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From the Lab to World Stage, Future Awards 2010 Young Person of the Year, Ify Aniebo is making a real impact



The 2010 edition of the Future Awards was the best yet. At the awards ceremony, it was a double whammy for Ifeyinwa Aniebo, the young malaria researcher bagged awards for Scientist of the Year and the most prestigious of the awards, Young Person of the Year.

Less ‘popular’ than most of the other nominees (Her co-nominees for Young Person of the Year included superstars Asa and Cobhams), Ify Aniebo’s resume reads quite differently from one typically expected of a Future award winner.

She has a first degree in Medical Genetics from Queen Mary’s University, An MSc in Applied Biomolecular Technology from Nottingham University and went on to receive a scholarship from the Prince’s Trust. She is currently a PhD student at Oxford University on a fully funded scholarship from the Wellcome Trust, the Tropical Network Fund and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She has carried out research at the Wellcome-Oxford-WHO unit in Thailand. Passionate about finding a cure to Malaria, this has been her main area of research, her goal is to discover a vaccine to the biggest killer disease in sub-Saharan Africa. Her passion for healthcare goes beyond the world of academia,  she hopes to start her own health care magazine in the future with as much glamour as any fashion magazine out on the market. caught up with Ify to find out a bit more about her and her desire to bring the sizzle from the laboratory to the world stage.

Did you think you stood a chance to win the Young Person of the Year award, Also what was going through your head when your name was called?

Honestly I did not think so. When I saw the other names in that category including Asa, Cobhams, Toyosi Akerele and Tolu Ogunlesi, I thought, never in a million years would I stand a chance because all of them are immensely talented and inspiring people. When my name was called I wasn’t even expecting it. I was busy reading the certificate I was given  for the  Young Scientist of the Year award and was really waiting to cheer someone else on. I was absolutely gobsmacked when I heard my name. I couldn’t believe it. It was a wonderful moment I tell you. l was so happy and was in tears.

Do you think receiving two future awards will have any significance to your career?

Yes. Science is a very tough field to be in and often people need motivation or else a career change will ensue. I get motivated by a myriad of things but receiving two awards to me means I have the full support of a lot of people which I find motivating and encouraging. Winning those awards has given me the strength to continue in my path. The strength also comes from the fact that so many people have been inspired from this experience. I get a lot of messages on facebook from people telling me how inspired they feel and how they want to do something great for the country. I also received a few saying they want to get back into the field of science. I love to inspire people in every way and that to me is the most significant thing in my career.

Your area of research is malaria. With other diseases that have been placed as more important by the international health community, what made you choose Malaria?

My interest was first sparked after I had suffered multiple infections from the bites of anopheles mosquito during my childhood and adolescent years. I noticed that the drugs administered both for treatment of the infection and for prophylactic use always changed. For instance I remember quinine used to be administered then a couple of years later, chloroquine became the chosen drug.

In West Africa today, none of these drugs are used because the parasite has become resistant. The drugs popularly administered are Halfan (halofantrine hydrocholoride), Fansidar and artemisinin. I find it both disturbing and fascinating that a disease which has been around for half a billion years still kills millions of people each year. What’s more intriguing is that no efficacious Vaccine has been developed. Malaria was neglected by the international community in the 90s and interest was only taken up a few years ago. There were no grants or funds to study the disease and millions were dying. Today there are some grants available but not as much as is expected. It is also saddening that there aren’t a lot of African scientists leading most malaria research programmes considering the fact that it greatly impacts our continent. It is disheartening that most of the funds donated are from foreign organisations. I want to be part of the movement to eradicate malaria and effect a change positively because at the moment Malaria kills more people everyday than HIV/AIDS.

How close are you to finding a malaria vaccine?

