Prestigious ‘For Women in Science’ Young Talent Award for Liverpool-based cancer researcher

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A PhD researcher at the University of Liverpool and The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust has been named a laureate of the 2021 For Women in Science Young Talents Awards for Sub-Saharan Africa by Fondation L’Oréal and UNESCO.

Lois Okereke is a Nigerian PhD student in Formal Sciences, specialising in Applied Mathematics. Her oncology research provides reliable quantitative information about tumour response to radiation treatments and helps to inform optimal treatments, including radiotherapy dose prescription.

Her work offers a cost-effective treatment strategy, minimises treatment side effects and increases recovery. This stands to create a positive impact in sub-Saharan Africa, where patients lack access to advanced radiotherapy facilities and treatment.

Lois said: “My interest in science emerged 20 years ago, when my father showed me a diesel engine that brought electricity to our home. Since then, I was determined to pursue a career in science, achieving multiple scholarships to help support my studies. I’ve always had a strong ambition to create positive impacts in my community and beyond.”

The For Women in Science Young Talents Awards for Sub-Saharan Africa rewards 20 young African women scientists for the excellence of their research annually. For the 2021 edition, the 15 PhD student and five postdoctoral student awardees come from 17 countries and embody, through their backgrounds and research topics, the diversity and potential of African science for today and tomorrow.

Lois received her laureate at the Young Talents Awards ceremony held in Kigali, Rwanda, on November 25th, in front of a high-level audience from all over Africa, including representatives of the scientific world and public authorities, intellectuals, opinion leaders, and organisations promoting gender equality.

Commonwealth scholar PhD student Lois Okereke is completing a split-site PhD carried out between the African University of Science and Technology (AUST), Abuja, the University of Liverpool and The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre.

A talented mathematician, Lois has focused most of her research on non-linear operator theory and its applications within medical physics, biology, and oncology. In addition, she aims to apply her findings to real life scenarios, in order to strengthen the capacity and efficiency of healthcare systems. To achieve this, Lois wants to demonstrate how these abstract mathematical notions address everyday issues faced by biologists, oncologists and medical physicists in the treatment of cancer.

Lois said: “Science is a critical solution to overcome Africa’s diverse challenges. I believe that building a strong network of female leaders in science will contribute to the development of the continent, starting with showing young girls how scientific concepts can be applied to solving everyday problems, and how they translate to individual and global benefits.”

Lois’ PhD supervisor Dr John Fenwick, Senior Lecturer at the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Sytems, Molecular and Integrative Biology and Consultant Clinical Scientist at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, said: “It’s been a privilege to have worked with Lois Okereke over the last year. She has a rigorous approach to maths that is rare in oncology, and an exemplary determination to  apply her scientific skills to grow Nigeria’s healthcare system and economy. Recently Lois has been analysing synergies between immune and radiation treatments of cancer, and in the New Year will be spending time in Oxford working on a gene expression analysis, and at the Christie discovering more about proton radiotherapy.”