Meet Kenya’s youngest PhD holder in Biomathematics
- Purity Ngina, 28, at a comparably young age to her PhD contemporaries and other senior academics, has established herself as an authority in the field that uses mathematical models to help understand phenomena in biology
Her academic journey began in Kyeni East, Nyeri County, her birth place. “It was beautiful growing up in the village compared to the life I lead in the city,” she fondly describes her place of origin. In 2003 she re-sat her Kenya Certificate of Primary education (KCPE) exams after a dismal performance the previous year. Her openness and unique look on life saw her reclaim her academic future when many would have written themselves off.
This move saw her improve her score significantly.
Not only did her resolve provide a morale boost, but it also gave more meaning to the pursuit of education.
Even with renewed morale, her journey had significant points of difficulty. For 14 months, Ms Ngina suffered severe bouts of insomnia. To make matters worse, she endured psychological trauma after she lost her seemingly healthy mother unexpectedly.
“My mother’s death made me work even harder, because I wanted to prove to myself that she had raised a strong individual. I went on to successfully pursue a Masters in Applied Mathematics from Egerton University and a Bachelors of Education Science from Egerton University – first class honours,” says the Calculus lecturer. She teaches students pursuing Actuarial Science, Financial Engineering, and Financial Economics at Strathmore University.
Her knowledge in applied mathematics placed her in a position to venture deep into the inner workings of biomathematics where she involved herself in analysis of the dynamics of HIV in her final dissertation. HIV is a disease 1.6 million Kenyans suffer from according to the United Nations Prgramme on HIV and AIDS.
Her drive stems from ambition to help alter this grave statistic. When speaking about her research, enthusiasm flows as she delves into the details on how mathematical modelling is one of the many tools used to understand the dynamics of disease transmission.
“With what we call ‘in-vivo’ modelling. We try to model cells. We want to see the interaction and the relationship between body cells, the virus coming in and what we can do to solve it,” she says
From her findings, Purity is optimistic about the future in terms of demographic tailor-made administering of HIV control measures.
She hopes that the results from like-minded peers will provide more home-grown research findings that the government can utilise to make impactful decisions.
Ngina, also, provides insight on medical innovations like Truvada, a conspicuously large blue tablet that serves as a pre-emptive HIV control measure. It has, according to the bio-mathematician, had noteworthy impact on slowing down the rate of HIV infections and can have further bearing in Kenya through sensitisation.
Her inviting smile and friendly ways are unique traits that allow Ngina’s light to shine amidst a long line of other high achievers. These attributes allow her to stand out as a model of success her students can look up to. As a young lady in the long, and at times dimly lit, corridors of academia, she shines her light on the paths of many ambitious youth who possess the drive and require a little reassurance that the outcome will be one to be proud of.