How Physics can help resolve Climate change

Using her passion for physics, Francisca Nneka Okeke has made significant contributions to the understanding of daily variations of the ion currents in the upper atmosphere. These findings may further our understanding of climate change, one of the main concerns of the Cameroonian scientist. Demonstrating that physics can have a great impact on our planet and in improving our everyday lives.

DiscovHER - Do you have an opinion on any of the major scientific challenges currently in the headlines?

Francisca Nneka Okeke - The study of the science of pollution/ecology is very crucial today, because of the recent degradation of various ecosystems and natural habitats. It must be given serious and urgent attention in our research.

I think the most urgent challenges for our planet today are erratic climate change, pollution, flooding, habitat destruction, erosion, deforestation, and earth quakes.

D/H - In what ways would you like to see your work impact society?

FNO - My work will create awareness in many fields –the role of geomagnetic research in solid earth studies such as oil and mineral prospecting is crucial, as the work is a pointer to the possible understanding of climatic change. Again it helps in understanding some of solar activities that affect geomagnetic fields which invariably affect human lives on earth.

D/H - Can you give us an example of a time you overcame a problem in your research?

FNO - My initial impression of solving problems concerning solid earth geophysics and that of atmospheric geophysics separately was broken while I was in The University of Tokyo, Japan, as a Fellow in the Japanese society for Promotion of Science (FJSPS). Mostly, the methods employed in studying the electrical depth structure of the earth failed to resolve the problem and so there was sort of stalemate in our research. It was in Japan that the solution to this problem became obvious, when we used the current method, allowing us to determine the conductivity depth structure of the upper mantle in the West African sub region. A problem that seemed impossible suddenly became possible.

D/H - Can you identify one or more role models or mentors that have assisted you during your career?

FNO - A number of renowned scientist and educators whom I worked with inspired me in one way or the other. These are: My late father – an educator and a Mathematician, taught me how to tackle mathematical problems, my husband- a Professor of Astrophysics – gave me the incentive to work hard. Prof C.A. Onwumechili, who supervised my Ph.D. work, helped in laying solid foundation for my work. Prof Yozo Hamano of the University of Tokyo, Japan, who supervised my Post-Doctoral work, made me appreciate the relationship between ionospheric and solid earth geophysics and sharpened my techniques for analysis through introducing me to Mat Lab software. Prof W. A. Walker of University of Natal Durban gave me the initial momentum for tackling ionospheric problems.

D/H - You’ve already made one groundbreaking discovery, can you tell us other scientific challenges you would like to see solved?

FNO - I list a number of scientific questions bothering me: Nobody is sure of the exact nature of climatic change in future. Also, the landing and takeoff of airplanes are very rough, in an attempt to obey Newton’s laws, plus overcoming friction. Does it mean that scientists cannot devise means of smooth take-offs and landings, using possibly powerful magnets etc.?

More about Professor Francisca Nneka Okeke:

For Women in Science

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