June 28, 2022

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Winning best thesis a dream come true – Umudu

The Vice-Chancellor, University of Lagos, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe with Dr. Joy Umudu

In this interview with OLUWASEUN ALESHINLOYE, NWANERI GODSPOWER and FAITH ENANG, this year’s overall best thesis winner, Joy Imudu shares her excitement at emerging the best Ph.D thesis winner.

Can you kindly introduce yourself? 

I’m Joy Chinyere Umudu a native of Anambra State. I was born and bred In Jos, Plateau state. I had my primary and secondary education in Jos and my first degree in the prestigious University of Jos. I came out with a first-class in mathematics from there, I went into stitching for a couple of years. By then I had gotten married and then got into the University of Lagos to pursue my master’s in mathematics. When I got done with that in 2016, I proceeded to start my Ph.D. programme, and by the grace of God, I’m done with that.

How did you receive the news of receiving the best thesis award?

I received the news this afternoon from the Dean of Postgraduate School who called me to break the news to me and I was excited by the news.

Did you dream that your thesis will be the best of over one hundred and something pages?

That is what I set out to do. I try to do the best I can in every area. So a couple of times the thoughts crossed my mind, I was hoping that this day would come to pass, and here I am. I’m excited because it is a dream come true. It is what I’ve looked forward to. And I’m very, very happy. 

What is the title of your thesis?

The title of my thesis is “New fixpoints results for some Garate classic contrition type machines in selected abstract spaces.”

What is it all about? Can you explain? What are the problems you tried to solve in your thesis?

Okay. What I did was to introduce some classes of quasi contraction type mappings of Garate type. This class of mappings used, using some select insulated abstract spaces, were used to solve problems that were known that the solutions were not in existence. Now, this class of mappings is a generalization of what is obtainable in literature. It generalizes and obtains the previous results. And then, using the class of mappings, I was able to obtain fixed point results in spaces where solutions ordinarily did not exist. So that’s what basically what I did in these cases

How many years did you spend on your Ph.D. programme?

I started this Ph.D. programme in 2016. I deferred a session after my coursework. And then returned to continue with my research. So I started in 2016 and I finished last year, August last year. So I’d say if I should include both the era of Coronavirus and my year of deferments, I’ll say five years, but the experience, I did all of that in three years.

What were the challenges when you were pursuing your Ph.D.?

Well, as a Ph.D. student, the challenge I faced first was getting to settle down to do exactly what I needed to do. This took a while. But I thank God for my very meticulous supervisor, Professor Layeru. He was there to give me the guidance needed and the necessary support. He was there to tutor and guide me every step of the way. So I was able to overcome that challenge of knowing what to do with his help. I am very grateful to him for being there for me.

 Another challenge I faced is that, well, most of them were challenges that I was able to overcome easily, but I noticed that for some of my colleagues it was a huge task. Sometimes there is this fear, that is isolation. You feel isolated because you think others may not know exactly what you’re doing. And that’s the fear of the unknown. Because there comes a place where you think well, does this prove that I can move forward? Or do I stop?  Now, I’ll say that I didn’t have that much of a problem because my supervisor and I had this open-door policy, I always walk up to him and discuss whatever challenge I’m faced with at work. And he’s always calling to ask what I’m up to and what problems I’m facing. Some of my colleagues were not fortunate in that regard. Some of them were not very close to their supervisors.

 I’ll also say I noticed a lack of institutional support in the course of my programme. I was fortunate in that regard, again, because I was given study leave from my place of work at the University of Jos. I had my full-time study leave, even though I applied for part-time, it allowed me to go on a full-time study, and that gave me all the time needed to focus on my research. So it would be nice if many of us who are in academia are given the necessary institutional support to pursue a Ph.D. just like my University did.

 In addition, I would like to talk about creating a balance between research and life which wasn’t very easy. I will say, because as a Ph.D. student, you need to read, or sometimes you also need to take out time to discover yourself and get back refreshed. I thank God for my very supportive husband, and my children, for their understanding. So I was able to put all of this together, and then come out stronger. 

