Where are you from?
Please describe an experience (or 2) that helped you discover/ cultivate your interest in the mathematical sciences.
Like most of my cohort, growing up in an upper middle class family in Accra, Ghana, I was not very keen on mathematics. I was mostly interested in visual arts, video games, and comic books (the creative stuff). When it came to mathematics I was in the bottom middle of the pack. When I was around 14 years old in boarding school, during a math class my teacher derived the proof for the quadratic formula. It was there at that moment that math became alive for me. All of a sudden I could see the link between factorization in arithmetic and factorization in algebra; the use of the discriminant as tool that gives information about the solutions of a quadratic equation. It was then that I realized that math was a creative subject with a story and a plot, similar to the visual arts or fine arts. Ever since then I always tried to put my algebra lessons in context of arithmetic. This link for me was what gave me the confidence that I could do mathematics well; after all, at that age I was confident in my arithmetic skills.
What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your career in the mathematical sciences?
It is hard to pick one or a few moments as my proudest accomplishments in my career. There are the private moments when I finally understand a subject or an idea. Or I am able to come up with a feasible solution to a research problem. I would add that completing my graduate degree in statistics with a focus on computational biology is up there as well.
What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your personal life?
My proudest accomplishment in my personal life so far is setting up my own consulting company in honor of my late father, Joseph Lewis Okrah. My father was a huge influence in my life, he always instilled in me self-confidence and a belief that any thing is possible with hard work.
Please share some words of wisdom/inspiration.
I see so many people struggle with mathematics. I have the belief that anyone who can do arithmetic can do mathematics. Unfortunately, for most people when mathematics is taught the context is not always clear. This can lead to a lot of confusion and frustration for even the most dedicated of students. Understanding the why is as important as understanding the how. The notion of understanding the historical context of a given situation (or problem) is a very useful tactic for approaching life in general and not just mathematics.