Passion for science pays dividends
MAKING waves in the field of science, a Pietermaritzburg woman was honoured by the University of KwaZulu-Natal as one of five Wonder Women in Science for her ambition, love of science and passion for agricultural engineering.
Alaika Kassim, 29, who also holds a BSc and MSc, graduated with her PhD in agricultural engineering this year and became the first woman lecturer in the discipline of bioresource engineering at UKZN.
Kassim, the first female chairwoman of the South African Institute of Agricultural Engineers, a regulatory body in the industry, said her love of science started at Raisethorpe Secondary School.
“I can still remember it like it was yesterday. We were doing practicals during a physics class and as I looked through the microscope, I thought this was so interesting and wanted to learn more. I knew I was destined to become a scientist.”
Kassim became a dedicated and hard-working pupil, attaining an A aggregate in matric.
She went on to study at UKZN’s School of Engineering.
“I had the passion and really enjoyed experimentation, academics and research. Without question, it was a natural progression for me to pursue a PhD.
“There have been ups and downs throughout the years, but I have always had a flair for maths and science and tried to excel in all my subjects.”
She said her parents supported her in her endeavours and encouraged her to give of her best.
“They brought me up with good values and morals, which is something I hold dear, even today. My siblings also protected and supported me throughout my life.”
As a woman engineer, she said she had to prove her worth to her male counterparts and female colleagues, who had given her a tough time because she was young.
Despite this, she continues to encourage future women scientists to work hard and succeed.
“You will be rewarded with more than what you put in. Today we have many opportunities for women in science. We need to use these opportunities to showcase our capabilities.”
In her spare time, she enjoys relaxing with her husband, Asif Satar, and family.
She is also involved in postgraduate work with students, and gives motivational talks to students in school about pursuing a career in science.
“I wish to continue with research that makes a difference to the lives of many, and hope to one day make food more accessible and sustainable.” the moment but I want to specialise in the field so I would need more hours and more experience. Water engineering is more challenging as well and I enjoy challenging myself and pushing my mind,” he said.
Nagan is expecting to graduate with top marks again at the end of next year.
Vernon Nagan with his siblings, from left, Rodney, Delaine, and parents Seelan and Cookie. With them is his grandmother Puspha Govender.
Dr Alaika Kassim is the first woman lecturer in bioresource engineering at the University of KwaZuluNatal.