Q&A with Angela Tabiri: Why female scientists should apply to AIMS

Angela Tabiri is an AIMS-Google AI Postdoctoral Fellow at AIMS-Ghana. Between September to December 2019, she taught courses in Linear Algebra in the Taught Masters program and Mathematics for Machine Learning in the AMMI program. Her research interests include noncommutative algebra, quantum groups and quantum homogeneous spaces. (Check Angela’s full biography here).

AIMS: What did you love most about AIMS?
Angela: I love the 24 hour learning environment experience, the world class lecturers and the collaborative learning environment.

AIMS: What are you’re currently doing after AIMS and how did AIMS help you get there?
Angela: I am currently a postdoc at AIMS-GHANA. AIMS gave me a good background in mathematics in order for me to enroll in a PhD in Mathematics program at University of Glasgow. As a postdoc at AIMS-GHANA, l teach in the Taught Masters and Machine Intelligence programs. I also do research in quantum groups. I do science communication and outreach programs to promote women in STEM. 

AIMS: What are some of the application tips that you may give to the current, especially female applicants?
Angela: Be yourself, everyone’s story is unique. Highlight on your strengths and state why studying at AIMS will make a difference in your life. I loved mathematics and wanted to be a researcher in mathematics so I made this clear when applying to AIMS. As a female, state why it makes a difference that you study at AIMS. This might make you the first female with a PhD in mathematics from your university or country. This is definitely trailblazing.

Angela was one of our speakers for the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. (Click to see image in full size)

AIMS: Why should young female scientists apply to be part of AIMS? What are the possible benefits for them?
Angela: For a long time, females have faced challenges in gaining access to education so you might have grown up not seeing female mentors. The story is different now, opportunities are open to all. You can become a scientist and be a trailblazer in your field.

AIMS: What are some of the key features at AIMS that nurture the education of women at AIMS?
Angela:
 At AIMS, the facilities support women even if you are a mother or get pregnant during your studies. AIMS supports you to gain the best out of your studies. Also, 30% of students are females which means you have other women to lean on. One of the values of AIMS is respect. At AIMS, all students are respected and given equal opportunities. There are AIMS Women In STEM meetings for female students where we meet to discuss the challenges we face and support each other. 

AIMS: Why do you think it is important to have more women in scientific fields?
Angela:
 It is important for young girls to see female mentors in science fields. We as women make contributions to research just like male scientists. Gender does not determine your ability to do science. The more we are, the better we support each other.

AIMS: According to you, what are some of the biggest fears that can discourage women to study science and how they can fight this fear?
Angela:
 The challenge of not seeing female mentors who inspire us and fitting in the box of society. Society expects you to do the conventional female courses. You can overcome this by believing in your dreams and finding people who believe in you to support the dream. Find great mentors who will recommend you on your journey to realign your dream. Take advantage of opportunities that come your way. Be the best you can in what you do.

AIMS: What is the relationship between female biological responsibilities/ changes and their stay in the scientific fields? How can female scientists strike a balance?
Angela:
 In an African society, women are expected to do household chores and take care of babies. This makes it difficult for women to become scientists since we are made to choose one. We can strike a balance by finding supportive partners who will support us at home. If society accepts that it is “ok” for men to do household chores and take care of babies, most women will at ease choose a family life and a life as a scientist.

Angela gives motivational speech to AIMS Ghana students. (Click to see image in full size)

AIMS: What is the relationship between female biological responsibilities/ changes and their stay in the scientific fields? How can female scientists strike a balance?
Angela: In an African society, women are expected to do household chores and take care of babies. This makes it difficult for women to become scientists since we are made to choose one. We can strike a balance by finding supportive partners who will support us at home. If society accepts that it is “ok” for men to do household chores and take care of babies, most women will at ease choose a family life and a life as a scientist.

AIMS: How does the future of female scientists in Africa look to you?
Angela: 
With organisations like AIMS supporting women to do science, female African scientists will become leading experts in their fields of research in the next ten years. We will see more women going into science because the environment accommodates our needs as women. Young girls will see female mentors and aspire to great careers in STEM. We will see the first female African go to space and having a historic space walk. This will be a reality in the next few years. This will also mean that young girls will see successful scientists who have time for their families. You can be a female scientist and have a family if your partner is supportive.

AIMS: This chat is dedicated to interest young female scientists to join and grow in the science field by applying for AIMS programs. Angela, what word of advice would you give to the younger version of yourself?
Angela: 
Have big dreams, dreams that go beyond your immediate surroundings. Find mentors who inspire you. You will need them to realize your dreams. Then take action to make the dreams realities. Be a trailblazer who will inspire generations. Be resolute and seek help when you encounter challenges. Do not suffer in silence. You might be the first African astronaut to do a space walk. We await you to celebrate your trailblazing achievements. We believe the next Einsteins will be from Africa.