My life as a student, researcher, woman and mother: Meet Akinlabi Olabisi

Akinlabi Olabisi Comfort (@bcyemi), University of Ibadan, is taking part in Soapbox Science Lagos on 23rd November with the talk:Diarrhoea; a threat to infant life

As a Nigerian scientist, I always wonder why there are fewer women than men in science. Could it be due to our culture, which sometimes specifies that a woman’s education ends in the kitchen? Or is it a lack of encouragement from mentors and family, the lack of funds or simply discrimination?

My current perspective is that all of these aforementioned factors have contributed, in some way, to the low numbers of women in science. However, these have not deterred my interest in scientific research but rather motivated me to obtain my Masters degree. Now, I am a PhD student at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. As a young lady, my zeal and love for research have kept me going. Although, I have had to balance my student life with my other roles as a wife and mother.

Did I tell you that I am a mother of two? Sighs! I have a number of memories from being pregnant and studying in the first year of my PhD. Combining antenatal appointments with lab work, and now performing school runs. It has not been easy, but with support from my colleagues and mentor, I have been able to continue with my studies.

I also remember the many times I have to hurry up before the end of lab meetings, in order to pick up my children from school (an activity colloquially known as ‘school runs’). My colleagues help, by allowing me to present first during lab meetings – for which I am grateful. There was a particular day a colleague of mine went first, with my permission of course, and you needed to have seen the way my mentor asked why I was not going first as usual. I just smiled and told her I was not in a hurry on that day. I could go on and on, talking about the challenges but not without making reference to my angelic husband who encourages me not to let go and be focused at all times. I think I’ve got a tip: Ladies! Get married to a man who shares similar dreams with you, because a woman needs an understanding and supportive man.

In all, it is fulfilling to see the products of my research. It has a way of taking off the stress.

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