Black Heroes of Mathematics – Tolulope Fadina

Meet Tolulope, one of the recently celebrated Black Heroes of Mathematics. Her STEM journey is a needed inspiration to our young African generation;

Hi Tolu, thanks for joining us today. I first saw your name on social media after a congratulatory message from Maurine. Today, I am ready to learn more about your STEM journey
Hello Winnie, thank you once again for the opportunity to share my story. I hope it will inspire someone.

I have no doubt about that, Tolu! It’s not every day that we meet women whose work in Mathematics is celebrated. Please introduce yourself to our audience
My name is Tolulope Fadina from Nigeria. I am an Assistant Professor at the Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Essex. My research work is in financial mathematics and
actuarial science. I focus on Knightian uncertainty (model uncertainty) and suitable generalizations and applications. For my Ph.D. thesis, I established a Donsker result for the G-Brownian using nonstandard analysis. During my Postdoctoral days, I worked on developing the theory of affine processes under parameter uncertainty.

Walk us through your journey of becoming one of the celebrated black heroes of mathematics
I grew up with consciousness around gender biases and the belief that mathematics was difficult. This fueled my desire to make a difference. So every day after school, I spent time doing mathematics. The first time I told my Dad I wanted to study mathematics for my first degree, he didn’t understand. Why would I choose mathematics yet mathematicians end up being teachers? Sadly, it was not prestigious to become a teacher.

Despite all the questions, my Dad was very supportive of me. I had my first degree in Nigeria from the University of Ilorin, then I gained admission into the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), South Africa. After AIMS I was accepted into Stellenbosch University for my master’s before joining Bielefeld University for my Ph.D. In 2015, I got my Ph.D. and became a Postdoc Fellow at Freiburg and ETH Zurich until 2019. I won the Carl Zeiss grant (200,000EUR) in 2017 to work on a two-year project. From 2019 to 2020, I was at the University of Waterloo in Canada and later joined the University of Essex as a faculty member. Hence my current position.

I have a commitment to providing outstanding services through high-level research and refining standards in search of knowledge, skill, and experience to contribute to the existing knowledge base in finance and mathematics. Because of this, I have been honored as one of the black heroes in mathematics.

What are some of the challenges you faced before getting recognition as a black hero of mathematics?
Having to study and work in different countries and at times in countries where I do not understand the official language, and where the culture is different from mine was quite challenging. But then I think that helped me to be a better person because it sharpened my interpersonal skills.

As someone who has lived in different parts of the world, this must have been a serious challenge! How have you been able to overcome it?
In my early years of using the internet, I stumbled on a quote – I still do not know the author to date. “To live the life you see, be the best you can, and remain focused”. I motivate myself to keep pushing for the best. I also sincerely believe that everyone around me inspires me, I draw inspiration from everyone I meet. Even from those that don’t believe in me because they make me want to do more.

Your recognition drew me to your story. Tell us about such moments in your life as a mathematician
Having the opportunity to study at AIMS in 2009 was a great achievement for me. At Bielefeld, I received the Bielefeld Young Researchers’ Fund. During my Postdoc at the Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg, I was awarded the Carl-Zeiss Stiftung grant of 200,000EUR. In addition, last week, I was named one of the Black Heroes of Mathematics.

How do you spend your time outside of work?
I love walking and recently I started enjoying watching food and cooking shows. I also enjoy spending time with my family and friends.

Do you have a favorite quote?
Oh, I have mentioned that already; “To live the life you see, be the best you can, and always remain focused” ~ anonymous.

How do you encourage a young girl who might one day want to become one of the black heroes of mathematics?
Believe you can achieve whatever goal you set your mind on. Always be yourself and do not let anyone define who you are as a person. Build around you people that believe in your dream and maximize every given opportunity.

Thank you, Tolu, for sharing your journey with us. Once again, huge congratulations upon the celebration among Black Heroes in Mathematics. We look forward to learning more about your work.

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2 Responses

  1. This is an awesome and inspirational interview. Will definitely encourage other young girls to go after their dreams and to work hard while at it. Very proud to have shared a phase of life with Tolu. It is a true blessing to see your peers win and do great things out there.

    1. Thank you very much Maurine. You inspire me a lot and I am grateful we met. Thank you for being a role model to the young generation. It is our win!

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