Fadji Maina: The first Nigerien scientist to work for NASA

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Fadji Maina has become the first scientist from Niger to work for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The 29-year-old hydrologist received her PhD in 2016, and joined the world-famous space agency in the US at the end of last month.

“I am proud to be a daughter of Niger because everyone is proud today and I have made the entire country proud which is great. At the same time I think I need to give back to my country; I need to think about what I’m going to do for my country. I always work for my country but I need to do more now that the entire country knows about me.’

“At NASA I’m a hydrologist. I’m into computational hydrology which means I am using mathematical models to understand the water cycle and the evolution of water resources in response to climate change. We live in a world where climate change is real; we can see that it is happening everywhere around us in the world so we really need to think of the future and see what is going to happen in the future.”

One of her goals she has set for herself in her new role is to work with other Africans. However, at NASA, that has been a challenge for her. Instead she aims to collaborate with people back home in Niger.

“I haven’t been able to work with any Africans throughout my entire career. Unfortunately I haven’t worked with any African in my workplace except the collaboration I have been doing with people back home. Because on weekends I am trying to collaborate with people back home. 

You get used to it but we need to have diversity. We need to have more people coming from different backgrounds to be able to solve the problems that we are looking at -because different people will have different perspectives.

I have realised for now, I have to represent Niger, I have to represent black women, and I have to represent all Africans. I need to show my best. You have all these on your shoulders when you are working but I actually like it.”

For young girls who would like to go into science she says, “just believe in yourself”.

“Never give up. Keep going because everyone will think that people from Niger, or a young girl from Niger is not able to do this. Just believe in yourself and find the environment that is going to be supportive because even if everyone is not going to support you, there are still some people who will. 

These people can be your own family, your own family needs to say that you are able to do it. Once you know deep down you know you can do it you will be able to push and do what you want to do.”

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