Mbu Waindim (PhD)

Better Breed Cameroon regularly spotlights young Cameroonians doing amazing work, positively impacting members of our communities and generally inspiring hope in a better tomorrow. While those we have been chanced to showcase previously are all outstanding citizens, proving young Cameroonians at home are active agents in the nation’s development, our feature this month- a young member of the Cameroonian diaspora sets an extraordinary mark in her achievement as one of very few (and possibly the youngest) of doctors of Aerospace Engineering to rise from our country.
Without further ado, we present Dr. Mbu Waindim.


Who is Mbu Waindim? 

Mbu Waindim (27) is an aerospace engineer at Harris Corp, a defense contractor specializing in space and ocean communication, where she focuses on thermal analysis and design for satellite components and other applications.

When she is not buried in physics, you can find her ranting about Cameroonian politics, income inequality, and the role of gender in all of this. Her passions are manifested in the computer programming club that she runs at her alma mater, Saker Baptist College to build young Cameroonian problem solvers.

This month (December 2017), Waindim is set to graduate with a PhD in aerospace engineering from the Ohio State University culminating efforts to extend the lifetime of supersonic vehicles, like the retired Concorde, and improve their aerodynamics.

She also has Bachelor’s Degrees in Aerospace Engineering and Mathematical Science from Florida Institute of Technology.

Why Aerospace Engineering? 

Waindim says she always wanted to become a medical doctor. That is, until  form five when she was fortunate to witness an eye surgery. In her words “I respectfully bowed out after that and started considering a career in engineering”. During Youth Week in Lowersixth, Waindim attended an event in Limbe where speakers talked about different career opportunities. A male speaker mentioned aero-engineering but she now recollects that what he’d described was limited to the job description of an Air Traffic Controller. Still the speaker has peaked her interest and she did further research online though Internet access was limited back then.

Learning how aircrafts and spacecrafts work as well as contributing to their design is an incredibly exciting venture, Waindim says. Her passion for what she does is obvious as she continues, “It involves factoring in many different facets of engineering & physics — aerodynamics, structural & thermal integrity of the vehicle, control and human factors. A lot of the time, these are competing factors, so balancing them to make a safe, effective, and quite vehicle is quite the challenge. But humans have done it. And we continue to”.
In response to our question of ‘Why aerospace engineering?’ she summarily says “I chose to do this because I’m fascinated by how planes fly, and because I didn’t know anyone who did this and didn’t want us [Cameroonians] to be left behind.

Waindim recognizes that she was able to achieve this feat because she started out with incredible support from her family – financially & otherwise. She notes “I eventually found my way but I wouldn’t have been able to make it this far if I’d had to support my siblings while I was in college for example. That is to say, I appreciate that I didn’t have the obligations some others may have that could have kept me from continuing on the path I chose. And I encourage families, particularly those families that can afford it, to let their children explore their potential before expecting financial support from them.


Triumphs Vs. Challenges 

When asked about her road to success, Waindim says, “Challenges have been many.  My first degree was smooth sailing — just expensive. However as I continued to pursue my studies I faced a lot of difficulties in acquiring necessary work experience as an international student because a lot of aerospace engineering jobs are limited to US citizens for security reasons”.
 “I was fortunate to have my Graduate and postgraduate studies paid for as I was selected for a research assistant position which is what I recommend for any one who wants to do a PhD program. It’s a full time job so having to figure out how to pay for it is a great stress factor.”
Despite the triumph of being selected for a research assistant position, Waindim says Graduate studies presented its own issues. “A PhD is an
incredibly isolating experience… so it’s necessary to establish a great support system to begin with”, she remarks.
 “Working with incredibly brilliant people will make you question your worth  and whether you deserve to be there. The imposter syndrome is real.  It helps to remind yourself and be reminded that you are your own competition and should only try to improve upon yourself”.
When asked to note what she considers her greatest achievement, Waindim notes that she has had the good fortune of working at the renowned National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and as a civilian for the United States Air Force while in graduate school. Still she says, “to me, my greatest achievement thus far has been completing this PhD because it challenged everything I thought I knew about myself and taught me grit in a way that few things could have”.
Waindim jokingly remarked that she hopes to put the problem-solving skills learned over the course of doctoral studies ” and the stubbornness to get things done which is necessary to succeed in research” into efforts to improve the Cameroonian community.

So What is Dr. Mbu Up To?

Waindim currently works as a thermal analysts for Harris Corp, an American technology company considered a leader in technological innovation.

When asked about future plans she says they depend on several factors that are out of her control  “Like Cameroon finally getting some sort of political transition”.


A Last Word to the Better Breed…

Finally, we asked Dr. Mbu for a word directed at young people aspiring to be the #BetterBreed

Waindim answered saying, presently her driving force is to be who she needed when she was younger. That to her is a large part of being the ‘Better Breed’. As such she would like others to note that  solutions are created when people identify a problem in their own lives and find a way to fix it, effectively setting a different standard.

So top young people she says “Identify the ways in which you’ve been blessed with ability and opportunity and figure out the best way to maximize them for the greater good.  Note that this looks different for everyone.”

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