In 2018, at age 28, Dr Purity Ngina inked her name in Kenya’s history books as the youngest Kenyan to obtain a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Biomathematics from Strathmore University.
Her academic journey began in Kyeni East, Nyeri County her birth place. “It was beautiful to grow in the village, I think I loved being there. When I compare my life in the village and now.” She fondly describes her place of origin. In 2003 she resat her Kenya Certificate of Primary education (KCPE) exams after a dismal performance the previous year. Her openness and unique look on life had her reclaim her academic future when many would have written themselves off. This move saw her improve her score significantly. Not only did her resolve provide her with a morale boost, it also resulted in a life-changing eureka moment. “I think I had now known the reason why I was in school.”
Purity lost her mother unexpectedly, a person who she described as being very healthy, making her death very unforeseen. This sudden loss came with a lot of psychological trauma that caused her intense emotional stress. Despite being deeply bereaved. Purity, at a very trying point of her life, turned to God, her colleagues, and her own resilience to allow her to stay on course; even managing to redirect her insomnia and colour over the darkness with her enthusiasm for studies.
“For fourteen months I could not sleep without taking something, but sometimes I would say to myself, I don’t want to take these drugs. When I did not take the drugs I spent most of the time on my laptop, and I really worked.” Says Purity.
“Her death made me work even harder, because I wanted to prove to myself that as much as she was my greatest pillar, she is gone but still left someone who can stand on her own. It pushed me somehow to even work harder”, Added Dr.Ngina.
Her knowledge and obvious prowess in applied mathematics placed her in a position to venture deep into the inner workings of biomathematics where she involved herself in analysis of the dynamics of HIV in her final dissertation. “With what we call “in-vivo” modelling. We try to model cells. We want to see the interaction and the relationship between body cells, the virus coming in and what we can do to solve it.” HIV is a disease which United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) says 1.6 million Kenyans suffer from. Her drive stems from her ambition to help alter this grave statistic. When speaking to her about her research, enthusiasm overflows as she delves into the details on how mathematical modelling is one of the many tools used to understand the dynamics of disease transmission.
“The results we get can advise the government, such that we are not just taking laws from outside; we are depending on the content and what we are seeing on the ground.” Noted the charming Doctor.
Her inviting smile and friendly ways are unique traits that allow Purity’s light to shine amidst a long line of other high achievers. These attributes allow her to stand out as a mathematical model of success that her students can look to in order to equate their own aspirations in life. As a young lady on the long and at times dimly lit corridors of academia, Purity shines her light on the paths of many ambitious youth who possess the drive and require a little reassurance that the outcome will be one to be proud of.
Dr Ngina is the co-founder and CEO of Ceiling Breakers Limited, a company aimed at building young people to take up leadership positions in their respective fields and in their society. She is currently an Assessment and Research Manager at Zizi Afrique Foundation. She is also a Start Your Impossible – Ambassador (Kenya) a campaign sponsored by Toyota to encourage humanity to break the glass ceilings.