Tanya Monica Faraj holds a Master’s degree in Nuclear & Radiation Engineering from Alexandria University in Egypt and was the first woman to have first-class honours in Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from Jomo Kenyatta University.
She spoke to Life&Lifestyle about her undying love affair with science and more.
You are the first woman to have first-class honours in Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from Jomo Kenyatta University since the inception of the department, how does this make you feel?
I thank the Lord for this blessing. I feel both humbled and accomplished. I put a lot of efforts in my academics, so I was actually hoping for the best. I remember receiving congratulatory remarks from my lecturers and classmates that morning of 2013(I can’t remember the exact date).
Shortly after, I called my parents while sobbing, and they thought something bad had happened to me. Overjoyed, I couldn’t communicate so I had to calm down, and rang them back to relay the good news.
You also have a Master’s degree in Nuclear & Radiation Engineering from Alexandria University (Egypt). What does this entail?
This area deals with the application of nuclear and radiation processes. They include the release, control, and utilisation of nuclear energy and production and use of radiation and radioactive materials for applications in research, industry, medicine, as well as national security (as defined by Britannica). This may be the simplest way to define the course.
At Kebs, what does your work entail?
I am stationed at the standards development and trade section. My major responsibilities include, but not limited to, developing standards through stakeholder engagements in the field of metrology. Metrology is the science of measurements. It covers various disciplines of Physics and Engineering such as radiation, acoustics, thermodynamics, and mechanics among others. The significance of these standards is to ensure that there is a common understanding for different activities so as to promote optimum community benefits.
On a day-to-day basis, I carry out my desktop research, for instance, industrial application of radiation, identify the international standards or any other reference material available in the said field and whether they will be relevant to us as a community and a country.
This is then shared to experts, discussed and developed through a technical committee in accordance to the standardisation procedures and policies. I manage four technical committees covering different disciplines
Take us through your journey, how has it been? What are some of the challenges and achievements that you are most proud of?
The journey has been long and tiring at times, but the destination has been worth the numerous sleepless nights. It started when I fell in love with science from primary level all the way up. It’s a love affair I have never abandoned. Challenges include being away from home, working extra hard and being out of a comfort zone. I am most proud of the fact that I not only set out to do what I loved most, and accomplished it at a young age.
I have always had support from my family, lecturers, classmates, colleagues and friends, so my achievement is not through my own effort and merit; they have all played a significant role in one way or another. And the most important achievement is good health, protection and the gift of life from The Almighty.
What makes you wake up in the morning to go to work? What keeps you going?
My little one. The most effective alarm clock is a toddler. In all honesty, for everything I do, my daughter is my driving force. I want to be a woman who is admired by many, and also to prove that science and girls aren’t mutually exclusive.
You are one of the women leaders who have cut their niche in the Science, Technical, Engineering and Mathematics Field, and also the vice-chairperson in the Physics Society of Kenya, what motivated you?
A sense of determination. My mother cultivated the belief that if I set my mind to something, then I am capable of completing it by all means. It also helped that I had so many people looking up to me. I felt obligated to prove them right.
What advice can you give to young girls who are passionate about joining you in your area?
Go for it. Sciences are as rewarding as they are demanding. Be prepared to work hard and expect difficulties, but it will be the best decision you make. We need more young female minds in the field — to breathe life into it and innovate it.
Some of the achievements/ changes you are proud of
Scaling in my academics, both undergraduate and postgraduate. The biggest change I am proud of is transitioning from a young woman to a mother and a wife. Balancing both my career and my family is an accomplishment. I thank my husband for supporting me — he pushes me to go after new heights in my career and helps me raise our little one.
What principles do you stand for?
I believe in hard work, and I am grateful for everything and everyone.
What do you enjoy doing at your free time?
I am a reader. Whenever I can pull myself away from the demands of work and family, I pore over articles and books. It’s a calming and relaxing way to pass time, especially for a person who is ever busy.
What advice would you give to women?
For any woman out there reading this, do not be complacent with where you are. Always strive to improve, however small the improvement may be. This cuts across the board, in every aspect of your life. We are stronger, more resilient, more intelligent, so much more than what society deems us to be, and we should prove it
Your dream holiday destination?
Anywhere sunny, perhaps that’s because I come from the Coast region.
Tell us a little bit about your family?
My family is just like any other. My daughter and husband keep me busy and make me laugh. My siblings are always a phone call away and my parents keep tabs on all of us. We are a close-knit family, loving and caring with all the highs and lows that come with being so close.
What do you dislike?
I dislike the sense of entitlement. Nothing in the world is guaranteed, we work for what we get and what we earn.
What are you currently reading and why?
I am re-reading Paulo Coelho’s ‘The Alchemist’. I admire the lessons in the book, there is always a new takeaway anytime you reread the book.
What’s your favourite meal?
My palette is purely coastal. Chapati, biriyani. ..I’ve lately been enjoying ugali
Do not settle for what you can have, work for what you know you deserve, God will do the rest.