Friday, August 22, 2014

Six young women scientists at ASP 2014 to take out for lunch

By Geoffrey Okeng'o


With the third edition of the African School of Fundamental Physics 2014 coming to an end in just two days, and the over 60 brightest young African students and the distinguished invited lecturers planning to return to their home institutions, there were, in this year's school, some outstanding young women scientists who stood out and are worth taking out for lunch! Here are the best six:

  1. Esmeralda YITAMBEN
Dr Esmeralda Yitamben- Cameroon. Photo by Rotondwa Mudau.
Dr Esmeralda YITAMBEN, a Cameroonian by birth, is an outstanding young female researcher attached to the Photonic Microsystem Technologies at Sandia National Laboratories, United States Department of Energy. Before moving to the Sandia National Laboratories, the young and jovial University of Washington Physics and nanotechnology PhD graduate was, a distinguished postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Nanoscale materials at Argonne in the United States, during which time she served as the treasurer of the African American Black Club and participated actively in mentoring programs aimed at supporting young college and high school girls to pursue science. The humble, bubbly and happy-faced young researcher- the face of nanotechnology at the ASP 2014- captivated the ASP participants by her insightful lectures on nanotechnology. According to her, nanotechnology- the science and engineering involved in the design, synthesis, characterization and application of materials and devices with dimensions of about 1-100 nanometers (1 nanometer= 1 billionth of a meter or 1/1000000000 meters), is one of the most important, and exciting leading fields in physics, chemistry, biology and engineering that offer much promise in future technological advances and breakthroughs in a wide range of applications. She is the first person you should ensure to take out for lunch.
  1. Julia GRAY

Dr Julia Gray- U

The passionate and friendly strong-voiced postdoctoral researcher at the University of Kansas in the United States; a Stony Brook University 2012 PhD graduate, a former nominee of the AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science in 2013, and a CERN Advisory Panel member for UNESCOSOC Youth Forum (, comes second in this list. Dr Julia Gray's organizing skills were quite evident, being a key brain behind the success of ASP 2014 , having played a similar role to make ASP 2012 at Kumasi, Ghana a success. Interested in travelling, wine testing, yoga, running, hiking and music, and with a passion to learn new cultures from different perspectives, Dr Gray is definitely the kind of person you would consider going out for lunch with to learn more about the driving force behind her motivation.

Ms Amel Alihassan- Sudan. Photo by Rotondwa Mudau.
Hailing from Sudan and a former AIMS-Senegal graduate, meeting Ms Amel for the first time radiates a contagious air of ease and elegance complete with a genuine smile and a firm voice. This young Sudanese beauty makes it to this list due to her outgoing nature and remarkable confidence as evidenced by her many prodding questions to the ASP 2014 lecturers. This she did with razor sharp determination-without minding about her residual 'arabic' accent given that English is not her first language. She holds a teaching assistant post in physics at the Nile College in Sudan and attributes this to motivation from one of her professors at home who encouraged her from a tender age. She is the author of a poster paper titled “Entanglement” at the ASP 2014 (look out for her poster!). Her MSc work involves investigating violation of the “Bell's inequality” (John Bell 1964)- existence of two systems whose knowledge of one provides a complete description of other. She argues that such a system would violate special relativity and hence the theory of quantum mechanics. Being young, bright, outgoing, determined and with a keen interest to pursue a PhD in any of the modern field of physics, Amel is definitely a young woman you would strongly consider to go out for lunch with.

4. Suzan BVUMBI
Dr Suzan Bvumbi- South Africa
Dr Suzan Bvumbi, a young female physicist lecturing at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa is not your typical shy kind of person. The first thing to notice when you first meet her is her charming nature and commanding voice, complete with an admirable confidence in explaining things. A determined and motivated young scientist, Suzan's charisma was quite evident during her 20 minutes presentation at the ASP 2014. Her extensive knowledge and excellence in the male-dominated discipline of nuclear particle physics, complemented by her passion to nurture and train future african scientists makes her a very ideal person to go out for lunch with. Be quick, get an appointment!

Ms Faten Chaabane- Tunisia
Ms Faten Chaabane may have been probably hard to notice by some (I'm not sure how many of you took note of her) in the ASP 2014. The 21 year old second-year undergraduate physics student from the University of Tunis El Manar, was one of the youngest participants at the ASP 2014 and thanks to Dr Ketevi and the organizers for giving her an opportunity to participate! Its not her contagious smile and soft voice or likeable nature that makes her get it into this list, but her enthusiasm with physics that saw her prepare a poster in a subject she's yet even to learn in college-Quantum Mechanics. She deserves an applause! Her poster on investigating the foundations of Quantum Mechanics-is in my opinion- a remarkable job for a second-year undergraduate student. Although she missed out from the best three posters compiled by the judges, taking her out for lunch will definitely tell you more about her enthusiasm with physics and her big dreams for the future.

6. Gloria SARKI
Ms Gloria Sarki- Nigeria. Photo by Rotondwa Mudau.
The Nigerian-born beauty who in this year's ASP won the best poster award- among the top three- is by no means your ordinary lady. Her winning poster titled “Investigating along-track decomposition methods in Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI)-based Tractography” was an excellent piece of work that deserved the recognition. The smart, jovial and happy-faced former AIMS-SENEGAL graduate of the 2013 class, in her MSc work investigated two novel techniques of decomposing information transmitters in the human brain-called neurons- in order to study their connection properties, and thus help diagnosis damages to the brain resulting from accidents and aging- for example. To learn more about her interesting research that falls in the area of medical physics, arrange to hook up with her and go for lunch.

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