“Some days you are the bird and some days you are the statue.”



Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)

Luyanda Lindelwa Ndlela, 34, is a young scientist passionate about people, learning and the environment. She has a background in microbiology and has done most of her research in this field, looking at technologies and innovative solutions in the water sector and bioremediation.

Her PhD focused on the remediation of toxic cyanobacteria and the resulting eco-toxicity. She has authored 10 publications and has been a part of numerous projects through the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, where she is employed as a senior researcher.

Luyanda has a strong inclination for tangible life improvements through science and this need for developing others has manifested in her involvement in community development as well.

She serves as a board member for Thembalitsha Foundation, a nonprofit organisation that has educare centres, skills training centres, support for expectant mothers and mobile toy libraries. It serves people in underprivileged areas in the Western and Eastern Cape.

Her passion led to her being recognised as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Persons in 2020 by the JCI in South Africa. She is passionate about research and has made her mark as an emerging researcher, having published and presented her work at local and international conferences, and having been awarded at international conferences and locally for her research efforts.

  • PhD Zoology, Stellenbosch University
  • MSc Microbiology, University of KwaZulu-Natal 
  • BSc Hons Microbiology, University of KwaZulu-Natal
  • BSc Microbiology and Plant Pathology, University of KwaZulu-Natal

  • CSIR Natural Resources and Environment Science Week Best poster presentation: junior category, 2016 
  • Introductory and advanced phylogenetics course, 2017
  • Session chair at the 19th International Water Association Symposium on Health-related water microbiology conference, North Carolina, 2017
  • 19th international symposium on health-related water microbiology travel bursary award, 2017 
  • 18th International Water Association Diffuse Pollutants and Eutrophication Conference: People’s Choice Best poster presentation, 2017 
  • National Research Foundation KIC travel grant student award, 2017 
  • TISO Archibald Mafeje Postgraduate Scholarship recipient, 2018 to 2019 
  • JCI South Africa Ten Outstanding young persons honoree in the Category Scientific Development, 2020 
  • Invited reviewer for various international journals

Probably the discovery of microbiology through a skin advert. I discovered the science when I had an acne breakout in grade 10, at a below-average school, with limited resources. I looked up the word in the dictionary and all of a sudden a world of possibilities opened up for me.

Dear Lulu, Be fully present in every experience, there is no greater gratitude than being fully alive. The good days are now and yes, you are beautiful.

I would like to see a holistic approach to learning, especially in the development and learning of children. There is a lot that can be remedied and improved through this approach in terms of key societal values.

View previous winners from 2018 to 2022

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