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Machine learning will touch everybody's life

Abdulsalam Mahmud, FASLN

Thursday, 9 July 2020

The trio of Adejumobi Peace Adetayo, Adaukwu Emmanuella Alaribe, and Ahaiwe Godlyn, have emerged winners of the maiden National Life Sciences Competition (NLSC) for Nigerian secondary schools.

They are students of George Green Baptist College, in Oyo State; Redeemer's High School, in Ogun State; and International School, University of Lagos (UNILAG), in Lagos State; respectively.

Aside, a certificate of recognition, they will receive a cash prize of N20,000; N30,000 and N50,000 respectively, for emerging winners in the essay contest.

The competition was organized by the Science Communication Hub Nigeria (SciComNigeria), in conjunction with Teaching and Research in Natural Sciences for Development (TReND) in Africa, and supported by the Physiological Society of United Kingdom (UK).

NLSC is aimed at inspiring and motivating secondary school students across the country to develop genuine interest in life sciences, life sciences courses in the university, and eventually take up careers in science fields, generally.

Godlyn garnered a score of 88.6% to beat Alaribe and Adetayo, who are females, to emerge champion of the competition. While Alaribe, who scored 83.9% as mark, came second. Adetayo, clinched the third position having scored 81.1%.

They were announced as winners of the NLSC at a virtual award presentation ceremony on Tuesday.

Pursue Careers in Science 

Before the SciComNigeria team, organizers of the event, unveiled names of the prize winners, some guest speakers and experts, admonished the lucky winners to remain focused and pursue careers in the field of science.

In their separate talks, during the event streamed live on Facebook and YouTube platforms, they underscored the importance of science towards the socio-economic development of any nation.

Veritable Tool for Development 

According to Dr. Rose Maxwell Gidado, one of the speakers, since science is a veritable tool for attaining national development, it is extremely important that upcoming scientists and science students in secondary schools understand the problems and challenges hindering scientific development in the country.

“This include the myths, fallacies and controversies on scientific innovations, like the case of the genetically-modified organisms (GMOs),” she said, before adding that, “But, despite the controversy, GMO was invented to create better, healthier and nutritious foods, while also developing good varieties of crops that will go a long way to guarantee food security.”

Dr. Gidado, who is the Deputy Director, Department of Agricultural Biotechnology, at the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) in Abuja, also stressed the need for massive science communication in the media, so as to help dispel wrong public perceptions about science.

She observed that science provides a new social environment, with which an ambitious person can easily earn recognition through displaying his or her uncommon research capacity and innovation talents in various scientific fields.

While urging organizers of the competition to continue grooming students with flair for science, Gidado, expressed delight that two of the winners are young, brilliant and potential female scientists.

She said: “Having female students as part of the winners is an eloquent testimony to the importance and power of the girl child education, especially for our dear country.”

Be Passionate, Set Goals 

On his part, Prof. Isa Husseini Marte, another erudite speaker, who is the Commissioner of Higher Education in Borno State, emphasized the need for the winners and other students to be passionate, hardworking and set lofty goals, if they desire to become world-class scientists or professionals in other science fields, in future.

Husseini Marte, a Professor of Pharmacology, also advised them to have role models and mentors they will look up to for sound tutelage and professional guidance.

While noting that scientists, in the last one century, have transformed the universe by helping to fast-track development globally, the Borno State Commissioner, said: “It is paramount for you to have role models and mentors. But the most important thing, and our greatest expectation on you is that you eventually achieve greater scientific feats, more than what your mentors and role models achieved.”

Meditating on Beach
Covid 19

Winners of 1st NLSC

Machine Learning, New Electricity 

In a career talk entitled, “Machine Learning: The New Electricity,” Dr. Ali Maina Bukar, a researcher in Manchester, UK, said machine learning, which is now a buzz word in the Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) world, is the study of computing algorithm, whereby electronic gadgets and various types of machines learn to execute tasks by themselves.

This, he said, is as a result of the huge amount of data available to them for speedy analysis and processing.

Dr. Maina, who is the Director of SciComNigeria, explained that machine learning is used in detecting tumors in images, and the areas affected by tumors after Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans by doctors and other health personnel.

He said: “It is also used in biometric for facial recognition and for security purposes. Machine learning can look at mails in our mailbox and detect whether the messages are sent by scammers. Google today uses machine learning to selects and predicts accurate texts for someone typing on a phone or computer system. Machine learning is also used for translating an audio from one international language to another.”

Maina, who said proficiency is needed in mathematics and computer programing by students who aspire to become a machine learning expert, again added: “Google maps, which are used for navigation, is assisted by machine learning. So, machine learning is going to be the new electricity that will touch everybody's life, because it is applicable to every field.”

‘Communication Degree is Needless’ 

A freelance science journalist, Mr. Abdullahi Tsanni, in his pep talk, pointed out that no university degree or certificate is required for anyone to practice science journalism.

Tsanni, who is the Communication Coordinator for the Science Hub, said: “There is no need for you to have a degree in science communication, journalism or mass communication before you report about science, or practice science journalism. What is important is your ability to write and report on science and science-based issues. In other words, your skill, craft or writing talent are crucial.”

He admitted that science reporters are continuously playing a great role in providing and disseminating factual information on the COVID-19 pandemic, amid misinformation and fake news about the scourge.

Who Becomes a Doctor? 

Dr. Adeniran Muibat, a Senior Registrar at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), in Oyo State, dispelled the erroneous belief that only brilliant persons become doctors, saying: “That is far from reality.”

Dr. Muibat, in her a presentation on “Medicine as a Career in Life Sciences,” said: “In medicine, what is required is dedication and focus. Even if one is brilliant, but is not focused, one may end up quitting the profession at the end of the day. And as a doctor, sometimes your patient may not be in need of drugs, but your psychotherapy to heal and cure them from whatever kind of sickness. Hence, there is need for doctors to be warm, friendly and welcoming towards their patients.”

Study Role Models’ Biographies 

Founding Director of SciComNigeria, Dr. Mahmoud Bukar Maina, meanwhile encouraged the essay competition winners to imbibe the spirit of perseverance, as future scientists.

“Every invention recorded by scientists in the annals of history was facilitated by perseverance, especially on the part of the scientists. Successful inventors, who are also scientists, have always been persistent and hardworking,” said Dr. Maina, who is also a researcher at the University of Sussex, UK.

He advised the three essay champions to meticulously study the biographies of their role models and mentors, in order to learn from their success stories and challenges, as well.

‘We'll Pursue Our Dreams’ 

In short remarks after emerging winners, Adetayo, Alaribe and Godlyn, who were all visibly excited, dedicated the awards to their parents, teachers and schools.

They commended Science Communication Hub Nigeria for organizing the competition, while assuring that they will not relent in pursuing their dreams of becoming prolific scientists.

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