If we really want to make an impact we need to foster unity and collaborate. Lift others as we rise. It is through collaboration and unity that wonderful things are born/happen.




University of Johannesburg

Thandiwe Sithole, 31, is a senior lecturer in the department of chemistry at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) where she equips, develops and nurtures young minds seeking mentorship, skills and knowledge. Thandiwe is involved in raising STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) awareness among previously disadvantaged South Africans through community upliftment and youth empowerment projects. She is passionate about promoting women in science by transferring skills and knowledge she acquired throughout her academic career. She has contributed to nurturing girls by providing support to excel in their studies and assisting them to gain access to higher education and complete their degrees. Thandiwe has demonstrated the ability to build human capacity and mentor women to close the gender inequality gap in the representation of women in STEM. Her research investigates possible solutions to eradicate problems associated with environmental pollution and wastewater remediation, driven by the UN sustainable development goals (SDG) for environmental sustainability. Beyond chemical engineering, Thandiwe’s research further involves the circular economy and she is currently pursuing an MBA at the University of Suffolk (UK).  “Our education system has failed in addressing the requisite and necessary skill sets and expertise. The digital economy dictates a new approach to training and development,” she says. 

  • PhD Chemical Engineering (University of Johannesburg)
  • MSc Chemical Engineering (UJ) 
  • BTech Chemical Engineering (UJ) 
  • National Diploma (Tshwane University of Technology)
  • Master in business administration in Progress (University of Suffolk)

  • Winner of the 2021 inspiring 50 awards 
  • Filed one patent and authored/co-authored over 30 peer-reviewed publications. 
  • Supervised more than 30 undergraduates and postgraduate students. 
  • One of the two South African young scientists selected by DST to represent South Africa in the Africa-China young scientist Inn tour.
  • Served in the Women in Engineering and Built Environment (UJ) and the Transformation committees
  • Recipient of National Research Foundation (ZA) grants

My mother’s words before she transitioned to a peaceful state “My kind jy moot kry jouself opvoeding” gave birth to my purpose and led me to make a bold promise to become a doctor.

You are never too young to make a change. “You cannot carry out fundamentals change without a certain amount of madness we must dare to invent the future”- Thomas Sankara

Never let anyone dim your light, be assertive with yourself.

Our education standard has deteriorated greatly and the skills that are being churned out of the system need a total overhaul. The system has failed completely in addressing the requisite and necessary skill sets and expertise. The digital economy dictates a new approach to training and development. This is also a result of little investment in research and development. We are actually one of the countries that are below the global norms and threshold on investment in research work. The developmental agenda and mandate of the public entities which were supposed to be the transformation vehicles has failed completely. There is an urgent need to review the mandates of public entities. Governance for all these public bodies leaves a lot to be desired. The governance structures for these bodies will need a total reset and be fully capacitated to deal with the delivery and corruption in general. The political leadership, particularly from the various ministries, will have to deploy ministers with basic skills relevant to the department in which they are being deployed into.

View previous winners from 2018 to 2022

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