Public Eye (South Africa)

Local woman named UKZN top achiever

- Akheel Sewsunker

Aformer Suncrest Primary School and Heather Secondary School pupil has been recognised as one the University of Kwazulu-natal's (UKZN) top achievers for 2023.

Twenty-three-year-old Aaliyah Shah, from Northdale, said she was honoured to receive the recognitio­n.

“The UKZN community is so large and consists of so many incredible people who are doing amazing things. To be recognised amongst this pool of people is truly a special moment,” she said.

Shah said that she has always had a love for her field of work.

“I always enjoyed life sciences and geography in high school and I knew that this was something I wanted to invest in. As I furthered my studies I got to uncover different aspects of earth science, which was a discipline bigger than I could have ever imagined. In my field, we think of earth system science like medicine for the planet just as you need different specialist­s to come together to heal a human body, you need a variety of environmen­tal scientists in differing fields to come together to understand the planet,” she said.

Shah, who is currently doing her master’s degree, said she loves the research aspect of her work.

“It has opened a whole new world of critical thinking and knowledge generation. I’ve also really enjoyed the process of networking and meeting prominent people,” she said.

She added that she was heavily involved in earth science education which seeks to introduce the discipline to undergradu­ate students, to encourage them to pursue research careers in the field.

“I work with the CSIR’S Alliance for Collaborat­ion on Climate and Earth System Science where I have had the opportunit­y of designing, delivering and managing two 10-day workshops in the KZN Midlands and in St Lucia, as well as lecturing to undergradu­ates at Rhodes University, UKZN, the University of Venda and the University of Pretoria.

"I also work with a non-profit organisati­on called Vula Youth Developmen­t where we increase access to science opportunit­ies and encourage science education in Grade 9 high school pupils in underprivi­leged communitie­s across South Africa,” she said.

This is not the only notable achievemen­t in her academic career as she has also addressed members of parliament.

“Together with this award, I have had the opportunit­y to present to the Parliament­ary Portfolio Committee and attend the first ever

Science Forum held in Africa. Most importantl­y, it’s watching the students I’ve lectured, mentored and trained develop themselves and find their feet in this world,” she added.

She said she hopes to continue to contribute towards increasing access to science education in South Africa.

“We have a beautiful country and we should choose to inspire and instil wonder instead of fear. I am hoping to submit my Master’s dissertati­on soon - that is the next great goal I have on the horizon. Who knows where to after that? I certainly didn’t anticipate being where I am now, so I’ll let the journey continue to carry me through, ” Shah said.

 ?? ?? Aaliyah Shah, 23, during some of the presentati­ons she conducted. Photo: Supplied
Aaliyah Shah, 23, during some of the presentati­ons she conducted. Photo: Supplied
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