Margaret Ikape is a PhD candidate in the department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Toronto. She was born in Nigeria, where she had her undergraduate degree in Physics and Astronomy. She completed a Masters degree in the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, AIMS, Cameroon before beginning graduate studies in Toronto. Her interest in astronomy started at a very young age and that interest has been sustained by the numerous unknowns in the universe. Her current work tries to understand the nature of the early universe using simulated data. We reached out to her in 2022 and interviewed her.
1. How would you describe your current occupation (what and where)?
I’m a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto, studying Astronomy and Astrophysics. My research is mainly focused on cosmology where I use simulations to understand the Epoch of reionization, the period when the universe went through a phase transition thought to have been brought about by the first stars.
2. How did you become what you are? Can you describe your journey leading to your career?
When I finished secondary school, I knew I wanted to become an astronomer so I applied to the physics and astronomy program at the University. Afterwards, I enrolled for a masters program in mathematical sciences and then moved to Canada for my PhD.
3. What or who inspired you to explore space exploration the way you have?
When I was a little child, I saw a shooting star and got very curious about the night sky. Everything about space was fascinating to me and at some point, I realized that I could study the space questions I had for myself. The fact that solving one question leads to many more questions has kept me curious ever since.
4. What would you say to someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
Believe in yourself and don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you can’t. Also, keep asking questions.
5. Share a fun fact about yourself!
One thing on my bucket list is to fly a plane. At some point, I considered being a pilot but now, I just want to fly a plane at least once.
6. Is there something you still want to do or learn that you haven’t done yet in your career?
Yes, I think so. I have always wanted to go to the moon, and if I have the opportunity, I would go, all things being equal.
7. Is there a particular folklore tale that celebrates your culture and heritage and the night sky? We’d love to share that with our audience.
One story I remember is that the sun and the moon are always on a journey, and while the moon travels more slowly because it treads a more dangerous path, it sometimes gets on the sun’s path until the sun catches up with him. This ‘catching up’ usually happen during an eclipse.
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