For Dr. Olusola "Sola" Fasunwon, her passion for physics provided opportunities across the globe and inspired her desire to mentor women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Nigerian born and raised. I developed a "daring spirit" while growing up with three brothers. I earned a Bachelor of Physics (Honours) and completed a graduate degree and PhD in geophysics at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. I began teaching physics and geophysics in 1996, and as an academic, I conducted research, published papers and supervised undergraduate and graduate students. My passion for physics took me across the globe. I was a Junior Associate and Training and Research in Italian Laboratories (TRIL) Fellow of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy.

Being the only woman in the physics department for so long fuelled my desire to see more females in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), particularly physics. I mentored and followed the careers of my female students, and some of them are now faculty members in the department.

In 2011, I immigrated to Canada with my family and continued my academic career at the University of Regina. While teaching at the University of Regina, I transitioned into research administration. This eventually led to my employment opportunity at the Office of Research and Innovation Services, University of Lethbridge.

My lifelong passion has been to solve problems and contribute to the global growth and expansion of scientific knowledge. Whenever possible, I am continually eager to contribute to this field of knowledge.

My advocacy for women in STEM continued in addition to teaching physics at the University of Regina. During the International Women’s Day celebration in 2017, the Women’s Action Group at the university nominated me as one of the female professors who had influenced student lives.

How long have you been at University of Lethbridge and what do you do here?
I started my career at the University of Lethbridge as a grant facilitator (natural sciences) in 2021. As a research administrator, I assist natural sciences researchers in securing grants, reviewing grant proposals, facilitating grant workshops, locating funding sources and interpreting sponsor requirements, in addition to handling the application submission process through the financial reporting and closing process. Additionally, I assist with administrative compliance — institutional and funders. Undergraduate research support, internal peer review and faculty mentorship are some of the other things I coordinate. Based on my experience and knowledge, I initiate and implement processes that simplify research administration and generate maximum results.

What is the best part of your job?
There is never a dull moment in research administration, and what I enjoy most is making things happen and bringing plans to fruition. The WOW moment for me is when researchers succeed in their grant applications after much work and toil. Celebrating researchers as they grow in their research endeavours and placing the institution on the world map through their discoveries. Developing global collaborations and opportunities for learning, dissemination, and growth.

It is an honour for me to be able to contribute to the research journey of brilliant and growing researchers.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
My husband and I have two daughters and a son. It is a joy to spend time with my family, unwind by cooking together, watching movies and staying connected to friends and family worldwide. I have developed a heightened passion for knitting and sewing in recent years. Reading is also one of my favourite things to do.

In recognition of Black History Month, the EDI department is asking three additional questions:

What does Black History Month mean to you?
For me, it is a celebration of heritage, culture and resilience. This commemoration honours those who came before us, those alive today and those who are yet to come. As well as being aware of the past, the sacrifices made and staying hopeful for the future.

What does authentic Black inclusion look like?
Genuine Black inclusion entails being courageous and not needing to do anything differently. Not having to prove ourselves to be accepted but having the freedom, like everyone else, to make mistakes.

To be allowed to be vulnerable permits us to grow freely. Not misinterpreting my brilliance and intelligence because of my skin colour or ignoring me in any space. Listening to my ideas rather than rephrasing them to appear smarter. That I don’t struggle for worthiness — not getting condemned for a mistake that my colleague would easily make too. Recognizing my strengths and efforts and considering what I have to offer — respecting my human rights as a dignified member of society without prejudice, stereotyping or labelling.

What do you want people to know about you and your journey?
The intersectionality war has been a constant part of my journey since I made my first career choice — in terms of education, race, gender, culture and language. As an academic, I have visited many countries and interacted with people of diverse racial and cultural backgrounds, but because we were all there for the same reason (courses, training, conferences, and seminars), the war was minimal. However, relocating to a new home and, of course, having new families — you want to feel at home, but there seems to be no end to this war. I could say that for most of my life, I have encountered and faced the many challenges of racism. Still, I am confident that this ongoing change process will yield successful results. It is not only about recruiting more black people but ensuring that they are represented at all levels of the institution and moving beyond tokenism. The University is the right place to grow and foster talent, and it can be a leader in achieving this goal.

Black History Month celebrates the resiliency, flourishing, and determination to work towards a more equitable, inclusive and diverse country. The University of Lethbridge celebrates Black History Month: Building a Culture of Authentic Black Inclusion: Moving from resistance to change.Learn more about what Black History Month means, why we celebrate, ways to get involved and access learning resources.