First Nigerien Woman to Work at NASA


African women have constantly been scaling great heights in global spheres. One such woman is Dr. Fadji Zaouna Maina, the first Niger republic citizen to work at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

She joined NASA at the end of August 2020 as a hydrologist, using mathematical models to understand the water cycle and water resources evolution in response to climate change.

Behind Her Drive

Dr. Maina acknowledges that having tap water in Zinder, her hometown was a privilege that she had had, unlike other girls. She further agrees that Niger’s water crisis is deteriorating.

She says her motivation comes from the fact that many girls are tasked with fetching water instead of going to school.

“I have a responsibility on my shoulders because I believe I need to show the face of my country. It’s like changing the image of Nigerians and changing the image of women,” she says.

True to her dream and ambition, Zaouna, at 29 years old, is now tasked with taking head-on the entire world’s water crisis using the detailed data NASA has, something that her 10-year-old only envisaged as wild dreams.

The road to success

The trilingual (French, English, and Hausa) holds a bachelor’s degree in geological engineering from the University of Fes, a master’s degree in engineering and environmental sciences, and a doctorate in hydrology from the University of Strasbourg.

To add to her academic milestone, she is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Energy Geosciences Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a post-doctoral researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research in France and Politecnico di Milano in Italy.

Awards and commendations

Recently, the President of Niger has deemed the Niger native “a national pride, and a role model for the youth of Niger.”

She is also in the Forbes 30 under 30 classes of 2020 and a Science SLAM finalist at Berkley Lab, 2019.

Her other awards include:

  • Rising Star in Civil and Environmental Engineering, MIT,2019
  • Rising Star in Hydrology, Gordon Research Conference, 2019
  • Kepler Award 2017 (Ph.D. Thesis), 2017
  • Recipient of the excellence scholarship from the French government, 2012-2013
  • Recipient of the excellence scholarship from the Moroccan government, 2008-2011

Proud Daughter of Niger

In an interview with BBC, Dr. Maina takes pride in her Nigerien roots.

She encourages young girls from Niger to “believe in their selves,” even though not everyone will be out to support them.

“Don’t give up, have a passion, especially if you know you want to do science because you want to solve a problem. This is your passion, and pursue your passion and never give up,” she says.

She adds she is out to represent the entire continent as a continent of learned persons.



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