Intellectually Curious – Lucy Njoki Njuki

Growing up in a traditional African family, we are often less encouraged to be curious about a lot of things. Battling this natural character with being a woman in an African setting is not an easy journey. Here is how Lucy has been able to win.

Hi Lucy, it is such a pleasure to have you join us today
Hi Winnie, thank you for inviting me.

Please tell us your full name and what you do currently
My name is Lucy Njoki Njuki from Kenya, but call me Njoki (I go by my African name). I am a second-year student pursuing Statistics and Data Science, with a specialisation in Biostatistics at Hasselt University in Belgium. I will be graduating in 2023. Also, I am a trainer of Data Management and Analysis, and Basics Statistics at Training Center in Communication Africa, located at the University of Nairobi. Additionally, I am the organiser of R-Ladies Nairobi, part of R-Ladies Global, with a mission to promote gender diversity in the R community in Nairobi, Kenya.

Wow! You seem very passionate about Statistics; how did you grow this passion?
Well, my love for mathematics ever since I was a young child led me to Biostatistics. As my caption says; being intellectually curious, a trait I have had constantly. To mention, from Sunday school, I learned that humans are the image of God. As I understood then, we are the same but I thought, well, something must explain why my identical twin sister (a Chemist) and I are different in terms of interests. I asked my elder sister but didn’t understand what she told me because I was just 7 years. The good thing is she encouraged me that I’d study later and my questions would be answered. I was so excited that through education I could learn topics like genetics and behavioural science were our points of discussion.

Now, talking about Biostatistics, the journey started after completing high school and passing very well, which resulted in a partial scholarship by the government of Kenya. I passed Biology and Mathematics with flying colours. My fascination is in Biology (study of life) and Mathematics (mind-blowing formulas and their applications). With my passion, I did an intensive online search back in 2009 and found out that Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology offered Biostatistics. From my understanding, it was a merge of Statistics (a branch of applied mathematics) and Biology. Additionally, I found out that with Biostatistics knowledge, I would be part of pharmaceutical research, as I spent too much of my time as a child at the hospital and partly now as an adult. Me participating in such researches soon is a major goal accomplished.

In the meant time, before getting my first internship, I was a teacher for high school students at a school located in my home area – I taught Mathematics and Biology.

After completing my BSc Biostatistics, I reached out to my mentors on LinkedIn back in 2017. One of them, Dr. Njeru, gave me priceless guidance that I still value to date. I reached out because I understood that with a BSc in Biostatistics, I had grasped the theory with less practical knowledge. With this, I have great mentors that guide me in the right direction in the Biostatistics field.

As an organiser of R-Ladies Nairobi, I must say it’s a dream come true to be part of the R-Ladies community. I learned of R-Ladies Global in 2019, and sadly no chapter existed in Kenya. Gladly, I met my fellow co-organisers (Shel, Faith, and Maggie), with whom we have organised tutorials. As I have mentioned, it is our (R-Ladies Nairobi) mission to promote gender diversity in the R community from users, developers, trainers, learners in Nairobi, Kenya. Recently, we collaborated with #NairobiR, and successfully organised the first satRday Nairobi 2021 Conference! We are such a great team as we collaborate to get things done! 😊 Currently, we are celebrating the first anniversary of the chapter, hurray!

Wow! That is wonderful! I have seen some of your work on LinkedIn and Twitter. Thank you for taking the lead in this.

What challenges have you faced along the way?
As I have mentioned, I have had issues with my health for years but that never stopped me to achieve my goals. I learned to tell myself and believe that “you’re well, power through!”. Also, sometimes getting fees to study was a challenge. However, I am grateful that my parents worked so hard to take us to school, even with the little we had and still do with my master’s education. For my master’s, I failed to get the scholarship to pursue the course from campus, but I applied for a distance learning program through the guidance of my mentor. Still making my dream come true!! 😊

What always inspires you to move forward?
Firstly, I learned that no situation is permanent, hence doing my best wholeheartedly in all that I do. Also, giving back to society is inspiring – I love teaching. I find it satisfying and inspiring to acquire more knowledge and perfect my skills. One of the ways of mastering a concept is by teaching other people! Plus, through attending conferences, I get to see that what others have done is encouraging and mind-blowing! And to mention, my mentors have accomplished a great deal; I am motivated daily to emulate them. 😊 Above all, my parents encouraged me to be the best in what I do, and with their support, I am inspired to work hard and smart.

Tell us about your achievements and awards
Starting my higher education journey is an achievement as it brings me close to my goal. Additionally, as the organiser of R-Ladies Nairobi, we are promoting the use of R software by all genders in Nairobi, Kenya. I was awarded a diversity scholar for RStudio 2021 and R/Medicine 2021 conferences. Currently, I am the first author for a research article together with my mentor, Prof. Achia, soon to be submitted for publication.

What do you enjoy doing outside work?
I am a member of two book clubs: R for Data Science Community and Ladies Book Club, Kenya. Also, I read blogs about advances in science and blogs with R and Statistics content. Call me Reggae Roots conscious, I find the whole concept of Rastafari intriguing. I also play video and card games and enjoy cooking – tasty food for that matter. About two years ago, I started yoga and it’s something that relaxes me after a productive day!

What’s your favorite quote?
A Swahili saying: “Kidogo, kidogo, hujaza kibaba!” meaning that the small steps I take make a significant difference. Relating to my career, I learn (and apply) each day about various topics, R software, Data Science, and concepts in Biostatistics. Same application in my personal life!

What’s your word of encouragement for a young girl in STEM?
Your family background doesn’t define your future. Know what you want to be and work wholeheartedly and give it your best. The rewards are tremendous!

Thank you very much, Njoki, for taking the time to speak with me. I admire your constant learning attitude. May you find greater success for yourself.

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