“Africa has a different face than that of poverty…the African woman is active, and she is involved in professional life, in particular in research”


11/10/2021

Today, we present you with a new beneficiary of Science by Women. She is an investigator from Senegal who has recently joined the University Institute of Biomedical and Health Research of Las Palmas.

 

Dr. Marie Ndiaye has a doctorate from the Gaston Berger University of Saint-Louis and François Rabelais University of Tours in France. An expert in data mining, she currently directs the Laboratory of Computer Science and Computer Engineering for Innovation at Assane Seck University in Ziguinchor.

 

At IUIBS, she applies data mining to health research to find solutions that will improve the health system in Africa, particularly in Senegal. Her scholarship is funded by the Canarias government.

 

What encouraged you to pursue a scientific career? What drew you towards your specialty?

First of all, I had certain ease with science subjects at school and I liked to take up challenges. When I am told that it is difficult, I often want to test to see for myself. This is what led me to the sciences.

After two years of study, you had to choose between continuing in math or computer science. During the first two years, I discovered and developed a passion for computer science. So, I chose to continue in this area.

Have you felt supported throughout your career?

Yes, my parents supported me a lot, in particular my mother who always tried to provide me with the right conditions to study for a long time.

In addition, I had the support of the Senegalese state starting from my first year of college until my master’s. Then, I had funding from the French cooperation in Senegal with a “cotutelle” doctoral grant, which allowed me to spend 6 months out of the year in my host university in France. I also met beautiful people in France who helped me a lot with various administrative procedures, finding accommodation, integrating myself, etc.

At the beginning of my career, I had the support of my thesis directors, who were very helpful in my search for a position, and also in university research. At the university, I found colleagues who were open and willing to help me. Finally, I will finish with my husband who time and time again encourages me to keep going.

All these people and entities have played a decisive role in my career, I take this opportunity to thank them.

Do you feel that being a woman has made it harder for you? In what ways?

Yes, to a certain extent. What weighs me down the most is how much time I have to dedicate to home chores and organization. We are a large family and we often have members who stay at our home. So, we have to take care of them and keep them company, and that’s the role of women in our country. As there are members who regularly come, it is often difficult for me to devote myself to research or even to properly do the tasks related to teaching and administration. Sometimes I cut my sleep short to be up to date. In summary, the social (feminine) responsibilities take a lot of time and it affects my career, especially my research which suffers from it first.

What is the research you are carrying out? How do you think your work can contribute to your research area?

My research is in the field of Data Mining. The idea is to explore data to discover relevant knowledge to better understand this data or to predict phenomena in the future. The aim is to provide decision-makers with tangible knowledge that will help them in their decision-making.

I am interested in a free software called 3D Slicer which is widely used for research in medical and biomedical imaging. It concentrates several functionalities, in particular those which make it possible to visualize parts of the human body in real-time from the inside in a non-invasive way, to practice exercises within them as part of medical training, or to create atlases of the human body anatomy which are very useful for learning.

The institute I work at capitalizes experience on this software and collaborates with several other universities and health structures.

My research focuses on the application of Data Mining techniques to data resulting from scenarios of uses of 3D Slicer functionalities to improve their efficiency or to better guide the user. For example, this could be applied to training or surgical planning.

On one hand, the application of Data Mining techniques to concrete situations can highlight aspects that need to be improved in these techniques. On the other hand, facing new issues can lead to adapting or developing new techniques that will be more appropriate.

What do you expect from your stay at the University Institute of Biomedical and Health Research of Las Palmas?

I am very happy to be welcomed to the IUIBS. I would first like to familiarize myself with the areas of expertise and research of the team. Next, I would like to find connections between my research area and the areas of the team members and finally, develop collaborations with my home university Senegal, and the IUIBS.

Do you have any female role models that have inspired or supported you?

Fatou Diom because, on one hand, life has not always been kind to her, however she fought for her aspirations. On the other hand, she has this sensitivity that allows her to express what Africans live and feel today, but also this honesty to look us in the face and tell us the truth and make us aware of our mistakes.

Rose Dieng-Kuntz because she was one of the few Senegalese women that have reached a very high level in research. Indeed, she started her studies in Senegal and finished her studies in France with brilliant results. Gradually, she found herself at the head of a research program at the National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control (INRIA) in France.

The backgrounds of these two ladies show that despite the difficulties faced by women and in particular African women, they can succeed and shine in their field.

What would be your advice to a girl who wants to pursue a career in STEM and more specifically in your specialty?

To these girls, I say don’t fall for the stereotypes that claim that STEM is difficult because it creates a barrier at their level. You have to be open-minded and take it step-by-step. There are a lot of interesting things to discover in the different applications of STEM, especially computer science, which is revolutionizing all lines of business. Knowing how things work and even participating in the development of innovative solutions is even more exciting than just using them.

COVID19

How do you see the current coronavirus situation in general and especially in Africa and your country?

Beyond the loss of human life and people who have suffered serious consequences, the coronavirus is a disease that has considerably slowed down the functioning of most industries around the world. Today we see the damage. In particular, in Senegal, where the situation is similar to other African countries, many families have fallen into a weakened or even very precarious financial situation, which slows the emergence in our countries. In addition, I think that it made our leaders aware that development by Africa and for Africa is to be taken seriously and that we must work in this direction by setting up programs that will make it possible to produce what we need on our own.

What are your forecasts?

We are seeing strategies in motion, including the production of several vaccines and the application of barrier gestures. From an economic point of view, the activity sectors are recovering. In summary, means are being developed to adapt to this situation. Research is also being carried out to manage the disease or even eradicate it. So, I am hopeful that it will not cause us as much of a problem as it used to and that in the near future it will be like other diseases that mankind has known. And for Africa, awareness will lead to better defining development policies.

Do you think the scientific community is being effective in dealing with this crisis?

Yes, I have complete confidence in this community. If we stick to history, the scientific community has solved many problems related to health crises. Moreover, nowadays it is better equipped to deal with this kind of problem. In my opinion, it’s more a matter of time.

Has it been a challenge for them?

In my opinion, it was a big challenge. Indeed, it is an unprecedented crisis and strategies had to be developed very quickly to save lives and limit the damage.

Do you think there will be clear before and after as a result of the pandemic?

 Yes, the pandemic has marked us in our daily lives, in our industries, and even in our conception of humanity. It has shown us that we are all connected in one way or another. In my opinion, there is at least something that will change in our perception of the world but also in the way we conduct our activities. For example, teleworking has grown considerably with the pandemic; likewise, human beings have polluted the earth less.

If you want to add anything, you can do so.

I thank the Mujeres por África Foundation for this opportunity to discover the world of research in Las Palmas and to be able to forge collaborations. This is a great experience that I am having both professionally and personally. It also shows that Africa has a different face than that of poverty, scarcity, immigration, etc. and that the African woman is active, and she is involved in professional life, in particular in research.

 

Friends of the foundation