How this great yet unsung Tanzanian scientist became first African to win top science award

Mildred Europa Taylor Jan 27, 2021 at 11:00am

January 27, 2021 at 11:00 am | Success Story, Tech & Innovation, Women

Mildred Europa Taylor

Mildred Europa Taylor | Head of Content

January 27, 2021 at 11:00 am | Success Story, Tech & Innovation, Women

Tanzanian scientist Joyce Singano. Image via The Citizen

“Everything is possible as long as you put an effort and love what you are doing. Enjoy what you are doing.”

Those are the words of Tanzanian micro-paleontologist Joyce Singano to young potential women scientists in Africa. Her piece of advice comes after winning the prestigious Brady Medal Award presented to rock researchers and being the first African to win the award. The Brady Medal Award is the highest accolade given to micropaleontology scientists who have influenced the field immensely through excellent research and service to the community.

The study of microfossils, or micropaleontology, is a major field of research in the geological sciences. It involves the study of organisms so small that they can be seen only with the help of a microscope. All over the world, scientists examining microfossils aim to answer some major questions to better understand past and present climate crises and environmental change.

Tanzania’s Singano, who is said to be the first micro paleontologist professional in Africa, has spent much of her career working at the Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC) where she set up her own laboratory from scratch, The Citizen reported.

She told BBC she became interested in the study of microfossils while at the TPDC. “I was given samples from the wells which were being drilled offshore in an island called Songo Songo,” she said.

Today, her work and contributions have greatly impacted the geology and micropalaeontology research done in the country for the past twenty years, said The Micropalaeontological Society (TMS), which presented her with the award. In an interview with The Citizen, Singano, who has been described by the Tanzanian government as an inspiration to girls and women in STEM, said: “Some of researches that we did here in Tanzania have been used by many scientists and academics in their fields of work – and, till this day, researchers and other international scientists use samples from Tanzania.”

Indeed, Singano has 12 published papers, many with University College London (UCL) researchers, and with almost 1,500 citations to-date, which, according to TMS, “undoubtedly, represents a substantial body of outstanding research.” It is also important to note that most of the work of the Tanzanian scientist has been applied, thus, remains unpublished. Nevertheless, she played a huge role within the Tanzania Drilling Project (TDP), an international palaeoclimate research program.

“In those days, fossil fuel was the thing, and at the moment, we are producing gas in Tanzania. All this has come because of the studies we have been doing before,” Singano said of the benefits of her work to Tanzania.

Being awarded the highest global accolade in the world of micropalaeontology means a lot to her, she said. “I mean it’s a climax of your career. You have been working all these years…and suddenly someone remembers that she’s been working on this one and she has done a lot of work…and someone recognizes you. There is nothing better in science than that.”

The Brady Award, which is the highest award of The Micropalaeontological Society, is named in honor of George Stewardson Brady (1832-1921) and Henry Bowman Brady (1835-1891) in “recognition of their outstanding pioneering studies in micropaleontology and natural history.”

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