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Nigerian Scholar Rose-Margaret Ekeng-Itua Becomes First Black Woman to Earn PhD in Cybernetics

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BERKSHIRE, The United Kingdom – A Nigerian scholar, Rose-Margaret Ekeng-Itua, has made history as the first black woman worldwide to earn a PhD in Cybernetics, a degree conferred by the University of Reading.

She was guided by Professor Kevin Warwick, renowned for his work as the first human Cyborg.

Cybernetics studies the intricate communication and control systems in electronic machinery and compares these to biological processes in the human brain and nervous systems.

Rose-Margaret Ekeng-Itua
Professor Rose-Margaret Ekeng-Itua pictured at an event in an undated photo.

Professor Ekeng-Itua’s dedication to this field has been fueled by a lifelong passion for STEM, stemming from her upbringing in Nigeria — a country where societal norms often discourage women from engaging in scientific fields.

Professor Ekeng-Itua has cultivated a remarkable career with over two decades of experience in engineering and STEM education across the United States, Europe, and Africa.

She has been a pivotal figure in developing programs that encourage the next generation, especially African girls, to pursue science and technology.

She holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Nigeria, and a Master of Science in Mobile and Satellite Communications Engineering from the University of Surrey, England.

Before her PhD, she also completed a Certificate in Disruptive Strategies from Harvard.

The challenges faced by Professor Ekeng-Itua in a male-dominated field were substantial, but they only strengthened her resolve.

“Every challenge became fuel for my determination. I realized that my success would not only open doors for myself but would also serve as an example for other women and girls who might otherwise doubt their capabilities,” she remarked during a recent interview.

Today, as an Engineering Professor at Ohlone College in Fremont, California, Ekeng-Itua leads the Engineering and Engineering Technology Departments and is the founding Program Lead of the College’s Smart Manufacturing Technology Program.

This program recently partnered with Tesla to enhance their Employee Education Assistance Program, aimed at upskilling employees in smart manufacturing technologies.

Professor Ekeng-Itua is not only focused on her achievements but is dedicated to using her knowledge to benefit society broadly.

“I am human-centric in my approach to making positive change; hence, the field of Cybernetics gave me that opportunity as it is centred on the purposeful design of technologies for society and humans,” she stated.

Her achievements represent a significant milestone in academic accomplishments for African women in the global scientific community, inspiring many around the world and establishing a landmark for future generations.

Prof. Rose-Margaret Ekeng-Itua, Engineering Professor, pictured with a colleague at Ohlone College in Fremont, California, USA
Prof. Rose-Margaret Ekeng-Itua, Engineering Professor, pictured with a colleague at Ohlone College in Fremont, California, USA

Educational and Career Journey of Professor Rose-Margaret Ekeng-Itua

Professor Rose-Margaret Ekeng-Itua’s path to becoming a pioneer in Cybernetics started with her foundational education in Nigeria, where she developed a passion for understanding how things work. Despite societal challenges that often discouraged women from pursuing careers in engineering and technology, Ekeng-Itua pursued her academic ambitions relentlessly.

Educational Background:

  • Bachelor of Engineering in Electrical and Electronic Engineering (Telecommunications): Rose-Margaret earned her undergraduate degree from the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO) in Nigeria. Her choice of major was inspired by her early interest in telecommunications and its potential to transform communities.
  • Master of Science in Mobile and Satellite Communications Engineering: Continuing her studies in the United Kingdom, she attended the University of Surrey, where she deepened her knowledge of communications technology, an area critical to the modern interconnected world.
  • Certificate in Disruptive Strategies: Before embarking on her PhD journey, she completed a program at Harvard that focused on innovative strategies in technology and business, preparing her for the challenges of leading change in her field.

PhD in Cybernetics:

  • Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Reading: Under the supervision of Professor Kevin Warwick, a prominent figure in the field and the first human Cyborg, Ekeng-Itua achieved her PhD in Cybernetics. Her research contributed to understanding the complex interactions between technology and human biological systems, positioning her at the forefront of technological advancement and application.

Professional Career:

  • Professor at Ohlone College, Fremont, California: At Ohlone College, Professor Ekeng-Itua not only teaches but also leads the Engineering and Engineering Technology Departments. Her leadership extends beyond administrative duties to actively mentoring students and fostering a learning environment that encourages innovation and practical learning.
  • Founding Program Lead of the Smart Manufacturing Technology Program: In this role, she spearheaded the development of a program that directly addresses the needs of modern manufacturing technology. The program’s recent collaboration with Tesla to expand their Employee Education Assistance Program is a testament to her commitment to integrating educational initiatives with industry needs, thereby enhancing the skills of Tesla workers in smart manufacturing.

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