From preg­nant teen to nu­clear sci­en­tist

Vuk'uzenzele - - Women's Month - Hlengiwe Ngob­ese

At the age of 16, Se­namile Masango was a preg­nant teenager who had no idea that one day she would be a nu­clear sci­en­tist.

Fate proved to be on Masango’s side and she was able to rise above her cir­cum­stances. Last year, she was part of the first group of sci­en­tists in Africa who con­ducted re­search at the Euro­pean Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Nu­clear Re­search (CERN) lab­o­ra­tory in Switzer­land.

CERN is the place where the world’s best physi­cists and en­gi­neers go to find out more about the make-up of the uni­verse.

Masango is cur­rently reg­is­tered for a PhD in nu­clear physics with the Univer­sity of Cape Town. She is based in Canada where she is col­lect­ing data for her re­search at the Tri­umf, which is Canada’s pre­mier physics lab­o­ra­tory,

The 32-year-old who hails from KwaZulu-Natal said she strug­gled to break the cy­cle of poverty but her hard work paid off.

“I grew up in ru­ral Non­goma as part of a polyg­a­mous fam­ily. I started univer­sity as a naïve teenager at the age of 16 and hardly a year into my stud­ies, I was preg­nant. Af­ter giv­ing birth, how­ever, I man­aged to fin­ish my course,” she said.

Masango told that she had al­ways dreamed of be­com­ing a sci­en­tist.

Af­ter com­plet­ing ma­tric, she en­rolled at the Univer­sity of Zu­l­u­land for a BSc in physics and elec­tron­ics. She pro­ceeded to do her hon­ours in physics and mas­ters in nu­clear physics.

Be­sides be­ing an out­stand­ing achiever in the field of sci­ence, she also founded an or­gan­i­sa­tion called South African Women in Sci­ence and En­gi­neer­ing, which pro­vides lead­er­ship and role mod­els for young peo­ple who en­ter the field of sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy.

“I’m pas­sion­ate about ed­u­ca­tion and con­tribut­ing to mak­ing the South African ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem a bet­ter one by as­sist­ing in im­prov­ing math­e­mat­ics and sci­ence pass rates. I want to change the lives of youth from dis­ad­van­taged back­grounds,” she said.

She added that she is a firm be­liever in hard work. “Noth­ing great comes easy in life. If you want to be a well-re­spected sci­en­tist you have to work hard for it.”

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