Rebecca Walo OMANA

Country of birth: 
Congo, The Democratic Republic of the
Country of studies: 
Country of residence: 
Congo, The Democratic Republic of the

The first female mathematics professor in the R.D.Congo


  • 1990 : PhD. Nonlinear Analysis. Université catholique de Louvain, Belgique
  • 1985 : DEA. Nonlinear Analysis. Université catholique de Louvain, Belgique
  • 1982 : MSc. Mathematics. Université Laval, Québec, Canada
  • 1979 : BSc. Mathematics. Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada.

Professional experience

  • 1982-1984 : Assistante (junior lecturer), Université de Kinshasa
  • 1991-1995 : Associate professor
  • 1996-2000 : Professor
  • 2001- : Ordinary Professor
  • 1994-2000 : Vice-Doyen Faculté des Sciences
  • 2009- : Directrice de l’Ecole Doctorale en Mathématiques
  • 2011- : Recteur de l’Université Notre-Dame de Tshumbe.


Your story with mathematics

How did you discover your passion for mathematics? Or When have you decided to be a mathematician and why?
I liked mathematics. I discovered my passion for mathematics since my childhood

What fascinates you about Mathematics?
The reasoning since my young age. At the High School, I was seduced by Analysis, and trigonometry I was fan of argumentations and proofs. This leads my choice of analysis at the university.

Has anyone influenced your decision to become a mathematician ?
My decision was influenced by my teachers and my father.

Has anyone supported you in your choice and during your career?
No, once my choice was done, I was able to go on myself.

Were there any specific factors that helped you succeed and What challenges did you encounter on the way?
My work. I worked hard.
Challenges of all kinds: During my undergraduate and graduate training in Canada I faced many challenges. I was the only African woman in my class and in my Department. I had to double effort to be better and remove negative prejudices in the heads of my colleagues and my professors to be accepted. But in view of results, I was not only accepted but invited by groups of colleagues for research works. After my Master and Doctorate, I had to overcome the reluctance and masochism of male colleagues. Some act out of ignorance or jealousy.

What is the funniest or most memorable thing that has happened to you while working in mathematics?
The most memorable thing that happens in my career was the dissertation defense of two of my students the same day. The most ugly and ridiculous thing was lately the accusation by a male colleague who publish in a newspaper of the City that I have power of spell that's way I manage and succeed what I do.

Career and Family
Do you come from an academic family? How does your family regard your career choice? Is it hard to manage both career and private life?
My parents are not academics but some of my brothers and sisters have their Masters diploma. My family is proud of me. There is no conflict, I can manage both together.

Women and Mathematics
What were the biggest obstacles you had to overcome?
To become Professor of Mathematics and the first woman in my country.

Did you ever have the impression that it would be easier/harder if you were male?
Yes, because of male prejudices.

What kind of prejudices did you have to face?
Jealousy, I just gave a story that passed to a newspaper of Kinshasa. To see a woman occupy important positions such as Dean, Director of Doctoral School or Vice-Chancellor disturbs men.

How did that make you feel? Were you able to overcome these? I was shocked but not for long. I am at ease and do my job even better. Do you have anything else that you’d like to tell us about?
Mathematics is fantastic; as its name is female, it is a domain that should belong to us women.

Tell us about the organizations for women mathematicians that you are a part of? How has this helped your career?
I belong to AWMA, the AFMC (association of Congolese women mathematicians), the AFPC (association of Congolese women professor of university), AAMU, SAMSA etc.... All these associations have come into my life after being well established in my career, but they help me to leave a good legacy to young people.

Do you consider it necessary to organize special programs like Girl’s Day promoting mathematics for girls in schools? What else, do you think, could further be done to support woman with mathematics as their career?
I think it's important to awaken the curiosity of kids. It would also be important for governors to offer scholarship or support for the academic fees of girls enrolled in mathematics classes at the University.

Teaching mathematics, especially to non-mathematicians, can be a challenge. What is your strategy to catch and keep the attention of your audience?
I try to make mathematics alive by taking examples in everyday life. For example, I know that each of them once went to the market, haggled and compared prices and quantities. I explain to them from this fact, the derivation of their variable quantity according to the price, and then I generalize on an abstract case.

How would you explain your research to a layman (non-specialist)?
A little complicated, but I try to find examples in practical life to introduce my subject.

Can you tell us about the applications of your research, if any?
By modeling with differential equations (ODE and PDE), I made several applications in epidemiology. Recently, I have just written a multidisciplinary application of a metapopulation model in social psychology and Law. A publisher who read the paper invited me to write a book.

What are your biggest achievements, and what your biggest failures?
My biggest achievement is that I am happy to be a professor of mathematics. I have a lot of students. My biggest failure is that there are not many women professors, in DRC. I already prepared three, but they went away (USA, Brazil) with their husbands to work. I don't have another women professor but I am not discouraged, I am preparing two others in PhD.

Do you have a dream? Any particular problem you dream to solve now?
My Dream is that: mathematics become a normal women career in Africa

Which advice would you give to young girls who want to engage a career in Mathematics?
Mathematics can open any doors for a beautiful career. Do and love mathematics.