Then let’s talk about the stress of research. I will say that research work cannot be discussed without the stress that one has to go through, to achieve results, and for some, it results in something not palatable. So what worked for me was to take my time, sometimes when I have a bad day, I just get to my closet and meditate. I take stock of all that I’ve gone through and then try to see what I can change. Because whether we like it or not, there are certain things that one cannot change. So I just dust myself off and pick up from there. And the truth is that in research, in the course of this research, there is no gain without pain. And that is the truth, it wasn’t a smooth ride, I thank God for my supervisors, Dr. Layeru and Dr. Mogbademu, and all who were with me all the way were very instrumental in the success of this Ph. D programme. And I must say that it wouldn’t have been this successful without their support and encouragement and I’m grateful to the lecturers for their constructive criticism.

I used to look forward to attending the department’s seminar, it was very nice because it helped us grow and build on what we have. So, I’d like to say that, as a Ph.D. student, some of the challenges that I saw in my department was that some students were not able to withstand the steam of both research and what goes with the research. Discouragement may come in one way or the other, it could be through the lecturers in the department, through in the research itself, one must learn to live above such and collaborate with other students, for me, throughout my years as a PA student, I attended conferences and seminars all through, the only year I didn’t attend was 2019 because of the Corona COVID-19 and I  had to link up virtually. Now attending conferences enables me to interact with colleagues and learn from their wealth of experience and that was very helpful to me. No matter what challenge I was faced with, I wasn’t secretive about it. I didn’t hold on to myself, I was ready to discuss with people, and then my supervisor. So those are the challenges faced and then for some of us, funding is also an issue. I believe research will be better with research grants. If some of us can get that I think that will go a long way, especially for some of us in the sciences, having good access to research grants and even scholarships will go a long way. So those are some of my challenges. Thank you.

During your Ph.D., were you at any time discouraged about the programme, or did you at any time think you should drop it?

Discouraged? Yes, I was sometimes discouraged, especially with research. You know, research can be frustrating sometimes. Yes, once or twice, I was discouraged. But I never for once thought of stopping or discontinuing the programme, because I’m someone that believes in getting things done, when I set my mind to something, I won’t stop until I get it. Couple that with my supervisor who was always there for me. In a week, sometimes we see each other daily. I see him at least once a week, sometimes twice.  So I wasn’t far from my supervisor, my supervisor was always there to discuss the research work, to discuss challenges faced, and then to map out the way to go. So I never for once thought of stopping my work.

 How would you assess the Ph.D. programme at the University of Lagos?

 I must say I’m happy that I chose the University of Lagos to do my Ph.D., the University of Lagos is indeed the school of the first choice. I know where I’m coming from, I’ve been through other schools and I can say, with all sense of responsibility that the University of Lagos is, is one of the foremost universities, where one can get or attain academic excellence, second to none. 

 How can we make mathematics interesting to students, especially in secondary school, and even the university?

Yeah, thank you very much for that question. Mathematics as a subject tends to scare students away. I think it is mostly because of the abstract nature of the subject. But in my teaching experience, I came to understand that if we can bring home mathematics to our daily lives, students would become more interested. When I was teaching, what I used to do then was to relate every topic with our daily activities, and I saw my students grow interested in the subject.

What is your advice to Ph.D. students in general?

Well, my advice to the up-and-coming students is, first of all, it’s very important that as a student, you choose a supervisor you can work with. In my case, I decided on my supervisor right from when I was doing my MSc. I read his work, I checked, and I was convinced that I would like to work with Professor Layeru. 

Secondly, you should choose a topic that interests you. One of the very important things in Ph.D. research work is motivation. Once you lack motivation, you may find it difficult to forge ahead. 

Third, as students, it’s very bad to work in isolation. I didn’t work in isolation, I made sure I discussed my work with my supervisor, both my supervisors, I discussed with Dr. Layeru, I discussed with Dr. Mogbademu, I discussed with my colleagues. At any point in time, I made sure I had someone to talk to. I also made sure I attended conferences. 

Furthermore, persistence is the key. Once you set your mind to something, you shouldn’t give up. With persistence and tenacity, I tell you, the sky is your limit. Then finally, I’ll advise up-and-coming colleagues, not to let failure be a distraction. Failing is not bad, but it is when you fail and rise above your challenges, then you come out triumphant but when you fail and remain there, then that becomes a problem. So, I advise my up-and-coming colleagues to rise against failure and not to get distracted.