Young Scientists

Jonathan Esole : "Leaving Congo was my only option"

Harvard, Cambridge, a PhD in mathematics, Jonathan Esole has an impressive resume. But despite that, when he finished his post-doc, he did not find a university in Africa able to let him return to his continent.

Who are you?

My name is Jonathan Esole, I come from the Democratic Republic of Congo and I am an assistant professor at the North Eastern University in Boston, USA.

Why did you go to study in Europe ?

Leaving Congo was my only option because there was no curriculum to do research in mathematics in Kinshasa. So I first went to the Université Libre de Bruxelles, in Belgium, where I completed my master in mathematics. I went on with a PhD in the Netherlands, at the University of Leiden, where I worked under the supervision of Professor Achúcarro, one of the few female professor in my field. After my PhD, I started a post-doc at the Leuven Catholic University. After this, I went to Harvard University, in the United States. After my post-doc, I started as an assistant professor at Harvard University in a position called Benjamin Pierce Fellow. After my Benjamin Pierce, I had several options. Finally, with my family ,we decided to stay in Boston and I have chosen the Northeastern University.

Why didn’t you come back in Africa after your PhD?

I did not have the possibility to return in Africa. It is only now, as I am more established in my field, that I begin to find some ways to start a career in Africa. I will begin with travelling in Africa because now it is clear to me that the aim is to return in an African country.

Do you have some clear plans for your return?

I am more in setting up collaborations, trying to create teams and see how it evolves. I want to see, from an administrative point of view, what is possible. There are some issues that are often overlooked : earnings issues, how to maintain a lifestyle and guarantee the education of our own children.

What are the difficulties blocking this return?

The first difficulty is that there is not a clear way to return in Africa. We are always prepared to make sacrifices but we have a family. You have to look at that. Also, you must consider if it is possible to stay competitive at a good level in sciences if you settle in Africa.

Anthony Audureau

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