Getting a PhD is a fete worth swooning over. Getting a PhD in Nuclear Physics and being the first black woman is a whole other ball game altogether.
Well, that is why Dr. Fridah Mokaya is our inspiration today. Despite graduating with a PhD in Nuclear Physics from the University of Connecticut, US in August 2018, her story is still fresh and shows us that indeed everything is possible.
Born second in a family of six, Dr. Fridah knew from an early age that she wanted to become a scientist. As soon as she learnt that being a scientist is a profession like any other, she promised herself to do whatever it takes to get that which her heart wanted.
Her journey was not a bed of roses as her dreams to pursue Physics while at Pangani Girls High school were almost shuttered after she scored 68% which was 2% short of the cut off mark required to proceed with the subject.
It took the intervention of her father who talked with the school’s Deputy Principal to allow her to continue with the subject.
“My Physics teacher Mr. Orinda, saw how distressed I was and knowing my potential told the deputy principal that he had allowed me in the Physics class on condition that I had to perform. Let’s just say that I worked hard and it paid off. I got an “A” in Physics when I sat for my KCSE exam,” she told the African Warrior Magazine.
She later joined Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) to pursue an undergraduate degree in Physics where she graduated with a Second Class Honors, Lower Division something that disturbed her.
Luckily, she got a job at Barclays bank and seven months later she relocated to USA to pursue her masters. This was after her boyfriend, now her husband, persuaded her to apply to Binghamton University.
She was lucky to be admitted and studied Masters degree in Physics. She later joined University of Connecticut for her PhD Program.
Dr. Mokaya reveals that her journey was stressful sometimes as she had to dodge between motherhood and school but her colleagues were supportive.
‘’I want everyone to know that anyone can achieve anything you want in life. Challenges along the way should propel you to keep going and not discouraged.If I can influence any woman to pursue STEM related subjects, then I’ll be the happiest person,” she advises.