In honour of Black History Month we will be recognising notable contributions to the STEMs from people of African origin. Today we recognise Prof. Francisca Nneka Okeke.
Born in Nigeria, Prof. Okeke is a Professor of Physics most notable for her work into geomagnetism and the equatorial electrojet phenomena. Despite the challenges associated with been a woman in the field of Physics she received great encouragement and mentor-ship from her father who was a mathematics graduate from the University of Nigeria and an educationalist. Following her appointment to the University, Prof. Okeke rose through the ranks to become the first female Physics Professor and first female Dean in the faculty of Physical Sciences at the University of Nigeria. During her tenure she advocated for further inclusion of women in the department which led to the employment of three new female faculty members and her subsequent succession by a female.
Prof. Okeke has her research focussed on the ionosphere and the equatorial electrojet phenomenon, a river of electrical current which can cause variations in the earth’s magnetic field. She has authored multiple textbooks, published in international journals and her work could lead to better understanding of climate change as well as help pin point tsunamis and earthquakes. Her work has also received praise for discovering an alternative means of determining the upper mantle conductivity in West Africa.
Prof. Okeke is a member of the Africa Astronomical Society, was a visiting research fellow to University of Natal and won an international fellowship award to the University of Tokyo. Most noteworthy is her receipt of the L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science Award (2013). She contributes to the development of physics at both secondary and tertiary levels in Nigeria and continues to supervise MSc and PhD students at her institution.