Academic blazes trails for women in


Prof Olubukola Oluranti Babalola has more than 200 research outputs to her name yet still finds time to advocate for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).


Boasting impressive credentials


Prof Olubukola Babalola has impressive credentials.

According to the African Scientists Directory, she has postdoctoral experience from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and the University of the Western Cape.


As director of the NWU’s research entity, Food Security and Safety, Olubukola is the principal investigator of the microbial biotechnology group, turning out MSc and PhD students in record time.



Prof Olubukola Oluranti Babalola has come a long way since attending the African Church Princess Primary School and the Methodist Girls’ High School in Lagos, Nigeria.


Her research is helping to promote food security and she is a champion of female scientists, having recently been re-elected vice-president of the Organisation of Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD).


Founded in 1987, this international organisation is based at the offices of The World Academy of Sciences and is a programme unit of UNESCO. As one of four OWSD vice-presidents, Olubukola is responsible for the Africa region.


eish! spoke to her about her re-election.


What are your ties to the OWSD?

I have been a fellow and member of OWSD for over 20 years. I obtained my PhD in microbiology with the visiting research fellowship of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the postgraduate training fellowships of the OWSD.


In May 2016, at the OWSD Fifth General Assembly and International Conference in Kuwait, I was elected to lead the 2016/2021 OWSD Africa region. I appreciate my re-election in June 2021 as vice-president of the region until 2025.


What does your re-election mean to you?

Personally, it makes me versatile and more approachable to girls and women in science. I have always craved the opportunity to help girls. Besides that, it allows me to meet different kinds of people in terms of culture, orientation and background.


For my part, l engage in year-round presentations as called upon by African nations and other OWSD regions.


To me, it is about the adequate representation of OWSD Africa at national and international fora. This is more than attending meetings, convening sessions and making presentations; it is about leadership, OWSD expansion and formation of national chapters.


During my first term in office, OWSD was inaugurated in Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. So I have to provide broad support for the activities of OWSD, such as fundraising, networking, career development and strategic planning. I also support the activities of the headquarters staff and OWSD's national chapters and branches.


What does your re-election mean to the NWU at large?

In all the speaking engagement bookings I get, the NWU is made explicitly clear as my home base. You will find the beautiful purple logo of the NWU on the acknowledgment slide of every presentation. That is good branding. I am incredibly proud to be here! It all starts here!


I am also a graduate of the NWU Business School. My dissertation was on women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) leadership and my MBA is part of my unique selling points.


I am privileged to be known as an NWU researcher. Both the NWU and OWSD are committed to promoting science, sharing knowledge, encouraging participation and building community.


With her passion for food security and the role of women in science, it is no wonder that Olubukola was elected for a second term in office.