Women who inspire us this Women’s month
Updated: Aug 18, 2021
Science has played such an important role in modernizing societies for a very long time. S have developed new technologies that solve everyday problems like transportation, healthcare, housing, and energy generation. Globally, many women have made major game changing discoveries and developed cutting edge technologies. The science bug normally bites early in life and some South African women are making their mark in various field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. This women’s month we highlight a few whose stories we found inspirational.
Ms. Aditi Sookdhaw
Driven by a passion for innovation, science and technology, an 18-year-old young woman, Ms Aditi Sookdhaw shows that avocado is not good for guacamole. Like a true researcher in the making, Aditi worked hard and after trying several iterations, she finally found the winning formula to generate polymer bioplastic from avocado seeds. This innovation would see Aditi go on to represent South Africa and win gold at the 2021 Virtual Indonesia World Innovative Science Fair. Aditi, has been participating in the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists in South Africa throughout her high school education, showing that opening such opportunities and platforms to young women can fuel their focus and motivation to engage in science. Aditi, cites her chemistry teachers as key people who supported and mentored her. Read more about Aditi’s story here https://www.iol.co.za/thepost/news/star-college-pupil-wins-gold-at-international-science-fair-c2ecc4bb-7982-49b5-9fc9-28ff356a1122.
Dr Ncumisa Jilata
The journey to becoming the youngest neurosurgeon in Africa and one of only five black female brain surgeons in South Africa started in a Grade 11 biology class for 29-year-old Dr Ncumisa Jilata. Her teacher introduced neurons and the way they carry impulses to the brain in such a visual and engaging manner that it sparked a lifelong love affair with neurology. Dr Jilata treats patients with brain tumours, those who have suffered a stroke and those who have degenerative conditions of the brain and spine. Although seeing a patient regain the ability to use all their body parts without any pain brings her joy, Dr Jilata wants to use her skills to improve lives beyond her operating room. She plans to establish a foundation that would take neuro to disadvantaged communities. Through the foundation, she wants work towards overcoming the stigma, lack of services and scarcity of information around neurological conditions. Her journey to success in this male dominated field of medicine hasn’t been easy but credits the importance of strong support structure in all she has achieved, especially her mentor and fellow neurosurgeon Dr Coceka Mfundisi. Dr Jilata wants to continue to bridge the gap in the number of female neurosurgeons vs their male counterparts by working with young doctors to support, train and guide them along their neuro career paths. For more on her story visit https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2021-08-11-women-in-health-africas-youngest-brain-surgeon-is-carrying-the-torch-for-neurosurgery/
Dr Rehana Malgas-Enus
Dr Rehana Malgas-Enus, a 38-year-old organic chemist and leader of the RME-Nano Research Group at Stellenbosch University’s Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science, is an exemplary leader in social innovation through chemistry. Her research is focused on collaborating with scientists in other fields to find suitable solutions for societal challenges including improving drug delivery for cancer and TB. With her postgraduate students, Dr Malgas-Enus, extracts precious metals such as gold from acid-mine wastewater and uses them to synthesize metal nanoparticles. She also converts by-products from textile wastewater as well as diesel and petroleum waste into polymers that can be used in the design and synthesis of various nanomaterials. These nanoparticles are used in drug delivery to selectively target cancerous tumours and ensure that healthy cells are not affected during cancer treatment. Similar approaches are also researched to improve treatment of multidrug resistant TB. Driven by her passion for science, love of community and her desire to improve diversity in science, Dr Malgas-Enus also contributes significantly to science education through the Stellenbosch University Chemistry Outreach Initiative where she gives teachers and learners from underprivileged schools opportunities to use university facilities for training and to prepare for assessment on curriculum related physical science and chemistry topics. She also runs workshops through her YouTube channel LabM8. Her dedication to supporting the community through various outreach initiatives saw her take home the 2018 National Research Foundation Excellence in Science Engagement Award. For more on her story visit https://www.news24.com/health24/news/women-in-health-falling-in-love-with-chemistry-20210811