Meet Chinwe Ekenna, Assistant Professor at the University at Albany, New York

June 3, 2020

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Professor Chinwe Ekenna’s bio

Chinwe Ekenna is currently an Assistant Professor at the University at Albany NY. She has a PhD from Texas A&M University with research focused on Robotics and Computational Biology. She currently works with a diverse group of research assistants in her robotics lab and has published research papers covering a wide range of robotics and computational biology topics. She is currently an author for the IEE-RAS magazine on stories covering notable research being done by women researchers in robotics. She serves as the faculty advisor for the ACM-W women in computing group at her university and is a strong advocate for equity and inclusiveness in the workplace, life and learning environments. 

 

Why did you get into STEM? 

I had a passion for STEM courses while in high school and was frequently the only female taking more advanced math classes.  I have always been curious about courses termed “difficult” and not female-inclined and, also wanted to prove my male friends wrong by taking these advanced courses with them. 

I developed the drive to continue in this direction during my undergraduate studies at Covenant University Nigeria where I studied for a Computer Science degree and here I am as a professional in a STEM profession. 

 

What do you consider your greatest achievements? 

My greatest achievement to date has been the ability to finish up my PhD and not give up even during very difficult and confusing seasons of my study. Being able to stand and teach college students now as an Instructor and have them appreciate learning is also a great achievement for me. 

 

What challenges have you faced as a woman in STEM and how did you overcome them? 

The major challenge I’ve faced has been both external and internal. External in the sense that I have to go the extra mile to have my ideas taken seriously. I’ve learnt to bring my own chair to the table and lean forward to get my voice heard.  Internally I have faced an “imposter syndrome” where I’m also not sure about the feasibility of my approach. I have learnt, however, to keep fine-tuning my ideas and getting the right help when needed. 

 

What is your advice to budding women in STEM? 

My advice is simple: Never Give Up. Just keep striving with what you believe and don’t let anyone intimidate or make you feel less than your worth. Build your technical capacity and social network and never be afraid to reach out for help from like-minded people. 

Finally, find a mentor and someone who believes in you, gives you good advice, and is also a listening ear when you want to vent.

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