What is your educational background?
I did all my pre-varsity schooling in Limpopo and moved to Johannesburg in 2010 to start university. I enrolled at the University of Witwatersrand to study Geology and 3 years later, got academically excluded. I moved to the University of Johannesburg where I started again from first year (with a few first year credits) and went on to complete my Masters degree in Geology (cum laude). For some change and personal growth reasons, I moved to UCT in 2020 to start my PhD qualification in Geology.
What is your current occupation?
I am currently a Junior Research Scientist at the NRF iThemba LABS in Johannesburg and a PhD Candidate in Geology at the University of Cape Town.
What or who got you into STEM?
I think in my later high school years, I knew that I was not made for an office-bound kind of future. I did not really know what was going to look like but I knew it meant I was going to end up in the sciences so I made sure I made the right subject choices. I remember applying towards a Marine Biology qualification at UCT and a general BSc at Wits. I didn’t really get exposed to “real” science in high school (limited resources and stuff) but I knew I enjoyed the practicality that was life and environmental sciences. My friend spoke about Geology at some point in our boarding school days, so I had an idea of what that related to, but I didn’t think I qualified for that since I hadn’t done Geography in high school. When I registered in 2010, I learned that that wasn’t a prerequisite so I signed up for it. Just over ten years later, I am still in it.
What is the biggest challenge/barrier you have faced as an African in STEM?
I am in an industry that has been and is dominated by men and being a young female Early Career Scientist in this space has meant having to hold my tongue in spaces because “I am still learning”.
How do you think your background/upbringing has been beneficial in your journey/career?
Living in boarding school since Grade 4 and losing my mother and grandmother has made me very independent as I have had to figure a lot of things myself. I grew up supported by my brothers regardless and that has carried me through the years and they are still a very big part of the person that I am today.
How do you think we can start to change the narrative surrounding African contributions
to global STEM research & careers?
Exposure! Exposure! Exposure! Only when I decided to get into my postgraduate studies was I aware of the opportunities that are available for me and others. So much is reserved for postgraduates but only exposed when we decide to further our studies. If our own people are not exposed, how are we even going to get a seat in spaces we don’t even know exist?
What advice would you like to give to young, aspiring Africans in STEM?
Get yourself a mentor or someone who can expose you if you cannot expose yourself. It’s so much harder trying to cover ground when you are starting on a negative.