Finding a vaccine to malaria involves collaborations within the scientific community because one person really cannot solve the problem. This is because the disease is multifaceted. For instance, I work on the molecular biology and genetics of the parasite but I still have to collaborate with bioinformaticians, biochemists, epidemiologists, physicians and statisticians. Basically it has to be a combined effort. Our group in Thailand have started a clinical trial in Kenya but then again other groups in other countries have done clinical trials in the past and are currently doing one now. Honestly, the lifecycle of the parasite is not a straight forward one to decipher and to make matters worse it keeps evolving and mutating. Whenever we think we are close to finding a vaccine, something else crops up. Its very hard to say how close we are to finding a vaccine because the parasite keeps mutating all the time making it harder for the scientific community to control. But we are working very hard and hopefully one day we would get there.

What was the attraction to doing you research in Thailand?

Thailand has the best tropical disease institution in the world and that was an immediate attraction. Also Oxford has an excellent relationship with the institution so that makes it easier for students to go there and carry out research. I also liked the fact that it was going to be a challenging experience for me. I don’t speak Thai so carrying out scientific research in a non-English speaking country seemed abysmal at first but it’s awesome. I’m also the only black person there which personally I think is great. Lastly, Thailand has lovely resorts and beaches with loads of tourist attractions. I love to have a good time too.

What would you say to people that say you are more at an advantage to access funding for your projects and research?

I will let them know it is difficult. It’s particularly more difficult if you are not British , An EU citizen or a US citizen because a lot of the funding organisations only cater to their citizens and rightfully so. The scholarships that are open to all nationalities are so difficult to get because one would have to compete with thousands of students from all over the world making it highly competitive. I was not born in England and unfortunately Nigerians have a negative reputation in certain circles. I applied for the scholarship like thousands of other students from around the world and after four stages of interviews and tests I got it. I think its by the grace of God I won it because winning a full scholarship in the UK is a rare occurrence especially for Nigerians. I actually consider it to be a miracle and gave thanks to God and testified in church.

Science in an industry that never receives much publicity (particularly in Africa), what do you hope to achieve with all the publicity you have received so far?

I hope to inspire more young people and lobby the government to emphasize the importance of science and research to the development of the nation. I hope to bridge the information gap in terms of health education and I plan on doing that in my own little way. I will like to encourage the study of science in schools and universities and as a career choice. I want to prove to young people that what everyone calls geeky can still be very chic. You can get a buzz from watching an organism mutate under a microscope just as much as you can watching Deola Sagoe’s new collection at the New York Fashion Week.

Why do you think more young people especially in Nigeria are steering away form careers in areas of science and technology

There hasn’t been so much focus or emphasis on science in Nigeria. The youth are not thinking about science when they go to school simply because the industry in Nigeria is not developed enough and there are very little opportunities. The youth tend to pursue degrees in areas such as accounting/finance and Engineering simply because they are inspired by a future career in the two main industries, notably Banking and Oil & Gas. These days also you get young people wanting to be entertainers, models, journalists e.t.c and that’s because they have role models in these fields and are inspired by that. Science in Nigeria I can imagine does not pay as much as other careers do and in a country where people are suffering i think they would rather opt for the money option rather than passion because in the end it is survival of the fittest still.

How do you think we can attract more young people to science as a career. Many seem more interested in the seemingly glamorous careers such as Investment Banking and Fashion.

I already think science is a glamorous career that just needs to catch on in Nigeria with time (like everything else). Glamorous is anything that is full of excitement, adventure and unusual activity and that is what science is. Broadcasting cooperations know this which is why you have shows like CSI which has made forensic science a popular career choice. Heroes on TV is all about genes and mutations (Genetics), House is a show about Doctors that already have PhDs (MD/PhD) which is why you see them diagnose and do further analysis in labs just to name a few. Scientists globe-trot doing what they are passionate about and that to me is exciting. With all the infrastructure in place it should not be a problem making science a glamorous career.

How will you encourage young Nigerian scientist that despite not having a foreign education, all their efforts and hard work isn’t going to be futile?

I would say passion, hardwork and dedication always pays off irrespective of ones geographical location. Nigeria is a developing country and I’m optimistic that the science sector will start to flourish in a few years. All hope should not be lost.

What are your future career plans?

For now, I look forward to completing my PhD. After that I intend going into Public health where I will be able to contribute to the development of the health sector in Nigeria by implementing new health policies, monitoring the health of the population, identifying its health needs, evaluating health services and generally ensuring a health system that actually works.

