On the last day of Black History Month, ESE shines a light on PhD student Zainab Titus, who is committed to creating opportunities for young learners.
Today marks the 'end' of Black History Month, a time dedicated to reflecting and celebrating the exceptional achievements and contributions of Black people. As we bid farewell to October, today is also a reminder that recognition and reflection should extend beyond a single month.
In honour of this year’s theme, ‘Saluting Our Sisters’, the Department of Earth Science and Engineering (ESE) is shining a light on PhD student Zainab Titus. Zainab shared some insights into her inspiring journey at Imperial, as well as her commitment to creating opportunities for young girls from underrepresented backgrounds.
“As a young, black mother in the field of computational geoscience, being in a place like Imperial has opened opportunities for me to thrive in my education and career regardless of my racial, social or professional background. Giving opportunities to people from underrepresented groups can go a long way. But ensuring sustained impact is also very important,” says Zainab.
Helping others learn and grow
Zainab is currently in the final stages of her PhD, which focuses on applying data-driven methods to develop models of geothermal reservoirs. Before starting her career in geoscience, she grew up in northern Nigeria and was interested in mathematics and physics from an early age.
“I am committed to mentoring girls from places such as where I am from. I think creating opportunities for young girls to be mentored by women from backgrounds similar to theirs can go a long way. I would also love to see opportunities created for them to easily access learning tools and resources, and pursue their education in top Universities such as Imperial College where their dreams can be realised.”
Zainab is passionate about contributing to societal development through research, teaching and outreach. During her time at Imperial, she has worked with the Imperial Outreach Team as a STEM Leader, giving talks about energy and sustainability, as well as her own research.
In 2020, Zainab was also awarded a professional project fund by Imperial to work with a charity organisation and deliver a mobile library for children in displaced people’s camps in Borno State, a region heavily affected by conflict in northern Nigeria.
“I have always engaged in and enjoyed outreach from an early age, as I worked alongside my mother and sister who run a non-profit organisation that empowers women and young people with skills to thrive in their community. But I also believe that one of the most meaningful ways to live is by helping other people learn and grow. I am committed to teaching young learners and inspiring them to push beyond their limits to achieve individual and collective goals.”
Breaking down barriers to education
Last year, Zainab organised a virtual outreach event with the theme Digital Tools for Sustainable Geoscience. The initiative introduced young girls in Maiduguri, a city in northeastern Nigeria, to a variety of resources and digital learning tools.
For her next outreach project, Zainab will be working with ESE and the Integrated Women and Youths Empowerment Centre (IWAYEC) in Nigeria again to run a similar event for International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2024.
“We will select girls from local schools in Nigeria and teach them how to use digital tools and code in python over three days, with a focus on geoscience. We will also be working with women and girls in ESE and other Universities to run mentoring sessions that will serve to inspire these young girls to pursue careers in geoscience and have high aspirations for their future.”
“Diversity and inclusion to me is about incorporating people’s unique experiences and perspectives to solve problems and create a far-reaching impact in our society. For this to happen, we have to strive to break down barriers to education, technology and professional development, to mention a few. This is where giving people equal opportunities is important.”
Inspiring future generations
As Zainab reflected on the challenges she has faced as a Black woman in geoscience, she recognised the importance of support and representation:
“I think the biggest challenge is that there are not many people like me that I can look up to, although that is slowly changing. I am grateful to have been supported by my supervisors, ESE, and many people in my network – particularly women who have made it far despite facing barriers in the field. I am encouraged, inspired and motivated by their stories and assistance.”
Asked for the advice she would give to young people interested in following her footsteps and pursuing a career in geoscience, Zainab said:
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions and learn as much as you can wherever you find yourself. The world is evolving and gradually becoming a more supportive and inclusive place. Make the most of the opportunities you have and create similar opportunities for others like you to thrive.
“Leverage digital platforms and your network to build your professional skills. There are now more resources for networking and digital learning than ever before. LinkedIn, professional bodies, e-learning platforms and open-source tools have opened me to a world of opportunities.”
After finishing her PhD, Zainab plans to continue developing her knowledge and skills in computational geoscience as a machine learning engineer and researcher at the geoscience company CGG, while she continues her outreach work in the equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) space. Looking ahead, Zainab says:
“In the future, I aspire to hold a position of influence where I can make contributions in my area of expertise that will shape the efforts of industry and academia to deliver sustainable energy to the world. I see myself as someone who will not only make valuable contributions to knowledge and societal improvement but will also encourage and support others to do the same.”
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