Unique Scientist: Sophie Okolo

Introducing Sophie Okolo (She/her)! Sophie is originally from Nigeria and currently lives in the USA where she started Global Health Aging (@GHealthAging)!

What kind of scientist are you?
I am a public health researcher studying longevity and aging across the lifespan. My work focuses on preventing Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline, improving quality of life for older people, and increasing awareness of preventive care. I am also a science communicator and love to write and talk about the intersection of technology and healthcare. My insights and bylines have appeared on Forbes, MarketWatch, PBS Next Avenue, Massive Science, Salon, and IEEE Potentials, among others. After getting degrees in bioinformatics and public health, I started Global Health Aging, a publication that provides readers with facts about healthy aging and longevity.

What made you want to become a scientist?
As a young girl, I was an avid reader. I had a budding interest in science and became inspired by my mother’s love of science and healthcare. She started and operated a community pharmacy for several years, where I became exposed to different views of health, including patient engagement, health promotion, and preventive medicine. My scientific experiences were also crucial turning points in college. Some of my favorite activities include an internship at the City of Hope National Medical Center and my participation in the NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). 

“During my studies, there were not many people who looked like me, and I struggled with impostor syndrome and self-doubt.”

Sophie Okolo

What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
I’m a woman and a minority in STEM. During my studies, there were not many people who looked like me, and I struggled with impostor syndrome and self-doubt. My guest post for International Day of Women and Girls in Science describes my experience as a minority women scientist. I have learned a lot and continue to learn as I navigate a career in STEM.

What’s something cool you do outside of work?
I am a proud bibliophile! I de-stress by reading, and my favorite genres are fantasy, science fiction, and even cookbooks. I also curate my book account on Twitter , where I share my love of books and movies. Self-care is essential. My goal is to make it a priority because I sometimes ignore it.

“Self-care is essential. My goal is to make it a priority because I sometimes ignore it.”

Sophie Okolo

If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
Celebrate every achievement and not just people who fit with the stereotypes of scientists. Also embrace failure, install empowering beliefs and encourage scientists to separate their work from their identity as a person. I love this quote “You are worth so much more than your productivity.”

Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
Myself. I’m inspired to do better each day physically, mentally, and emotionally. Also, my mommy! Her example and mentorship had a strong influence on the formation of my career goals. She encouraged my fascination with science. I still have fond memories of her explaining chemical reactions and equations at the dinner table. And lastly, my friends who are my biggest cheerleaders.

Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?  
I interviewed a woman whose goal is to improve environmental sustainability and human health in low-income urban areas in Malawi. The interview was published on Global Health Aging. Next up is an article about the connection between the human gut microbiome and healthy aging.

 #WomenInSTEM, #BlackInSTEM #MarginSci

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