Quote: “Life is a series of choices. Always make the best choices available to you.”



University of Johannesburg

Rishen Roopchund, 32, completed his chemical engineering studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He began his master’s in 2015 and completed it in record time (with distinction) while working at Eskom. Rishen left Eskom in 2018 to pursue his PhD at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. He then worked in engineering consulting before joining the University of Johannesburg as a New Generation of Academics Programme lecturer in 2020. While working, Rishen completed his PhD in 2021. He has four work focuses: teaching, research, administration and leadership. His research areas are the valorization of industrial wastes into green construction materials and the bioremediation of oil and diesel spills in soil. Rishen is pursuing a postgraduate diploma in higher education. He supervises undergraduate, honours students and co-supervising a master’s student. Rishen is a peer reviewer for international journals and the International Conference on Innovations in Science, Engineering and Technology, and serves on several committees in the department and the faculty. Rishen facilitated community programmes to support a women’s and children’s shelter. This year, he initiated a student mentorship programme. He also participates in outreach programmes to promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) careers. Rishen says he strives to excel because he wants to provide for his family and ensure that they have everything they didn’t have in the past. His second reason is: “I want to motivate as many young people as possible to follow this path of personal development — not only to help themselves but to help their families and communities as well.”

  • BSc honours in chemical engineering, University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), 2014, 
  • MSc (cum laude) in chemical engineering, UKZN, 2016 
  • PhD in chemical engineering, UKZN, 2021 
  • Postgraduate diploma in higher education, University of Johannesburg, in progress

Knowing the value of education, my late uncle often said that he would sell the shirt on his back to ensure that I had money to study. My uncle died after I completed my master’s degree, but advised that I should also get my PhD, which was a tribute to honour him.

I’d advise myself not to stress too much and to have more faith in my abilities. I’d also advise myself to take time and do things I enjoy, or to value my own likes, instead of putting my family’s needs ahead of mine. I learned much later that one can only fill another cup when one’s own cup is overflowing. Based on this, I’d tell myself to focus on myself and meet all my own needs, before trying to meet the needs of others.

South Africa is a land of natural beauty, rich in natural resources. Hence, I would like to see South Africa thriving economically. I believe that youth unemployment and the energy crisis are two huge issues preventing economic growth. In five years, I would like to see at least 20% economic growth and at least a 50% decrease in load-shedding. The decrease in load-shedding, coupled with more employment opportunities will lead to economic growth and increased global faith in the South African economy. As a priority, I want South Africa’s employment rate to improve, which I believe will only occur once new business ventures are created. Hence, I would like the government to partner with industries to offer more opportunities (funding, incubation and expertise) to promote entrepreneurial ventures. I also want South Africa to alleviate the current energy crisis, by incentivizing and funding private power industries focusing on renewable energy.

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