Zakithi Mkhize

South African

PhD researcher

#Virology #Immunology
Where are you from?

Currently based in

South Africa

South Africa

What is your educational background?

I am currently a PhD candidate at the HIV pathogenesis program (HPP). I received my MMedSci cum laude from HPP at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 2018.

What is your current occupation?

I am currently a PhD candidate at the HIV pathogenesis program as well as a Sub Saharan African network for TB and HIV excellence (SANTHE) PhD fellow at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). My work focuses on the HIV cure where I am looking at gene and protein interactions, which are important during HIV replication. I also have a YouTube channel called ‘BlackGirlScientist’, which is geared toward motivating, inspiring and encouraging young people and especially young black women to pursue a career in STEM.

What (or who) got you into STEM?

I have always been a curious child growing up. That’s what got me into science. I was particularly intrigued by how scientists use science and research to answer medical health problems. That brought me to HIV research, where I am today. I’ve also always had a great support system in my family.

What is the biggest challenge/barrier you have faced as an African in STEM?

The gross underrepresentation of black women in STEM. It’s hard to dream something you can’t see. I cannot dream of being a force in the field and sitting in positions of power when there are no black women already sitting there.

How do you think your background/upbringing has been beneficial in your journey/career?

My parents support has definitely shaped my career. They have supported me in every way possible and have never put pressure on me to start working and neglect my studies. They also took me to the best schools and I believe this also shaped who I am today. Most importantly, the morals that they instilled in me really make me stay true to myself.

How do you think we can start to change the narrative surrounding African contributions to global STEM research & careers?

By using our voices. This is why I started my YouTube channel. I am so passionate about science and young people. I want to use my voice to make the journey of the next generation of people in STEM better and easier than ours.

What advice would you like to give to young, aspiring African’s in STEM?

To follow their dreams. Be persistent with your dreams and work hard.

Do you have any project you're working on that you would like us to highlight?

I have a YouTube channel called ‘BlackGirlScientist’ on which I share my knowledge, expertise, guidance as well as give advice to young people on their journey through STEM careers.

Social media links

Instagram: @zakkie_m and @blackgirl.scientist

Twitter: @Zakkie_m

Facebook: Zakithi Mkhize

Youtube: BlackGirlScientist

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