Meet the team: Olawumi Sadare

We meet Olawumi Sadare, researcher at the University of Bath. We celebrate international research and hear how a fellowship boosted Olawumi through a challenging part of her research journey.

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A woman and a man smile at the camera at an awards ceremony. There is a credit to Xavier Photography
A woman in a lab coat pours from a beaker in a fume hood

Can you summarise your current research interest? 

My research is centred on the synthesis of advanced nanomaterials, the development of membranes for liquid separation processes, and the valorisation of waste materials into high-value, sustainable products.

You won a Royal Society Newton International Fellowship, which brought you to the UK. Can you tell us more about this award? 

Royal Society is the world’s oldest independent scientific academy, dedicated to promoting excellence in science. The Newton international fellowship is basically for non-UK scientists who are at an early stage of their research career and wish to conduct research in the UK. The fellowship is to attract talented international early career researchers to establish and conduct their research in the UK; to support early career researchers to pursue high-quality and innovative lines of research; and to provide opportunities to acquire new skills and knowledge through training and career development. 

Why is membranes research an interesting area to be involved with? 

Engaging in membrane research holds tremendous appeal as it offers a unique avenue to address pressing global challenges. My primary goal as a researcher is to provide innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. Membrane research is captivating because it allows me to address global challenges, including clean water access and sustainability. It also thrives on interdisciplinary collaboration and offers abundant career prospects. Additionally, it’s at the forefront of technological advancement, making it a compelling field for someone like me seeking to have a meaningful impact on today’s world.

You are one of the 14 L’Oréal-UNESCO Women in Science Sub-Saharan Africa fellowship holders- can you tell us more about this? 

“The L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science program is a remarkable partnership between L’Oréal and UNESCO, dedicated to celebrating and supporting exceptional women scientists across the globe. This initiative recognizes their remarkable contributions to various scientific fields, fostering gender equality in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). It’s an inspiring movement that underscores the importance of diversity and inclusion in scientific endeavours.

As one of the fortunate 14 L’Oréal-UNESCO Women in Science Sub-Saharan Africa fellowship holders, this award was a ray of hope during a challenging time in my journey. It not only boosted my confidence but also reignited my determination in the face of adversity. It serves as a reminder that, regardless of societal pressures or biases, women can and should pursue their scientific dreams relentlessly.

I now actively encourage aspiring women scientists I encounter to persevere, reminding them that their gender should never be a negative influence on their pursuit of knowledge and innovation. The L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science program has not only enriched my career but also empowered me to inspire the next generation of trailblazing women scientists.”

You have studied and worked in Nigeria and South Africa before coming to the UK- what is engineering like in these countries in comparison to the UK? 

Nigeria: In Nigeria, engineering is an evolving field with several universities offering engineering programs. While there’s a growing emphasis on engineering education, challenges like inadequate infrastructure and resources have historically impacted the growth of engineering sectors. However, it’s worth noting that Nigerian government and universities are actively working towards improving and enhancing the quality of engineering education and research. Personally, my experience in Nigeria has instilled resilience and adaptability, which are essential traits for navigating different environments.

South Africa: South Africa is renowned for offering excellent engineering education, with many institutions enjoying international recognition. Pursuing my master’s and Ph.D. degrees in South Africa significantly contributed to shaping my engineering knowledge. The quality of education and the emphasis on research excellence were notable aspects of the South African engineering landscape.

The UK: One of the standout features of engineering in the UK is the abundance of job opportunities in the field, compared to Nigeria and South Africa. The UK’s engineering sector offers a wide range of career prospects, both in academia and industry. In terms of research, I’ve found that there isn’t a significant difference between engineering research in South Africa and the UK. The primary adjustment has been adapting to the local culture and professional codes of conduct. Fortunately, having a supportive team of hosts and colleagues has greatly facilitated my transition and made my experience in the UK enriching.

In conclusion, each country has its unique strengths and challenges in the field of engineering. My journey through these diverse environments has not only expanded my technical knowledge but has also cultivated adaptability, resilience, and a global perspective. I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to learn and contribute to the field of engineering in these different settings.

What advice would you give to people considering becoming an engineer or researcher? 

To those contemplating a future as engineers or researchers, I wholeheartedly advocate for nurturing a deep and genuine passion for your chosen field. Let this passion be the spark that ignites your journey, propelling you toward excellence and empowering you to make profound and purposeful contributions to society. In addition, cultivate an insatiable curiosity—a thirst for knowledge and discovery that knows no bounds. This curiosity will not only fuel your quest for innovation but also ensure that every step you take in your pursuit of knowledge is a step toward a brighter and more enlightened world.

What is your opinion about sustainability of women’s inclusivity in Engineering in the context of Africa compared to the UK?

It’s encouraging to see that diversity and inclusion are increasingly being promoted in institutions worldwide. However, it’s important to acknowledge that in Africa, women may encounter unique cultural and societal barriers that can pose challenges to their participation in the engineering field. Despite these obstacles, there has been a concerted effort to empower more women to pursue careers in engineering. Initiatives such as scholarships, mentorship programs, and awareness campaigns are actively working to break down these barriers and encourage women to excel in the engineering domain. I personally stand as a testament to the impact of such initiatives, having received the L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Sub-Saharan African award in 2017, which played a pivotal role in my journey.”


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