Oghenetega Ighedo, a Nigerian-born professor and mother of three children, has set a new record as the first black woman to earn a PhD in Pure Mathematics from the University of South Africa (UNISA) in its 149-year history.
“I was inspired by my mother, a retired math teacher. I saw the way she taught and when I grew older, I found her approach to math interesting and I wanted to see if I could do it like her”Prof Oghenetega Ighedo
Prof Oghenetega Ighedo’s interest in mathematics was sparked by her mother’s teaching style, which made the subject interesting to her. This inspired her to pursue a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Industrial Mathematics at Delta State University in Nigeria and then a Master of Science (MSc) in Pure Mathematics at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria.
One might think that a BSc and MSc would be enough for Prof Oghenetega Ighedo, especially since she was married, had two children, and was expecting her third child when she began her PhD at UNISA. However, it was just the beginning. What started as a childhood dream inspired by her mother led to her becoming the first black woman to earn a PhD in Pure Mathematics, breaking a 149-year-old record at the University of South Africa.
According to Teachmint, Pure Mathematics is the study of Mathematics without any applications to the real world. This simply implies that a pure mathematician studies. What this means is that pure mathematicians focusses on the subject, rather than on its applications to other fields. They interested in understanding the underlying principles and structures of mathematics. This branch of mathematics employs theoretical and abstract approaches in solving problems such as algebra, geometry, number theory, analysis, and so on.
“My decision to study pure mathematics was also motivated by the fact that not only are there few black pure mathematicians, but there are fewer black women who are pure mathematicians,” said Prof Oghenetega Ighedo.
In a post shared on LinkedIn by Women Power Africa, Professor Oghenetega Ighedo stated that her decision to study pure mathematics was also motivated by the fact that there are fewer black women who are pure mathematicians, out of a pool of very few black pure mathematicians across the world.
She encourages young women not to let adversity and challenges deter them from achieving their dreams.
“When I started my PhD, I was already married, I had two children, and was expecting my third child. Despite being a mother and a wife, I was able to complete my PhD within three years,” said Prof Oghenetega Ighedo.”
Currently, Prof Oghenetega Ighedo is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at the University of South Africa (UNISA). Her story inspires one to believe that even in the face of challenges, academic excellence can still be achieved. It may be tough, but with a never-give-up attitude, a burning desire to succeed, and a relentless effort to study, you will not only achieve success, you will also inspire others to do the same.
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