You have a health blog, what do you hope to achieve with via your blog.

With my African health blog, I  focus on health issues young Africans can relate to. I try not to make it so complicated with medical terms people don’t understand and I try to make it less tedious and boring. I hope the blog will get people more interested in health and wellness because at the moment a lot of people are not bothered. The website is being designed at the moment and I have a few writers (medics and non medics) who are passionate about health willing to contribute. The website would cover areas like men’s health, women’s health, pregnancy and childcare, mental health, sexual health etc. For now we are focusing on an e-magazine because a lot of young people spend time online these days. Hopefully if it becomes a success we might start printing and then target a wider audience. For now it’s one step at a time. You can check out Ify’s blog, its

Let’s get a bit more lighthearted. Most people see scientists as nerdy characters. What do you say to that?

It is just a stereotype. I am not a nerd and a lot of scientists I know are not nerds either. I represent the neo- scientists. The ones that cycle in stilettos and still reduce their carbon footprints. The ones that wear red lipstick and faux-fur and go out to a trendy bar to drink a glass of carbenet sauvignon packed with polyphorins (which by the way is good for your heart). The ones that know how to work hard and play harder. The ones that queue outside Selfridges for hours on boxing day in the blistering cold just to lay their hands on half price designer goods (Okay I’ll stop Now). Science like I said earlier can be chic. Gone are the days of stereotypes.

I actually consider science to be sexy – it is mysterious and exciting. I love the fact that with science you never know where the journey would take you. It is very adventurous and unpredictable. You find out new things as you go on and that is what’s very engaging and exciting. I love it!

Your research appears intense. Outside science, what do you enjoy.

I mostly hang out with family and friends and I really love having a good laugh. I love going to the spa, indulging in Thai massages, going to the theatre, listening to live music. I enjoy very good food. I like dancing which I do every week, I love pilates, I enjoy shopping especially at thrift stores as I find fashion on the high street a tad nauseating. I  really love to sleep. Infact my sisters think I am very lazy.

As the 2010 Future Awards Young Person of the Year, you are a role model to many Nigerian youth. What is your message to all?

I feel humbled to even be referred to as that. I am honoured.

My message to all would be to stop talking and start acting. Enough of the facebook updates, facebook groups wanting change, twittering, BBing etc. I do understand we haven’t had the best leaders but we need to stop dwelling on that and move on. What I’m saying is the future of the country does not just lie in the hands of our leaders, it lies in every individual as well. We all need to look in the mirror and start affecting change where necessary. We need to be more positive and supportive of each other. We need to be more helpful to our neighbours and communities. We need to stop being selfish. We need to be the change we want to see in the country because we would become leaders one day and if we do not start doing all these things now then we would be no different from our leaders. We might even end up being worse. A vicious cycle really. Stop waiting for someone or a group of people to change Nigeria. We all can start in our own little way. I’m not saying you cannot pop champagne or fix your hair, all I’m saying is do something positive and impact visible change around you.


  1. Lala

    June 21, 2010 at 12:09 am

    Wow! Never have I been this impressed with a young Nigerian. Good luck in your search and I know God will guide you! x

  2. Omada

    June 21, 2010 at 12:35 am

    pure inspiration! really inspirational!

  3. LadyTee

    June 21, 2010 at 12:38 am

    Great interview! Congrats and keep up the good work!

  4. Tosin

    June 21, 2010 at 2:09 am

    Wow! God bless her – inspiring!

  5. Jaycee (E.A)

    June 21, 2010 at 2:58 am

    I am intrigued by this interview. The message “stop talking and start acting” is very key to the younger generation of Nigerians. To move forward, we need to embrace this message. Ify is definitely a good role-model for the younger generation.

  6. fokasibe

    June 21, 2010 at 7:47 am

    You go girl! You are an inspiration….Gob bless….X

  7. beezy

    June 21, 2010 at 8:28 am

    What’s not to luv??….. She’s inspiring…This is the NIGERIA of my dreams, slowly but surely….

