Marian Asantewah Nkansah, a faculty member at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana, devotes her research to the determination of the levels, trends and contaminant occurrences in water, soil, air and food. She also teaches general, analytical and nuclear chemistry.
This lady wears many hats and is executive director and co-founder of the Gaudete Insititute, a non-profit organisation in Ghana, of which the main is to bring joy to the lives of the underprivileged and distressed in society.
Having won a Young Scientist Poster Award at CHEMRAWN XII at the Stellenbosch University in South Africa, Nkansah completed her doctoral studies in Norway. While there, she volunteered at and supported Redd Barna, an organisation whose work aims to secure children’s rights.
Marian is passionate about the arts, music, education, environment, science and technology. However, her wide range of interests does not end her but also includes teaching critical thinking, teaching, public speaking and writing.
“Scientific research, in Africa, is still in its early stages, but has great potential”
What makes Marian’s journey even more interesting is that she was literally raised on science with both parents being teachers. From the district school compound, to the woods behind it, everything piqued her interest and picking up snatches of scientific language before the age of five, set the stage for her future.
At primary school level, her inquisitiveness and hunger for scientific information, led her to present her school in a district science quiz. The exposure to science from such a young age, made her career choice obvious.
Marian, always a high achiever, was the first of her high school group to gain a PhD, the first woman PhD holder to teach in the Department of Chemistry at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and the first female chemist to be inducted as a member of the Ghana Young Academy.
She was also among the first affiliates of the African Academy of Sciences and the first recipient of the FM Al-Kharafi Prize of The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) for Women in Science.
During one of her many invitations to speak on radio and television, Nkansah said that one of her favourite projects had been a study on the impact of classroom dust on the health of school children, the first of its kind to be undertaken in Ghana where many rural schools are situated.
Marian also proved how seemingly harmless materials could cause heavy and deadly metal exposure. Aware of the common cravings of many African women for spice, she undertook a study on heavy metals in spices and white clay.
On the global stage, she said the fact that her research had such a positive impact was one of her major motivations and takes her to the laboratory daily.
As many other female scientists in STEM, Marian also found that she was often thought of as the secretary instead of a stakeholder in scientific organisations. He lack of government funding did not deter her and in order to obtain the basic laboratory instruments, she was forced to apply for international grants. Collaborating with these global partners, has contributed to her research output.
Enlightening the superstitious African communities on the benefits of science became as natural to her as her daily lab work. And yes, just as many other young and upcoming female scientists who majorly contribute to the health of the planet and its residents, Marian had to juggle the responsibilities of her professional life with the expectations of family and her community.
Mary Nkansah, her mother and a retired educationist in Ghana, raised her daughter to never feel inadequate as a woman and today, Marian empowers young girls to stay focused, tap into their inner strength and never to let their gender discourage them to overcome challenges. It certainly worked for this talented and highly-acclaimed woman.