Mercy Ojetunde is a young African lady who has achieved remarkable feats in the field of microbiology. She is a first-class graduate of Microbiology from Osun State University in Nigeria, a 2020 iSI Scholar, a 2021 Commonwealth shared scholar and a doctoral student studying biomedical science at West Virginia University, USA. She is also a research enthusiast with an interest in Vaccinology, Immunology, and Microbial Pathogenesis. She has authored and co-authored nine (9) research publications in peer-reviewed journals, some of which focus on infectious diseases such as COVID-19 and Tuberculosis.
Mercy’s story is one of passion, perseverance and excellence. She was born and raised in a low-income family in Nigeria, where she faced many challenges and limitations. She had to work hard to overcome the barriers of poverty, gender inequality and poor educational infrastructure. She credits her parents for instilling in her the values of hard work, discipline and faith.
“I always had a dream of becoming a scientist since I was a kid. I was fascinated by how microorganisms cause diseases and how we can prevent or treat them. I also wanted to contribute to the advancement of science and humanity. My parents supported me all the way, even though they could not afford to pay for my education. They taught me to believe in myself and to never give up on my dreams.” Mercy said.
Mercy pursued her undergraduate degree in Microbiology at Osun State University, where she graduated with a first-class honours in 2018. She was the best graduating student in her department and faculty, and received several awards and scholarships for her academic excellence. She also participated in various extracurricular activities, such as serving as the librarian of the National Association of Microbiology Students (NAMS) and volunteering for Friutful Bough Foundation, a non-governmental organization that empowers women and children.
After graduating, Mercy applied for several opportunities to further her education and research career. She was selected as one of the iSI Scholars in 2020, a program that provides mentorship, training and funding for young African scholars who aspire to pursue graduate studies abroad. Through this program, she secured admission and scholarship to study MSc Biotechnology at the University of the West of Scotland in the UK. She also received another scholarship from the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission to study the same program.
“I was overwhelmed with joy when I got the news that I was awarded two scholarships to study in the UK. It was a dream come true for me. I had always wanted to study abroad and learn from the best institutions and experts in my field. I am grateful to iSI Initiative and the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission for this opportunity.” Mercy said.
Mercy is currently studying MSc Biotechnology at the University of the West of Scotland – Lanarkshire Campus. She hopes to gain more knowledge and skills in biotechnology and its applications in health, agriculture and industry. She is also interested in learning about entrepreneurship and innovation, as she plans to start her own biotech company in the future.
Mercy’s achievements are remarkable considering the fact that Africa accounts for only 2.4% of global research output, according to UNESCO. Moreover, women are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, especially in Africa. According to UNESCO, only 30% of researchers worldwide are women, and only 19% of researchers in sub-Saharan Africa are women.
Mercy is therefore an inspiration and a role model for many young African girls who aspire to pursue careers in STEM fields. She believes that education is the key to empowerment and development, and encourages other young Africans to pursue their dreams despite the challenges they may face.
“My advice to other young Africans is to never stop learning and never stop dreaming. Education is not only about getting a degree or a certificate, but also about acquiring knowledge and skills that can help you solve problems and create value. Dream big and work hard towards achieving your goals. Do not let your background or circumstances limit you. You have what it takes to succeed.” Mercy said.
Another Nigerian raising the academic flag high is Oluwabunmi Amosu. She recently graduated with a Master of Arts degree in Education and Society from McGill University in Canada with a 100% record, meaning she scored A+ in all her courses. She also won a scholarship to pursue a PhD in the same field at the same university.
Amosu’s story is one of resilience, determination and excellence. She graduated with first-class honours in Business Administration and Management from Lagos State University in 2017. After many failed attempts at securing a scholarship to study abroad, she was finally awarded two fully-funded scholarships — Commonwealth Shared Scholarship and Mastercard Foundation Scholarship — in March 2020. She, however, opted for the Mastercard Foundation Scholarship to pursue her master’s degree at McGill University in Canada. She was among the two Nigerians who were selected for the scholarship.
Amosu faced many challenges as an international student, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic that disrupted the normal academic activities. She had to adapt to online learning, cope with the time difference, deal with isolation and manage her mental health. However, she did not let these difficulties stop her from pursuing her goals. She worked hard, sought help when needed, connected with her classmates and professors, and maintained a positive attitude.
Mercy and Amosu’s story is one that deserves to be celebrated and shared widely. They are testaments to the fact that with passion, perseverance and excellence, anything is possible.