  8. Ids

    June 21, 2010 at 9:07 am

    Wow! Awesome interview. Congrats again. May God see you through all your
    goals and aspirations. Hope people are inspired by this.

  9. LOU

    June 21, 2010 at 9:09 am


  10. Hgurl

    June 21, 2010 at 9:12 am

    God bless you, Ify.
    Continue making us proud.
    Change for better is coming to us with the new generation being raised.
    I am VERY hopeful.

  11. Funmi

    June 21, 2010 at 9:12 am

    Keep up the good work, Ifeyinwa! Great interview, Wana! I’m inspired!

  12. Felicia

    June 21, 2010 at 9:32 am

    This is great news. Hope nigeria govt n d private org. would help improve research world.

  13. Cy

    June 21, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Aniebo! too nice, very impressive, keep up the fantastic work. God bless you. x

  14. notaplayahater

    June 21, 2010 at 10:06 am

    you just know genius when you hear it! As beezy said, what’s not to luv??

  15. Busayo

    June 21, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Very Inspiring!

  16. Ify

    June 21, 2010 at 10:27 am

    My namesake, well done o. 🙂

  17. vic

    June 21, 2010 at 10:35 am

    What an Inspiring Interview. Congratulations gal!!!

  18. lahips

    June 21, 2010 at 10:41 am

    never knew we still had focused young people in these our generation, i am so impressed and inspired.

  19. lahips

    June 21, 2010 at 10:44 am

    its good to know we still have focused people in these our generation, i am so inspired and impressed with this interview, if i were a man i would find you and hope you make a good wife.

  20. Yegwa

    June 21, 2010 at 11:29 am

    She is definitely an inspiration and the answer to the last question showed that she has a good head on her shoulders and is definitely part of the vanguard of young Nigerians that can and will change this country for the better.

    Nice interview.

  21. mosquitohater

    June 21, 2010 at 11:35 am

    Good One and Well done lady!

    i wish i was a scientist. I’m really interested in the parasite MOSQUITOES. if we can find a way to totally get rid of them in this continent – starting with Nigeria despite the swamps and their said habitats; it’ll b REALLY more effective

  22. tt

    June 21, 2010 at 11:44 am

    God Bless her! Avery intelligent young lady, who not only inspired me but has made me make a decision today to ‘STOP TALKING AND START ACTING’. That’s all that need to be done. Good job Future awards for picking someone so worthy of praise!

  23. Debz

    June 21, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Ify, you know you have always been an inspirtation.. its good to see your finally getting recognition for all your hard work.. Keep on rising girl!!!.. Nigeria truly does need individuals like you if we are ever going to progress…luv ya…xoxo

  24. tt

    June 21, 2010 at 11:48 am

    Nd I absolutely love what she said about Nigerians studying engineering and accounting/finance, it pisses me off, and then they will be coming to tell me that is hard to find job, how wont it be hard when everybody packed themselves there. They cant be blamed though, it is the fault of the parents sometimes and teachers, when I told my teacher what I wanted to study, she said, why should I waste time and money studying such an irrelevant course. LIKE WHART!!! mentality change is needed.

  25. chukwudi

    June 21, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    Thanks for making us proud, may God almighty continue to direct your ways in Jesus Unchallengable name

  26. Love

    June 21, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    This is really inspiring Ify!
    Keep up the good work…
    you inspire me to be a better person
    God bless..x

  27. Tosin

    June 21, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Let’s show some love for Ify.

  28. pinkfunky

    June 21, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    What a lovely story i have read from BN in a long while, i wish her all the luck in
    the world.

  29. DUDU

    June 21, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Great interview – Ify has a way with words. Truly inspiring.
    NB kindly edit the minor typos above
    “Gone was the popularity contest has plagued many Nigerian award events.”

    “Less ‘popular’ that most of the other nominees”

    Wana, great job.

  30. Godlovesme4me

    June 21, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    Got my attention from the beginning and I couldnt stop until I read it all.
    Great Job Ify…u definitely inspire the rest of us to work harder to make a change in our country NIGERIA.

