Interview with Audrey Opoku-Acheampong

“My word of inspiration to young people, especially girls,  is that you can really do anything you put your mind to so far as you are determined and self-disciplined.There is no such thing as ‘guys subjects’ or ‘girls subjects’ so do not limit yourself!’’

In childhood, Audrey wished to become a medical doctor or pharmacist. She journeyed from primary school at Kaneshie, through Achimota School to University of Ghana and is today in Kansas studying in an area that is concerned with health – Nutrition. Audrey had previously studied Oceanography at the University of Ghana. She did not find a job in this field right after school, so she took up jobs outside the field of science. She however maintained her passion, convinced also that in her chosen field, a second degree is important for getting a good job.

Audrey Opoku Acheampong

Here is the Interview:

What do you do in science currently? Can you tell us about your study, work field and its value to society?

I am currently pursuing a Masters degree in Human Nutrition at Kansas State University (USA). I want to equip myself fully in order to help find solutions to nutritional problems plaguing our country and the African continent at large. Malnutrition is such a big deal because it has a double effect – under-nutrition and over-nutrition.

As a child what career/s did you fancy to go into when you grow up?

Growing up, I wanted to be a medical doctor or pharmacist.

Can you remember and tell us about what you learnt and did for science in your primary school?

I vaguely remember what I did for science in school specifically but I remember most experiments on the three states of matter intrigued me a lot. I was always excited to participate in the lab sessions.

Which primary school did you attend in Ghana?

I started with Prince of Peace International School (North Kaneshie) from kindergarten to class 5 and continued at Achimota Primary/ J.S.S (Achimota).

You chose science for SHS/ Univ. Did you get your preferred courses?

By the grace of God, I was a good student in Maths and Science so my teachers took interest in my studies and guided me to choose my course for SHS/ University. This together with my passion for Science made me choose this subject of study. At that time, my elder sister was also in SHS pursuing Science so she indirectly served as a mentor to me.

For my university education, I chose Pharmacy at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) but I was not admitted. Fortunately, I had applied to University of Ghana for Biological Sciences as a 2nd option, which I got a nod from. I accepted the offer.

What was the experience and was it a great time of discovery? Please comment on resources & teaching quality. Was the 1st degree adequate to find work in Ghana?

Oh yes it was fun learning such complex topics. My favorite subjects were and still are Mathematics, Chemistry and Integrated Science; I did not like Physics and Biology much but I did well in those too. The tutors knew their stuff and also interacted closely with us students so it made it easy for us to approach them any time we were not clear on a topic. We also had a Science resource centre in SHS, which was not so adequately equipped but that did not deter us from making meaning of whatever we were taught. I participated in quizzes and other intellectual activities, not neglecting the fun part of being in school too – socializing and entertainment.

My first degree was in Oceanography & Fisheries; it was basically the study of the oceans and aquatic resources. Unfortunately, my 1st degree was not adequate to land me a job after school; it was highly competitive and the field I was interested in did not help much – oil and gas resources. I got jobs that were more administrative than science-related, first as a Procurement Officer for a private procurement firm then an Administrative Assistant in an art gallery. I was not too satisfied in these positions but I used them to develop myself and they served as springboards to attain higher heights.

Audrey Opoku Acheampong

Why did you decide on a graduate science program? In what ways can what you are studying be related to or benefit Ghana?

I chose a graduate science program because honestly speaking I do not see myself in any other field. More so, I always had this urge to pursue a Masters in Science to help me get a better job. In my opinion, a 1st degree is good but for some professions, a 2nd degree gives you a better advantage and security. It definitely is not a guarantee but at least it qualifies you for a position on the job market. Secondly, I chose this program because I wanted to take advantage of the opportunities abroad to get a broader perspective in my field and also develop myself further. My earlier jobs challenged me to make this decision and I am glad I did. Currently, my project is on Adolescent Obesity in the United States. Obesity is not really a big problem in Ghana now but it sure is a cause for concern because the trends keep changing. This is how my expertise may be of value. I believe by the time I am through with my course, I would be in a much better position to team up with other researchers to plan nutrition interventions and educations in remote communities and at-risk populations.

What advice would you give to a 9 year old grade 5 girl who wants to be like you?

I advise that this young girl follows her passion and dreams, regardless of what people may say. I have come to learn that you can really do anything you put your mind to so far as you are determined and self-disciplined. There is really no such thing as ‘guys subjects’ or ‘girls subjects’ – so do not limit yourself. Take advantage of any resources and opportunities available to you. It is important for her to also have a mentor to guide and advise her on the paths to follow. To be successful, you should strive to always make a difference no matter how small this difference may be. Oh I almost forgot, do not leave God out; He is the source of our wisdom and strength.  I know you can do it!

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