Somewhere in 2005 at the Assembly Hall of Achimota School in Accra, a young girl scurried up the stage to represent Ghana National College at the National Championship of the National Science & Maths Quiz (NSMQ).
This young girl is now Dr. Anita Oppong-Quaicoe, who as a contestant, never envisaged that one day, she would sit on that stage again; this time, not as a contestant but as a quiz mistress.
Dr. Oppong-Quaicoe joined the pool of NSMQ moderators in 2020 and has so far moderated some contests at the Regional Qualifiers and the Preliminary Stage.
On the road to being a scientist
In the Mentorship Session held on Wednesday, September 22, 2020, Dr. Oppong-Quaicoe, who was the guest, mentioned that growing up, she wanted to be a medical doctor, or a lawyer. She later opted to be a medical doctor because she thought it fascinating, and was also motivated to study science by watching NSMQ as a child.
Bent on studying science, Dr. Oppong-Quiacoe rejected an offer to study business at Holy Child School. She, instead, went to Ghana National College to study science, where she was recruited into the NSMQ team in her second year.
“Being recruited to be part of the NSMQ team was one of my greatest days, because I never expected to be called to be part of the team,” Dr. Quaicoe said.
Dr. Oppong-Quaicoe, represented her school on the NSMQ stage in her final year at Ghana National College, unfortunately, they lost the contest by one point to Anglican SHS, Kumasi.
“We had met them in the previous week and beat them, so we thought it was going to be a walk in the park, but they came back with a revenge,” she reminisced.
From Ghana National College, Dr. Oppong-Quiacoe went to the University of Ghana, Legon, where she studied Chemistry. She wanted something that would challenge her, and found chemistry challenging enough, as well as fascinating. Hence, after her first degree, she decided to pursue the course further and did so at the master’s level at the University of Ghana, Legon and doctorate level at the University of Rhode Island, USA.
She is currently a lecturer at the Department of Chemistry at the University of Ghana, Legon. She is a Synthetic Organic Chemist, and her area of focus is synthesis of small molecules and development of methods and catalysts.
On being an NSMQ contestant and a moderator
In an extended interview with Dr. Oppong-Quaicoe, she mentioned that participating in the NSMQ as a contestant had a positive impact on her academic life.
“Participating in the quiz gave me an advantage over my colleagues who were not contestants, because we, the contestants, had access to materials that my other colleagues were not privy to,” Anita mentioned.
“It helped me develop self-studying skills, as well as determination, both of which have been helpful in all the steps of my education,” she added.
As a Quiz Mistress, Dr. Oppong-Quaicoe sees this platform as an opportunity to inspire the students, especially the girls, to aim beyond the sky and not see science as the perceived difficult subject, which is in line with her passion – to see more girls pursuing courses in the sciences, particularly chemistry.
Having tasted both sides of the coin – as a contestant and a quiz mistress – Dr. Oppong-Quaicoe, confessed that until she became a quiz mistress, she had no idea how much work went into the organisation of the Quiz, and now appreciates Primetime’s efforts better. She also acknowledges how hard the students work in preparation for their contests and is able to empathize with them when they get emotional over a loss.
Her advice to everyone, and to students especially, is to never be complacent.
“Complacency makes one become too comfortable. When you start getting good results, never relax or settle,” Dr. Oppong-Quiacoe advised.
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