    May the Lord continue to strengthen you and the rest of us. Amen!!

  31. aida

    June 21, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    you rock girl.
    All da best!

  32. Nneka

    June 21, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    “You can get a buzz from watching an organism mutate under a microscope just as much as you can watching Deola Sagoe’s new collection at the New York Fashion Week.”

    lol. My kinda girl! All the best Ify.

  33. kelly

    June 21, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    Wow!! Wow!! Ify u r a great inspiration….thank u for being the nigerian u r…pple like u bring hope to our nation. God bless u and keep u….Keep the flag flying…Welldone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  34. Shay of Pefect Events

    June 21, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    WOW, Simply amazing in every way! We need more people like you in the world and in Nigeria!

  35. Ebs

    June 21, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    really impressive and inspiring lady…she’s so on point about the need for us to stop talking and start acting.

  36. MAry

    June 21, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    I love your blog 🙂

  37. Nicole

    June 22, 2010 at 12:42 am

    Great Interview. Her blog is as insightful as she is intelligent. Keep up the good work.

  38. Rosserie

    June 22, 2010 at 1:00 am

    “Ify Aniebo’s resume reads quite differently from one typically expected of a Future award winner.”

    This above statemenmt is very lazy research Wana. The very first Young Person of the Year for The Future Awards was Oluwatosin Otitoju, who was a NASA scholar. So saying this is differentr from the expected is really just being predictable. Also it is THE Future Awards. But Ify is an amazing girl anyway

  39. DUDU

    June 22, 2010 at 8:57 am

    Thanks for making the necessary corrections

  40. sassycassie

    June 22, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    ”My message to all would be to stop talking and start acting. Enough of the facebook updates, facebook groups wanting change, twittering, BBing etc. I do understand we haven’t had the best leaders but we need to stop dwelling on that and move on. What I’m saying is the future of the country does not just lie in the hands of our leaders, it lies in every individual as well. We all need to look in the mirror and start affecting change where necessary. We need to be more positive and supportive of each other. We need to be more helpful to our neighbours and communities. We need to stop being selfish. We need to be the change we want to see in the country because we would become leaders one day and if we do not start doing all these things now then we would be no different from our leaders. We might even end up being worse. A vicious cycle really. Stop waiting for someone or a group of people to change Nigeria. We all can start in our own little way. I’m not saying you cannot pop champagne or fix your hair, all I’m saying is do something positive and impact visible change around you”


  41. Yewande S.

    June 22, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    I am happy to see this featured on BellaNaija. As there are many young Nigerians doing
    amazing things academically that need to be featured often to inspire the younger ones.
    I would suggest that you have a segment from time to time featuring young Nigerian
    doing very well academically. Great interview, Ify. I can feel the passion for what
    you do through this write up. Keep up the good work.

  42. Bibi

    June 22, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    I loved this interview! BellaNaija please feature more inspiring people like this in all fields of life, not just in fashion and music. Ify is one of many positive and inspiring Nigerians who are working very hard to make a positive impact in the world. I really enjoyed reading this and I wish her lots of success in the future.

  43. Cutie

    June 23, 2010 at 10:07 am

    Amazing interview….can’t stop reading over and over. Indeed we youth need a re-think, we can’t let our bad leaders lead us astray, lets start something ourselve so that we wont end up been a bad leader. Enough of FB updates, twitter. e.t.c. Start making changes now. Go girl..u rock.

  44. lilian

    June 23, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    what a great and eloquent speech, keep up the good work ify. I like the idea that she’s both smart and fashion foward at the same time..lovely

  45. randommer

    June 23, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    great interview, but as a scientist/engineer myself who is intensely nerdy and also rather chic. I’d like to say the stereotype exists for good reason. a LOT of scientists and engineers are nerds and there is nothing wrong with it! nerdiness turns me on – now geeks are not cool – they are those socially awkward fellows you see with pocket protectors so why did she name her blog mutant-geek?
    I am very sure she’s a nerd herself, as if she does not gain immense pleasure from reading scientific journals and research articles lol. The other day I found myself salivating over a pair of hot louboutins and then over the possibility of synthesizing flourescent proteins that could be used as biotechnology markers!

    anyway sha it’s all grammar, just wanted to represent for the nerds out there.

