In conversation with Olubunmi Abidemi Fadipe-Joseph

Meet Olubunmi Abidemi Fadipe-Joseph, an active promoter for women in mathematics from Nigeria


Olubunmi Abidemi Fadipe-Joseph

This post is part of black mathematician month.

Olubunmi is a Nigerian mathematician who gained her BSc Mathematics (first class honours) in 1995 and MSc in mathematics in 1999 from the University of Ibadan (the first university in Nigeria). She gained her PhD from the University of Ilorin, Nigeria in 2005, where she is currently a lecturer in the Department of Mathematics. She decided to study maths because “I loved doing calculations and everything related to mathematics right from my primary school. I always wanted to be a teacher, but then I discovered that as a lecturer I could do some research and so I carried on with my academic career. My father, a teacher, was my role model”.

A loxodromic representation of the Riemann sphere. Image: Karthik Narayanaswami CC BY-SA 2.5

Olubunmi’s research is in complex analysis with a speciality in geometric function theory. She has more than 40 peer-reviewed articles and she was an associate of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), Italy, from 2011 to 2016. She won a research grant from the Institute for Mathematical Sciences (part of the National University of Singapore) for “Braids, mapping class groups and related structures” in 2007 and she was a visiting research fellow at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences and Stellenbosch University, South Africa in 2010. One of her collaborators is Prof. Maslina Darus from Malaysia and they are both active members of the international community of women in mathematics.

Olubunmi is one of the crucial contributors in the promotion of maths in Ilorin, the city in which she currently lives. “I organise a mathematics club in the city and my team visits a high school fortnightly to teach students some mathematics.” She also gives an endowment fund, the Fadipe-Joseph prize in mathematics, for the best female student in two high schools in Ilorin.

The gender gap in mathematics is slowly being reduced, although unfortunately, the gender gap is even more pronounced for black people around the world (and also in the UK). Olubunmi remembers doing her degree surrounded mostly by men and so being twice a minority was not easy. “Often, the first impression they have about me is that this person is ‘just’ a woman, but then, when they relate with me, they see my output and they change their minds. Then they treat me as a mathematician… unfortunately, there are still very few women in mathematics.”

Olubunmi is not only a successful mathematician, she is also the mother of a son and two daughters and plays an important role in promoting women in mathematics across African countries. Olubunmi is the only appointed ambassador of the International Mathematical Union Committee for Women in Mathematics for Nigeria. Moreover, she is the commissioner for the African Mathematical Union Committee for Women in Mathematics for West Africa.

Olubunmi Abidemi Fadipe-Joseph

As part of her role as the assistant secretary for Nigerian Women in Mathematics (NWM), Olubunmi actively engages women in mathematics in Africa and promotes relevant events happening in the mathematics community to more than 100 women in Africa. “When I was doing my degree, less than 10% were women, but things are improving. In fact, I have successfully supervised eight female students out of 19 students at postgraduate level. Women are more encouraged to work with me.”

Although we see a boost in the numbers of women in mathematics, Olubunmi considers that with more funding and research opportunities made available for women, things would improve further. The situation now is that “at times I use my salary to do research and unfortunately, not everyone has that opportunity”.

You can find valuable resources here if you are interested in reading about the life and research of other black women in mathematics.

Rafael Prieto Curiel is doing a PhD in mathematics and crime. He is interested in mathematical modelling of any social issues, such as road accidents, migration, crime, fear and gossip.

Niki is a PhD student at UCL, working in analytic number theory.

Sean is a PhD student researching geophysical fluid dynamics at UCL. He studies coastal outflows, but so far has been unable to persuade the department to send him on a research trip to the beach.

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