Celebrating the Success of The STEM Belle

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Doreen Anene is a Ph.D. student at the School of Bioscience, the University of Nottingham under the supervision of Dr. Cormac O’Shea. She is currently a visiting scholar at the Poultry Research Foundation within the University of Sydney. In 2017, she became a Fellow of the Schlumberger Faculty for the Future Foundation, an organization that provides funding and support for women from developing countries to pursue doctorate and post-doctorate degrees in developed countries. Doreen is also a UN Women Global Champion for Change and an alumnus of the USAID’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Regional Learning Centre. Alongside being a doctoral student, Doreen is the founder of The STEM Belle, a non-profit initiative, which is focused on recalibrating the female representation in Science Technology Engineering, and Mathematics fields, by attracting, retaining and advancing more girls and young women to STEM subjects and fields.

What has been your academic career pathway that has led to your current Ph.D.?

I have always had an interest in utilizing sustainable animal production as a tool to achieve global food security, with rural women as the focus. In 2008, I started studying for a bachelor’s degree in agriculture at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria Nigeria, where I specialized in Animal Science and researched on improving non-conventional feedstuff for weaner rabbits. I graduated in 2012 and in 2015, I began a master’s degree in animal science at the University of Ghana where I conducted research supplementing pelleted concentrates to grasscutters. In 2017, I got a scholarship and admission to study for a Ph.D. in Animal Science at the University of Nottingham under the supervision of Prof Cormac O’Shea

  • Have you encountered any challenges along the way and how did you overcome those challenges?

Absolutely. The path to greater heights is never smooth. The first major challenge was the naira currency devaluation which happened while studying for my master’s degree in Ghana. I was a foreign student in Ghana and wasn’t on a scholarship, so it was an unsettling time, as I had to pay up my tuition for my research and survive. This financial crisis led to my supervisor walking out on my initial project. Thankfully, after one year of taught study, I volunteered with Technoserve Ghana and later got a role as a Fellow, Livestock consultant on the ENGINE program. I was able to earn some more money and eventually pay for new research with a new supervisor. My work experience at Technoserve has been a valuable experience and addition to my career growth.

Another challenge I faced was when I set out to proceed for my Ph.D. I had to overcome various stereotypes and gender-based biases as to why I needed to do a Ph.D. I had people asking me if I wanted to get married because doing a PhD would scare men away and reduce the chances of getting married.  I thought about the impact the exposure to Ph.D. will have on me and the girls that I mentor, and I had to constantly re-assure myself that I was on the right path. Also, with moral support from my families, I was able to overcome that challenge.

  • Have there been any specific people or actions that you have found supportive in developing your academic career?

Different people have been very supportive of me over the years. My family has been very supportive, providing early guidance and encouragement all through. On this Ph.D. journey, I have also been blessed with an incredibly supportive supervisor, who has made this learning process worthwhile. Not forgetting to mention numerous academic and career mentors who I have met along the way and still support me.

  • Do you think that the STEM Belle Nature Innovating Science award will change what you do, and if so, how?

Winning the Nature Research Award for Innovating Women in Science is a huge morale boost to all of us and it will greatly improve and amplify the work that we do by great measures. We hope to leverage the visibility that comes with the award, to create more awareness about our work, and to access other platforms and opportunities to receive more support for the work that we are doing. The funds from the award will be useful in monitoring and closely following up with our current beneficiaries as they progress to STEM careers. It will also be used in expanding our strategies to other parts of the country, and hopefully to other African countries. Funds from the award will also be used to establish The STEM Belle tech hubs in our impact school, and pilot the first STEM Belle Teacher Extraordinaire program as well as launch out some social enterprises of the initiative.

  • What are your career plans after your Ph.D.?

I am very passionate about using livestock research to chart development. I hope to continue carrying our developmental livestock research, as well as growing and advancing The STEM Belle.

  • Final Words.

Dear young women and young girls remember that you can be everything, elegant in Stilettos and confident in steel toecaps.

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