Female Mathematics Book Editor – Kunda Kambaso

Do you know how the world of academic publishing works? Today, we bring a remarkable figure: a Mathematics Book Editor at Springer Nature. Join us on a journey through Kunda’s inspiring story, where passion for mathematics meets the art of publication. Discover how her contributions shape the landscape of mathematical discourse, leaving an indelible mark on the field. We are inspired by her remarkable achievements and dedication to advancing mathematical scholarship;

Hi Kunda, it is wonderful to catch up again. I am excited to hear what you have been up to since we last met. Welcome to Words That Count!
Hi Winnie. Thank you for inviting me. I am honored to share my journey, and, I have to say, you have done some great work!

Briefly introduce yourself to our audience
My name is Kunda Kambaso from Zambia. Currently, I work for Springer Nature as a Mathematics Book Editor. My role involves acquiring book titles and supporting authors throughout the book publishing process. From book idea, book proposal, and peer-review process until final publication, I am the go-to person for authors I work with. My role also involves several other things such as identifying new topics and gaps in literature and maintaining relationships with different stakeholders from various institutions around the world.

Walk us through the journey of becoming a Book Editor with a prestigious publisher like Springer Nature
I was born in Zambia and I grew up there. I lost my parents at quite a young age when I was still in primary school. My cousin took me in together with my 4 siblings with the aim that we complete our education and obtain at least a secondary school certificate. I stayed with my cousin until I wrote my grade 9 exams and later moved to live with my uncle where I completed my secondary school in 2008. In the following 2 years, I tried many things including singing and auditioning for acting roles 😁. Turned out I didn’t have enough talent for that, LOL.

I finally found a job and worked as a salesperson, selling airtime. Then one day, I got a phone call from a strange number, it turned out to be an ex-boyfriend of a friend of mine who was a student at the University of Zambia. He remembered that I had told him of my wish to study at the university and he called to ask me if I had already submitted my application for admission for the 2011 intake since the deadline for applications was the next week. When I told him I hadn’t, he informed me of all the required documents and application fees and offered his help during the application process. I submitted my application and went back to my normal life. Months later, I learned that I was admitted.

There was now the issue of tuition fees. My family at the time could not afford to pay the fees so I was very lucky and excited when I found out my application for a 100% bursary from the Zambian government was successful. Up to that point, my goal was to complete my degree and become a mathematics teacher.

Then, I saw a poster advertising the master’s degree program at AIMS. I was very curious so I asked one of my lecturers who happened to be an alumni of AIMS South Africa. He encouraged me to apply and so I did. I found the application process to be very lengthy and I even gave up. Then AIMS extended the application deadline so I decided to complete my application. You can not imagine the excitement I felt when I saw the acceptance email. I told my family and they were happy but they did not seem to believe it until the day I left for the airport.

This for me was truly the turning point in my life, the opportunities and experiences at AIMS are unique and unmatched. After my time at AIMS Ghana, I went to Durham England where I completed a master’s in mathematical sciences, and then moved to Germany for my Ph.D. studies which I completed in November 2023. Toward the end of my Ph.D. journey, I decided to not pursue a career in academia despite my love for it. I was fortunate enough to find a job, as an Editor, which still interacts with academia.

You have talked about the financial challenges before school, and that is something I can fully relate to. What else was challenging to you as a female African Mathematician?
I think the biggest challenge was to choose my field of study while applying for enrolment at the University of Zambia. The few people I spoke to implied that I should expect to fail some of my exams on the first try. As you might expect, I was a little afraid, especially since I knew I would not be able to afford the tuition fee if I did not make it on the first try. Despite this, I still ended up enrolling for the Bachelor of Science with Education degree and majored in mathematics.

What has been and always is your biggest inspiration to move forward?
My father always said that even if you perform well today, you have to try and do better next time. These are words I have heard from a lot of people who have played a pivotal role in my life. So I’ve always had these words in the back of my mind, that I should strive to do better than I did today. There is always something else one can learn, something to improve.

I have also been inspired by many women, some who were lecturers or teachers who taught me, some famous musicians, and at times neighbors. In all these people, I admired their hard work and achievements, and just how well they presented themselves to the world.

Let us talk about your prestigious moments along this journey of becoming a Book Editor
The various scholarships I received to support my studies! Firstly, the bursary I received from the Zambian government during my undergraduate. The AIMS Scholarship via Mastercard Foundation. Then, the Durham Department of Mathematical Sciences Alumni Fund at Durham University. Finally, the DAAD Scholarship during my doctoral studies. I also received the FKA Allotey Meritorious Award at AIMS Ghana.

My biggest moment of recognition was when I was featured in a sister exhibition of Women of Mathematics from Around the World. I remember when I attended the first exhibition in Aachen Germany. It was very inspiring reading all the stories of the women who were featured.

Who are you outside of work?
I enjoy taking long walks and listening to music. When I’m at home and not working or doing chores. I usually watch something on Netflix or play music and dance. Other times I like to chat with friends and catch up.

What is your favorite quote?

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” ~ Lao Tzu.

It is a common saying that has its origins in a Chinese proverb. I think that at times people are scared to do things for fear of failure. It might be intimidating when what they want seems too big and impossible to achieve. But you can’t know if you don’t even try.

What are your words of encouragement for an African girl who aspires to become a Mathematics Book Editor like you?
It is important to not doubt oneself and not be afraid of pursuing the studies of your choice simply because people have said it is difficult for girls. If you know in your heart that you can do it then you can do it. All you need to do is take the first step. Continue being curious.

Thank you, Kunuda, for sharing your inspirational journey with the world through us. I am very proud of the person you have become and wish you all the best in your career. Thank you for teaching us what an Editor does.

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