An PhD fellowship alumna launches an OWSD National Chapter in her home country
I really want to do something for my country. Being part of the Sudan national chapter has given me that chance.
I come from Sudan. The situation for women scientists in Sudan is interesting. In the science faculty more than 60% of the students are women. But the problem is at the leadership level. There are very few women lecturers, and hardly any assistant professors.
After I graduated I spent two years just sending emails to professors and most replied, "If you have funds, you're welcome". I wanted to work in environmental chemistry - on the purification of waste water. I was awarded an OWSD fellowship in 2009 and I chose to study full time at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg in South Africa. My thesis was on "The development of advanced materials based on polymers, composite materials and nanomaterials for the remediation of polluted wastewater and recovery of metals from industrial wastewaters".
I spent four years at WITS, two years doing a Masters degree and two on the PhD. The first year was very hard. I came from a university where we did not have the resources to be at the same level as the other students. I had to work very, very hard and improve my skills that first year. Now I am a postdoctoral student at UNISA in South Africa.
To pursue a career in science you need top qualifications and to be exposed to the international community. That's why I wanted to help set up a National Chapter in Sudan with another OWSD Fellow, Nashwa Eassa. OWSD National Chapters can reach women at universities, we can organise seminars, we can be role models and inspire other women to become good scientists in Sudan. I'm also on the executive board of the South African National Chapter and so I have really good experience I can share with my colleagues in Sudan.
I really want to do something for my country. Being part of the National Chapter has given me that chance.
OWSD has continued to support me. In August 2013 I attended an OWSD regional Workshop in Pretoria, organised by the South African Academy of Science. There we really learnt about writing for publication, how to write grant proposals, how to organise our material. Then this year I was invited by OWSD to attend the first Gender Summit in Africa (in Cape Town in April 2015). I gave a presentation there for a Panel on Early Career Development, along with two other OWSD fellows. Then I was selected with four other OWSD fellows to attend the 2015 AAAS-TWAS course on science diplomacy in Trieste, from 8-12 June. That was really interesting - I learnt about how to influence decision makers. While I was there, GenderInSITE interviewed me for a film about Gender and Science Policy. I am really interested in GenderInSITE and would like to participate in some way - I want to learn more about how gender issues can be incorporated in research design.
From my own experience I know just how important the work OWSD is doing. I would simply say: If I wasn’t an OWSD fellowship holder, I wouldn’t have gone this far. Before I got the fellowship, I only wished to pursue postgraduate studies. Now, I know the person I want to be, I discovered my potential and what I am capable of. OWSD helped me to shape my purpose in life. The fellowship really built my confidence. Now I have many international contacts.