”Always remember that your background does not determine your future.” 

I was born in a small town called Mount Fletcher in the Eastern Cape. I never thought that I would be where I am today because of the lack of resources and limited exposure in my town.


Technology & Innovation


Agricultural Research Council: Natural Resources and Engineering

Busiswa Ndaba, 32, who holds a PhD in chemical engineering, leads a research group at the Agricultural Research Council that focuses on the development of nano fertilisers — or smart fertilisers — for high-efficiency crop growth.

Her research entails developing nanostructured materials for use in agriculture as well as renewable energy production, such as biofuels. “This nanotechnology approach is an innovative way to address the socio-economic challenges that the world faces, thereby contributing to sustainable development goals, such as zero hunger and climate action,” Busiswa says.

Part of her job is to nurture young researchers and publicise their knowledge by publishing and presenting their research work on competitive platforms. Her group is funded by the National Research Foundation and an international grant involving a consortium of established researchers abroad.

“It is exciting to see women taking up spaces, moving to greater heights, and getting their voices heard through science and innovation. As a mentor and a mentee, I am also inspired by seeing women succeeding in all walks of life, be it academia or life in general. Hence, most of the postgrad students I mentor are women,” she says. Among her accolades is receiving the L’Oréal-Unesco For Women in Science award, South African category, in 2019.

  • PhD, Chemical Engineering, North-West University 
  • MSc, Chemical Engineering, North-West University
  • BSc with Honours, University of Fort Hare.

  • L’Oréal-Unesco For Women in Science award, South African category, 2019 
  • European Joint Programme research funds as a South African co-principal investigator, 2021 
  • National Research Foundation Thuthuka research fund as a principal investigator in 2020 
  • Represented South Africa at the Brics  Forum for Young Scientists in China, 2017 
  • National Research Foundation Innovation scholarship for PhD, 2015 
  • Coega bursary for postgraduate studies in chemical engineering, 2011.

In my high school, we had no science laboratories. When we had science classes, I would always wonder how some of the theories taught would translate in real life. So the dream was to experiment with some of the theories, hence my career took the research path “to discover the unknown”.

Just keep going, it gets better.

A place where women in science are equally recognised, celebrated, and listened to as much as their male counterparts.

View previous winners from 2018 to 2022

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