#IAmNYAS: Yalemtsehay Mekonnen

Learn how Yalemtsehay Mekonnen, PhD, has taken the lead in academia in Ethiopia and in motivating young female scientists.

#IAmNYAS: Yalemtsehay Mekonnen

Not only was Academy Member Yalemtsehay Mekonnen, PhD, among the first graduates from Addis Ababa University, she also went on to become the first female professor in Ethiopia. Her impressive research and publishing track record in cell biology and human physiology focuses specifically on analyzing medicinal plants used in communities across Ethiopia to evaluate whether or not they could help to treat infectious disease such as malaria, or non-communicable diseases such as hypertension and diabetes. Her interest in medicinal plants also extends to working toward their safe and sustainable use, and advocating for the preservation of plant biodiversity in Ethiopia and beyond.

Her work has not only helped move the field of science forward, it has also allowed her to travel and, importantly, to help motivate younger women to pursue careers in the sciences.

For this #IAmNYAS profile, we asked Yalemtsehay, who has been an Academy Member since 1999, about both the challenges and rewards of her career as a researcher and professor.

What helped inspire you to pursue a career in the sciences?

I was always fascinated by discoveries in the natural sciences. The great scientists of the 18th and 19th century are my inspirations. In particular, Joseph Priestley, Louis Pasteur and Marie Curie. I admire them because of their curious minds, intelligence and their great contribution to the knowledge of science. I am always attentive of women scientists who excel and I also wish that many women come up as Nobel Prize winners like Marie Curie, the first woman ever to have broken the barriers of neglect of women in the 19th century.

What's the best piece of career advice you've received?

I learned from those senior to me, instructors and from those who made it in their professions, that I have to be purposeful and hold on to my ideals and convictions to be fruitful in my career.

What has been one of the most rewarding moments of your career?

In science rewards do not come overnight, it is a continuous effort. The most rewarding moment of my career is the motivating feeling I get when my scientific experiment works right and when my work is published in a reputable scientific journals.

What is one of the biggest challenges you're facing right now?

My challenge now is that I always want to do more and I never have enough time!

What is one of your hobbies (outside of science)?

I like to travel and see new places and get to know people of different backgrounds and cultures.


Did you know that the Academy has a number of programs to help inspire young women to pursue careers in the sciences? Learn more about these and other programs here.