Women sci­en­tists recog­nised

Vuk'uzenzele - - General - Su­laiman Philip

The DeParmeNT oF sCi­eNCe and Tech­nol­ogy handed out its Women in Sci­ence Awards in Sand­ton re­cently.

The full sci­en­tific po­ten­tial of South Africa will only be re­alised when all our young women are able to en­joy ac­cess to the best fa­cil­i­ties and ed­u­ca­tion, says Min­is­ter of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy, Naledi Pan­dor.

The min­is­ter was speak­ing at the 2017 Women in Sci­ence Awards held in Sand­ton re­cently. The awards, pre­sented for the first time in 2003, recog­nise and re­ward lead­ing fe­male re­searchers and sci­en­tists.

In her wel­come mes­sage, Min­is­ter Pan­dor said that the awards showed that women can ex­cel in sci­ence and re­search, even while bal­anc­ing the de­mands of ca­reer and fam­ily.

“The awards are a re­minder that the full sci­en­tific po­ten­tial of our coun­try will only be re­alised when all our young women are able to en­joy ac­cess to the best fa­cil­i­ties and ed­u­ca­tion,” she added.

This year’s key­note ad­dress was de­liv­ered by Dr Nolu­lamo Gwagwa, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Lereko In­vest­ments. She said that the women recog­nised by the awards, via nom­i­na­tion or re­ceiv­ing an award, are role mod­els for young girls and boys, and the con­ti­nent’s fu­ture de­pends on young peo­ple who fol­low their role mod­els into in­no­va­tive and tech­nol­ogy-driven ca­reers.

A brighter fu­ture for Africa de­pends on more women be­com­ing in­volved in sec­tors linked to tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion. Dr Gwagwa chal­lenged the au­di­ence to en­cour­age young girls not to give up on their dreams of choos­ing ca­reers based on STEM (sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing and maths) sub­jects. Young girls need to be en­cour­aged to be am­bi­tious. “We must tell young girls driven by burn­ing am­bi­tion that it is okay and nat­u­ral for women to be am­bi­tious.”

Re­seacher and men­tor

Among the list of im­pres­sive win­ners was Dr Tiisetso Lephoto, a re­searcher at Wits.

Her re­search cov­ers the fields of mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy, biotech­nol­ogy, ge­nomics, ne­ma­tol­ogy and bioin­for­mat­ics.

She is also pas­sion­ate about youth devel­op­ment, and spends her spare time men­tor­ing high school stu­dents through the Katleho Pele Ed­u­ca­tion Foun­da­tion.

“My vi­sion is to change the world. I started a project called Yes We Are Mov­ing, where I host aer­o­bic marathons to col­lect clothes, food parcels and books for or­phan­ages. I also pro­vide nu­tri­tional ad­vice and phys­i­cal train­ing through Ti­iMoves, my fit­ness and wellness project.”

Her re­search and char­ity work com­ple­ment each. She is try­ing to find nat­u­ral ways to con­trol pests in agri­cul­ture. “That’s the health­ier way of killing in­sects, without harm­ing peo­ple or an­i­mals in any way. Through Ti­iMoves I en­cour­age peo­ple to put nu­tri­tion with ex­er­cise, and feel good in their own skin.”

While her re­search is ful­fill­ing, she be­lieves that giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity makes her a more rounded per­son. “I be­lieve the higher you go, you have to find a way to lift other peo­ple with you. It’s very ful­fill­ing to share knowl­edge, to help some­one, and then see them suc­ceed.”

Be­sides her work in mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy and biotech­nol­ogy, Women in Sci­ence win­ner Dr Tiisetso Lephoto is pas­sion­ate about youth devel­op­ment.

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