Women in STEM: Arinola

Arinola at a Food Science congress

My 40th guest is Arinola, a food scientist, mother of two and deeply in love with science.

Hi Arinola! First of all would you like to tell us something about you?

My name is Arinola Olaonipekun, I was born and grew up in the city of Lagos Nigeria. I started off with a degree in Microbiology, then marriage brought me to South Africa where I attained a degree in Masters degree in Food Science (specialized in food safety).

When did you start your Twitter and Instagram accounts? How did you get the idea?

I actually started my social media accounts years ago. I opened my Facebook account first, cannot remember the year exactly, probably around 2007. My Instagram and twitter accounts were opened around 2010, but I was never active on this platforms until recently…say 2016. I got the idea through friends informing me that there are so much fun going on on Instagram and Twitter.

Can you tell us something about how you balance work and private life? 

Well, its quite difficult to balance work and private life, considering I have a family with 2 active boys, studying towards my PhD and mentoring my siblings and others. But I try as much as possible to have a social life. I create time for my studies and for my family and other commitment and I do not let one affect the other. Before the lockdown, I only study or do work related activities when I’m at school, however at home, I dedicate my time to my family and social activities.

During your academic studies how many women were in course? Why in your opinion?

Over 70% of the class were women. In my opinion, most people believe Food science is related to cooking or activities related to cooking. I’ve met lots of people asking me about recipes and all that because I’m studying ‘Food Science’. I try as much as I can to orientate them that Food Science is not about cooking but studying the science of food and going into deep explanation about this.

Have you ever felt harassed or being kept apart as a scholar because you are a woman?

No, I haven’t been in such situation before.

How did you become passionate about science? 

My passion for science started when I moved to South Africa and proceeded with my degree in Food Science. I had the best of mentors that showed me how interesting science is and made sure all the resources I needed to be a scientist were available. There and then, I knew I would get to PhD level. Also, knowing that what you’ve learnt in class just as science can actually be applied directly to everyday life activities…in food production, in producing foods that is safe for consumers, in producing colourful and tasty foods that appeal to consumer senses and needs. Then, I knew this is the field I want to belong to and Its been an interesting and exciting journey!

Would you like to talk briefly about your job?

I am a passionate Food Scientist and I specialize in Food Safety. I conduct Food Safety related research. I also conduct shelf life and process validation studies of foods for food companies.

Thank you so much for your time. Lastly, can you give any advice to girls interested in STEM?

Stay focused and determined! Always go for what you are passionate about, as this is what keeps you determined to succeed and not give up on your dreams. Be intentional in your pursuit to be successful, never stop learning, always develop yourself and the sky is just the starting point.

Follow Arinola on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Published by Martina Bodner

Biotechnologist, PhD Candidate in Food Chemistry, Science Teacher, STEM and autism advocate, mother.

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