the African continent. She was born in Ondo State, western Nigeria and her zeal to achieve greatness in the science field is beyond question. Dr Afolayan is armed with impeccable qualifications in the computer science field, with a Ph.D. in Computer Science (2019) M.TECH. in Computer Science (2012) and a B.TECH. in Computer Science (2006).
Her current research interests include High Performance Computing, Information Systems specifically on Decision Support Systems, Artificial Intelligence, Data Management, Management Information Systems, Information Technology Entrepreneurship and Management, Soft Computing, Machine Learning and Gender issues in Science and Information Technology.
Dr Afolayan says there should be deliberate increase in investment in women scientists. To put currency to her words she is involved in several platforms that mentor and encourage girls in research in mathematics and computer science. A recent article published by Scidev.net on her notes, that coming from a poor family background, it took a serious resolve and her father’s unflinching support to achieve what she has done academically.
“At one time my father had to sell our black and white television set to pay my fees. That is how serious things could sometimes turn to in my academic journey,” she says. “I did not like my early childhood, and that has been one of the unrelenting factors propelling my budding science career. I want to improve my lot and that of other women. When I was doing my master’s in computer science, there were many inadequacies such as the lack of enough computers for academic work. I hardly touched a computer during my high school days.”
Among her achievements, Dr Afolayan has developed a system that helps policymakers evaluate and award contractual bids. “This is a huge problem in Nigeria where contracts for the development of public utilities such as roads constructions are still largely done manually and mired with biases and underhand deals,” she says. Dr Afolayan notes that one of the barriers confronting young female scientists is gender disparity. She says the environment makes most women disinclined when it comes to science disciplines. She tells SciDev.Net her main motivation for studying science: “I want to be a key player in developing science-based solutions that will improve lives and generate inclusive economic growth for the benefit of the continent.”