“Hawking at age 10 made me more determined” – Adeola Olubamiji
Adeola Deborah Olubamiji was born in Ibadan to the family of Mr. & Mrs. Isaac & Juliana Olubamiji. She attended Alafia Public Primary School and St. Gabriel’s Secondary Commercial School in Mokola, Ibadan, Nigeria. Despite her humble beginning as a child hawker, she surmounted all odds to become the senior prefect girl of her secondary school. She obtained a Bachelor of Science in Physics (with Electronics) from Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Nigeria in 2008 and a Masters of Science in Biomedical Engineering from Tampere University of Technology, Tampere, Finland in 2011. In June 2017, Adeola received her PhD in Biomedical Engineering from University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada and made history as the first black person to have received this PhD from the university. Dr. Adeola is currently the Lead Metallurgist / Material Engineer at Burloak Technologies (The Advanced Additive Manufacturing Division of Samuel Sons & Co) in Ontario, Canada.
Dr. Adeola is a consultant and the founder of 3D-Tech Centrix, Ontario, Canada: A consulting firm specializing in development of 3D-printing technology and related manufacturing solutions for use in different industries. In July 2017, Dr. Adeola was chosen and celebrated as one the top 5 of 150 black women making Canada better for her contributions in Science and Technology by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. She was also recently presented a prestigious award as the Woman of Outstanding Achievement in Education by the Nigerian-Canadian Community in a ceremony held in Toronto, Canada. Dr. Adeola’s passion for community building through volunteering is limitless and unquantifiable. Dr. Adeola is an “ardent” STEM advocate and she has continued to serve as a positive role model to the inner-city black youths in her Canadian community and around the world. From her savings, Dr. Adeola organizes regular STEM events and industrial tours for black youths in Ontario’s black communities to help youths discover what engineers do, and to expose them to STEM career opportunities available to them. Adeola whose story went viral two weeks ago shares her inspiring story with me in this mind-blowing interview.
I have 3 brothers and my only sister is late. I was born in Mokola Ibadan and attended Alafia Primary School and St Gabriel’s Secondary Commercial School in Mokola, Ibadan. We didn’t have much, so my siblings and myself learned to share and work together as a team quickly. My parents worked hard to ensure that we had food to eat, clothes to wear and made it a point of duty to get us to our schools on time. My mom is a workhorse and she woke up at 3 am daily to go to “Shasha Market” in Ibadan to conduct her pepper buying business.
Although my dad was unable to attain tertiary education, he is from a well-educated extended family. A few of my dad’s family members had PhDs, so my dad hung their photographs on the wall in our living room. At every opportunity my dad got, he regaled us with their success stories and explained how education took them abroad. Therefore, I ended up following the footpath of one of my uncles, Professor Abiodun Francis Oluwole who is a Professor of Nuclear Physics, to obtain a BSc in Physics with Electronics from Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye.
Hawking at age 10 made me more determined
Looking at my parent’s life, they both worked hard to care for us but we didn’t have any form of luxury. So, I learned quickly as a child that “to earn more, you must learn more.” In addition, the daily reminder was on the wall of our living room and it was clear that I needed to be “EDUCATED” to make valuable contribution to a knowledge-based society, to earn respect and to earn more money than my parents. As such, I promised myself to strive to know more critical facts, gather more information than the average person and be the best and nothing but the best.
First black person to bag a PhD in Biomedical Engineering at the university of Saskatchewan
Biomedical Engineering is a recently added branch of Engineering with capability to bring us closer to huge healthcare-related innovations and inventions. However, Nigerians and the black population in general are slowly just breaking into the field. In fact, it is almost impossible to find journal papers or conference proceedings authored by Africans (at least from the last names or first names) in the field of Biomedical Engineering. The shortage of blacks in this thriving field and shortage of women in engineering makes me feel “lonely” sometimes among my peers. Therefore, I will to continue to advocate for the introduction of the branches of Biomedical Engineering to Nigerian Universities, encourage and advocate for admission of more women into engineering disciplines, and to continue to encourage other engineers who are willing to transition to come and join me in this limitless, exciting and innovative field.
Choice to study biomedical engineering
Several health impairments and issues of failed diagnosis that could benefit from Biomedical Engineering technologies face Nigeria and Nigerians.
With a BSc in Physics with Electronics, the Biomedical Engineering career path paved way for me to acquire the knowledge needed to help develop solutions to tackle the above-mentioned issues. Some of the areas that I am currently vast on are medical physics and clinical engineering, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, material development and 3D-printing, and e-health and telemedicine.
What and who inspires me
What Inspires me: As a Scientist, I am challenged and inspired by the possibilities and potentials of technology, and the fulfillment I get from solving difficult problems. As an engineer, I am inspired by industry 4.0 (e.g. 3D-printing) and its design and manufacturing capabilities. As a Nigerian, the complicated problems that I faced or my people in Nigeria face inspire me. On a daily basis, I go to work knowing that I am paying the price to acquire the knowledge and the skill-sets required to help bring back innovative manufacturing solutions to fix, improve, and tweak Nigeria’s mostly dead metal and plastic manufacturing industries.
