Opeyemi Odutemowo, Winner of Nigerian Community Excellence Awards 2018’s Outstanding Nigerian Female Achievement Award.

By: Olaniyi Thevoice Abodedele
9th April, 2019

Column: Personality Profile and Interviews

Opeyemi Odutemowo is a physicist, researcher and postdoctoral fellow at the Physics Department of the University of Pretoria. She arrived South Africa in 2012 having enrolled for a Master degree programme at the University of Pretoria. 

Opeyemi bagged a PhD in Physics at the young age of 29; a feat among many others earned her a nomination and eventual winning of the award category of outstanding Nigerian Female in South Africa at the Nigerian Community Excellence Awards event organized by The Nigerian Voice Newspaper, South Africa.

Reflecting on winning the award, Opeyemi told The Nigerian Voice Newspaper that the award was extremely important to her particularly as a woman of color in science. She considered it an honor to be recognized by fellow Nigerians. "It is vital that people are aware that black women are also involved in the advancement of scientific excellence in Africa", said Opeyemi.

The Nigerian Physicist also expressed her impression of how the awards was organized. "I was very impressed with how the awards was organized. I have been to several award ceremonies in and out of Africa and I find the ceremony to be at par with what I’ve seen worldwide," award winner confirmed.

As an academic researcher, Opeyemi is passionate about solving the problem of power generation across Africa especially Nigeria, while she specializes in the area of nuclear materials with emphasis on the problem of nuclear waste storage and management.  Her PhD thesis focused on proposing the use of glassy carbon as a material for long term storage of high level radioactive waste. High level nuclear wastes such as Iodine, Strontium, Silver and Xenon were introduced into glassy carbon and changes in the glassy carbon substrate were investigated by using several techniques such as thermal annealing, Rutherford backscattering spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy, Atomic force microscopy etc. 

Opeyemi has engaged in a number of extensive research works result of which have been published in several peer reviewed journals. They have also been presented at several local and international conferences. Notable among the conferences is the South African Institute of Physics (SAIP) conference where she was awarded best presentation by a PhD student in Applied Physics. Opeyemi has to her credit over 10 publications that has been published in peer reviewed journals.

Opeyemi was awarded TWAS-DFG postdoctoral fellowship in 2018 to carry out research at the Friedrich Schiller University, Germany.

The Nigerian scientist stated that as a postgraduate student and researcher, the major challenge she has faced is getting funding for research, she said this is a very common problem for Nigerian postgraduate students in South Africa.

She called on the Nigerian Diplomatic Missions to help them inform the Nigerian government to support their research works as it will be beneficiary to Nigeria. "It will be well appreciated if the Nigerian government (through the Nigerian Diplomatic Missions) award yearly bursaries to postgraduate students in South Africa to help them achieve their dreams,” Opeyemi appealed.

For her excellent performance in science Opeyemi has been selected to participate in the 69th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting taking place from 30 June to 05 July 2019 in Lindau, Germany by the scientific review panel of the Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate. Only the 600 most qualified young scientists can be given the opportunity to enrich and share the unique atmosphere of the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings.

Opeyemi's future plan is to continue doing research and hopefully get employment in Nigeria soon. She advised her fellow Nigerians in South Africa to be good Ambassador's for their great country Nigeria, and to work hard so as to achieve excellence in anything they do.

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