    • Sarah

      December 1, 2010 at 8:46 pm

      lol i hear ya. I admit I’m bit of a nerd too….. I get all excited when my monthly subscription of science journals such as chemistry world come in through the post….. gosh I can’t wait for January’s issues lol! Anyway titles such as geek or nerd aren’t the main issue, what’s important is that she (Ify) is making a beneficial mark in this world and will continue to do so which is what we all should be aspiring to.

  46. Dee

    June 24, 2010 at 4:05 am

    “Stop talking and start acting. Enough of the facebook updates,
    facebook groups wanting change”…truer words have never been spoken. You
    are a wonderful role model.

  47. Lady E

    June 25, 2010 at 11:53 am

    Reading this article was just the thing I needed…..was at a crossroad on changing my career/dream of biotechnology to one that is not my passion, reading this has boosted my morale!….Ify God bless you wherever you are!

  48. Brothers Speak

    June 25, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Weldone Bella for bringing this out. Oh, God bless The guys at The Future project/Awards! They keep blowing us away, blowing s with inspirational people wedidnt know and ringing another side of inpiration out of those we know or ignore.
    And then someone will say they are giving awards to their friends? See where they went to dig out this one? kai! Una dey try o Future people! Weting we for talk about Naija Future without una?
    Whenever i look at their winners, i always wished i stayed back home and made my *sobbing*

  49. Arosanyin mayowa

    June 25, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    Ify,just keep glowin becoz GOD is by ur side.

  50. iwannabeabillionairesofreakinbaaad

    June 26, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    Beauty and Brains…Congrats Ifeyinwa!

  51. Adun Okupe

    June 28, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    I love this. Ify is the neo-scientist, and more than anything, it is just the fact that she is intelligent without being nauseating, or tedious!

    Plus fab commitment to Nigeria, and indeed, the whole of Africa’s future health. Her blog is really useful, and in person, she is just fab!
    You go girl!

  52. Victor Amadi

    June 30, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    You are a worthy ambassador. best wishes.
    Victor, Rivers State. Nigeria.

  53. Truetalk

    July 2, 2010 at 3:08 am

    With this type of mindset, this girl’s star will keep shining!
    Nigeria will benefit from her wisdom.

  54. iBreatheFreedom

    August 2, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    You are so inspiring. I’m not sure you get how much.

  55. Sarah

    December 1, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    I am absolutely loving this chic my science sista! As an Analytical scientist with a back ground in chemistry I love hearing stories about young and emerging scientists but to come across this story of a young, bright and passionate Nigerian female scientist has just put a huge smile on my face and boosted my inspiration. I agree with her that Nigeria needs to start funding science and technology, too much focus is on banking and oil and gas when the country can advance much further than that.

    I plan on becoming a forensic scientist and would love to see the profession flourish (as well as other scientific fields) in Nigeria as I feel the police force would greatly benefit and in turn the citizens of the country can have more faith in the Justice system. Ohh I could go on but would it make difference? Actions speak louder than words and I intend to take action in my field and pray it can make an great in pact in Nigeria…. one day.
    As for now we scientists especially African scientists must continue to work hard and let them know we are cool and science rocks! Ify darling, keep up the good work, I pray someday I’ll be reading an article in a journal/newspaper about how you and your team found a cure for malaria. Amen.

  56. Tosin

    February 11, 2012 at 10:24 am

    I was inspired when I first read this, and I am again inspired now. It’s a great success story that involves the hot girl, the folks who raised her, the teachers who trained her, the friends who supported, the donors who funded, the Future who awarded, the BellaNaija who featured this amazing story.
    To my fellow young Nigerians, are you doing your best? You could be a publisher/journalist, a philanthropist/donor, a scientist/teacher, a friend/parent, a whatever…we need you to get in there a create new success stories.
    Death to Malaria! (lol, mosquitoes “suck” – hehehe, pun)

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