Who inspires me: The humble background and huge historic contributions of Jesus Christ made Him my first inspiration. My middle name is Deborah and the realization of Deborah’s role as the First Female Judge in Israel, a Warrior, a Wife and a Mother made me choose her my second role model/inspiration. Furthermore, one of the men on the wall of our living room, Prof. Abiodun Francis Oluwole, inspired me to study Physics. At the moment, I have chosen Dr. Ndubuisi Ekekwe as one of my inspirations for his ability to combine successful academic credentials, technology and entrepreneurship.
There are a few of them, after many years of research and development; the ultimate reward is receiving the PhD honour itself. Seeing my narrative go viral to touch lives around the world provided me with the re-assurance that Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers, hard work and prayers are not old school and they in fact can make you a superstar. Then, securing a job as a lead engineer after my PhD and starting my career in a company that allows me utilize most of my acquired knowledge and skills made the whole process well worth it. Lastly, the smiles and tears of joy that rolled down my father’s face when he heard that I successfully defended my thesis was rewarding and very satisfying.
In terms of recognition, I was recognized as 5th of 150 black women making Canada better during the celebration of Canada at 150 (link: http://cbc.ca.mevn.net/radio/upclose. I was also recognised by the Nigerian Canadian Association as a “Woman of Outstanding Achievement in Education” in celebration of Canada at 150 and the award was presented to me at a Gala attended by Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Bar. Ahmed Hussen, the Ooni of Ife HRM Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Mama Nike Davies-Okundaye of Nike Art Gallery and so on.
My PhD was not plain sailing; there were setbacks, frustrating moments, doubts, failed relationship and several failed experiments. The isolation that comes with embedding myself in research and making it my boyfriend, family and best friend was a challenge. There were moments when I slept at the University for several days in order to collect data and only went home to shower. But the most challenging aspect of the PhD by far was the job search that comes at the end of the PhD.
Perception of Hawking
Child street-hawking is often driven by poverty, deplorable living conditions, illiteracy and unemployment. According to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, it is an offence to involve children in child-labour practices such as child hawking. However, this is the only mean of survival for some families and its eradication will be very tough.
Has there ever been a time that you feel like giving up?
The thinking of giving up is inevitable for every PhD student. Half way through my PhD, I felt like I could do something else with my life. I felt like the PhD was standing in the way of me starting my life, buying a house, finding love and getting married. I felt like it was a shear waste of time and energy and that an MSc was already more than enough.
Unfortunately, I lost my sister to cervical cancer during that time and that gave me the motivation to carry on. I thought I would do it for my sister and my dad who already started calling me doctor and never stopped encouraging me.
Contributing to Nation building back home
In recent times, the society and social media has continued to showcase role models who make education look ‘old school’, who make science look too hard, abstract and for the exceptional ones. Africa as a continent needs to start projecting scientists are role models and investing in productive education and technology aside entertainment, fashion, and cosmetics. As a STEM advocate, I’m willing to help develop hands-on programs to help motivate these students to learn and love Sciences and get exposure to Technology in a fun way. Since kids learn by doing, these programs will provide an avenue for them to connect the theoretical science taught in schools with practical science that results from these theories.
In order to conquer the extreme dependency of Nigeria and Nigerians on China and the West for metal and plastic goods, Nigeria must invest in digitized manufacturing now. The combination of “3D-printing technology” and some other manufacturing techniques will allow achievement of faster product development and consequently enable manufacturing of polymeric and metallic products at reasonable costs. This will also foster raising of young entrepreneurs and enable creation of more jobs for our engineering graduates who are forced to work in the banking sector, wait for years to secure a position in the energy sector, or move abroad to seek greener pastures.
As a scientist who has a large network of professionals, has explored both plastics and metal 3D-printing and tried several conventional manufacturing techniques, my team is capable and able to help with the set-up of a “Manufacturing Hub for Africa” in Nigeria if given a chance. 3D-printing technology is rapidly growing across multiple industries and applications: medical applications (e.g. surgical implants, prosthesis, dental, and tissue-engineered tissues and organs), aerospace applications (OEMs for airplanes and fighter jets), automotive applications (OEMs for car engines), energy industries (customized valves, heat exchangers), tooling for plastics processing, and manufacturing of customized consumer plastic products and decorations.
I am a Woman of Rubies
My life and my journey so far have made me conclude that I am an unrepeatable miracle of God.
Final word for women who have or about to lose hope because of certain setbacks.
Dear woman, with the advent of technology, the world is at your fingertip. Do not wait to be served information on a platter of gold as your power lies in how much information you acquire. Dear woman, who are you and why are you here? My go to quote is “if you don’t stand for something, you will stand for everything or anything, and when you stand for everything or anything, you stand for nothing”. My dear women, let’s altogether renew our minds, be our own saviours, our own rescue and love ourselves enough. Finally, I beseech you to dare to be limitless, dare to start that business, dare to launch that company, dare to channel that cause, dare to be different, dare to study science and dare to be innovative.
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