Covenant University Hosts 2nd National Conference of Women in Physics
The need to galvanize the interest of female students to pursue a career in physics was the thrust of discourse at the 2nd National Conference of Women in Physics (NCWIP), held at Covenant University, Ota.
The three-day conference with the theme “Enhancement and Sustainability of Female Interest in Science and Technology,” centered on establishing a network base for all women in physics in Nigeria and also to increase the visibility of female physicists.
According to the National Coordinator and Team Leader of the Working Group, Women In Physics, ‘WGWIP’, Professor Ibiyinka Fuwape, the conference will enable students and young researchers to search for female advisers, mentors and role models in their field. These would give them opportunity to exchange great ideas and establish contacts with other female physicists. The Professor of Physics and Dean School of Sciences, Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), said WGWIP was borne out of the under-representation of women in applied physics all over the world.
She noted that there have been significant changes since the inaugural conference that was held in 2012, as more female students are now having access to role models who can encourage them to make a career out of physics. Professor Fuwape, however pointed out the poor power supply and the low availability of infrastructure as huge impediments to the study of physics.
Another participant at the conference, Professor Charity Okujagu of the University of Port Harcourt acknowledged that the poor laboratory facilities in most of Nigerian Universities is a major challenge militating against the study of physics in the country. Professor Okujagu, decried the poor foundational stage in the teaching of physics at the secondary school level, but pointed that if the interest of the students can be aroused in the course, they would be willing to challenge themselves to search out materials to aid their understanding of the subject. This, she said, is what the mentoring and a peer review session of the National Working Group of WIP is seeking to accomplish.
Dr. Rabia Saeed, of the Department of Physics, Bayero University, Kano said the conference has opened her up to the national nature of the challenges of female students studying physics in Nigeria. According to her, in the northern part of the country, the subject is considered abstract as compared to medicine, communication, banking and other disciplines whose applications can be practically seen, and as such they are discouraged from pursuing a career in that direction.
She said having tried to locate a female professor of physics from the northern part of the country and found none, the platform of a conference of this nature would enable her network and see how exchanges could be established that would help her in projecting the subject in her institution. “We are trying to mentor more female students into this field of study and I have come here with two junior ones to experience and interact with senior colleagues in the field of physics,” she concluded.
The Head, Department of Physics, Covenant University and Chair Local Organizing Committee of the conference, Dr. Marvel Akinyemi, said there are many opportunities in the study of physics, but the subject has been challenged due to the phobia associated with the study of mathematics and physics related courses. Dr. Akinyemi stated that an understanding of the basic principles is the key to loving the subject. “Physics from what my teacher taught me is a working subject, not a reading subject, what that means is that when you read a little of the subject, you do the working,” she added.
The LOC Chair said WIP wants to encourage more females to take notice of the opportunities in the study of physics and engineering related disciplines. She noted that with more women having PhDs and Professorial qualifications, it is the desire of the conference to see the next generation of female physicists take the subject to a new position in Nigeria.
In her welcome address on behalf of the Vice-Chancellor, Covenant University, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Administration, Dr. Taiwo Abioye said the curriculum of Covenant University has been carefully designed to motivate and produce a most competent set of professionals in all spheres of human endeavor, with a burning desire to tackle African developmental challenges.
Dr. Abioye, said that the girl child has suffered from inferiority complex and this has resulted in the stereotype the society has foisted on them, thus programming them to play second fiddle to their male counterparts. She noted that the underrepresentation of women in science is as a result of the unfriendly socio-cultural environment in which they grow up. She encouraged the women folks not to fight, but strive to be the best in their chosen fields. Dr. Abioye advised female scientists to enhance a robust mentoring scheme to aid and churn out quality female scientists that will bring the nation to limelight.
The conference attracted female physicists from across the six geo-political zones of the country.