By: Shreyoshi Chakraborti
Born and raised in Nigeria, Francisca Nneka Okeke is a geophysicist working on identifying the components of the atmosphere. Her research focuses on studying ionosphere and the “equatorial electrojet phenomenon.” Energized by the sun, the electrojet is a river of electric current that traverses the globe eastward around the dip equator and causes the magnetic field at the dip equator to vary almost five times more than anywhere else on the planet. Okeke’s research spans geomagnetism, atmospheric physics, and climate variability.
Okeke earned a BSc in Physics in 1980, a Masters in Applied Earth Geophysics in 1989, and a PhD in Ionospheric Geophysics in 1995 from University of Nigeria. She carried out her postdoctoral work at University of Tokyo, Japan. Okeke was the head of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Nigeria, Nssuka from 2003 to 2006 and was elected the Dean of Faculty of Physical Sciences from 2008 to 2010. She was the first woman to hold both the positions.
In 2011, she was elected as the fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Science, the highest scientific organization in Nigeria. She was named a L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science Awards Laureate for Africa and Arab States in 2013 for her significant contributions to the understanding of daily variations of the ion currents in the upper atmosphere, which may further our understanding of climate change.