Our Story

The roots of Under the Microscope

"To know where you are going, you must remember where you are coming from."
Maya Angelou

Our story of how it all began

When Stephanie Okeyo, founder of Under the Microscope, was a microbiology student, like many students and inquisitive individuals all over the world, whenever she needed extra information, she went online. Don't know what that word means? Google it! What exactly is that lab technique? Check it on YouTube. On Youtube, it’s interactive, free, and you can watch it over and over. Perfect. Over the course of time , however, it struck her that none of the people presenting the scientific information looked like her: African, Female, Young. So she started to investigate why that was and uncover the complex dynamics that underlie who gets to “produce” scientific knowledge and why.

To address some of these disparities, Under the Microscope was born. The aim was two fold: to provide straightforward science education content featuring young, African, female scholars, whilst also addressing the many dynamics that impede young, African scholars to make strides in the world of Biomedical research. When Under the Microscope began as a
science education platform in 2018, our first project was in partnership with the Institute of Primate Research Kenya to create lab technique videos. Our first video featured the Kato Katz technique, a diagnostic procedure used to identify parasites. We recorded several other videos but soon realized that although strengthening STEM education through creation of local content is important, there were still key challenges and deep systemic inequalities within the scientific landscape that required a holistic problem solving approach.

Some of the questions and issues we identified:
Why is there so much inequality in STEM education? Lack of awareness of the importance of scientific research; poor digital infrastructure deepening the digital divide; under equipped laboratories and limited trained personnel. These are just some of the contributing factors.
Why are there so few pioneering African female scientists? And why are those that do exist not spotlighted nor celebrated?
Why are Africans consistently seen as consumers of innovation rather than contributors? This has been most prominent in the COVID-19 pandemic, where none of the African countries have been able to develop vaccines, having to rely instead on other countries. In the meantime, the great research efforts being done in this continent gets virtually no media attention.
What are the social structures that act as a barrier to scientific research, its acceptance and uptake in society at large? Is it perhaps because ideas of ‘scientific excellence’ are so out of touch with society, that science and scientific pursuits are so undervalued?

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