Meet Purity Ngina, the youngest PhD holder in Biomathematics
28 year-old Purity Ngina, at a comparably young age to her PhD contemporaries and other senior academics, has established a firm base at Strathmore Institute of Mathematical Sciences, where she serves the institution in her lecturing and research capacities.
Her academic journey began in Kyeni East, Nyeri County her birth place. “It was beautiful to grow in the village, I think I loved being there. When I compare my life in the village and now.” She fondly describes her place of origin. In 2003 she resat her Kenya Certificate of Primary education (KCPE) exams after a dismal performance the previous year. Her openness and unique look on life had 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 her with a morale boost, it also resulted in a life-changing eureka moment. “I think I had now known the reason why I was in school.”
However, her energetic spirit fuels her ambition and irons out any creases on her seemingly flawless academic resume. Her journey, like all odysseys towards success, featured significant points of difficulty.
“For fourteen months I could not sleep without taking something, but sometimes I would say to myself, I don’t want to take these drugs. When I did not take the drugs I spent most of the time on my laptop, and I really worked.” Purity lost her mother unexpectedly, a person who she described as being very healthy, making her death very unforeseen. This sudden loss came with a lot of psychological trauma that caused her intense emotional stress. Despite being deeply bereaved. Purity, at a very trying point of her life, turned to God, her colleagues, and her own resilience to allow her to stay on course; even managing to redirect her insomnia and colour over the darkness with her enthusiasm for studies.
“Her death made me work even harder, because I wanted to prove to myself that as much as she was my greatest pillar, she is gone but still left someone who can stand on her own. It pushed me somehow to even work harder”
Her knowledge and obvious prowess 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. “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.” HIV is a disease which United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) says 1.6 million Kenyans suffer from. Her drive stems from her ambition to help alter this grave statistic. When speaking to her about her research, enthusiasm overflows as she delves into the details on how mathematical modelling is one of the many tools used to understand the dynamics of disease transmission.
From her findings Purity says she is very optimistic about the future in terms of demographic tailor-made administering of HIV control measures. “The results we get can advise the government, such that we are not just taking laws from outside; we are depending on the content and what we are seeing on the ground.” She also added that effective research can further improve the reality that is HIV for the better. While commending the strides that have been made by thoughtful painstakingly diligent analysis conducted in the medical field Purity also provides insight on medical innovations like Truvada, a conspicuously large blue tablet that serves as a pre-emptive HIV control measure. According to Purity, it has had noteworthy impact on slowing down the rate of HIV infections and can have further impacts in Kenya through sensitisation.
Her inviting smile and friendly ways are unique traits that allow Purity’s light to shine amidst a long line of other high achievers. These attributes allow her to stand out as a mathematical model of success that her students can look to in order to equate their own aspirations in life. As a young lady on the long and at times dimly lit corridors of academia, Purity 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.
Article by Neville Ramogo Otema.