Shining the light on quality scientists

Gugulethu Mabuza. (Supplied)

Gugulethu Mabuza. (Supplied)

Winner

  • Raven Motsewabangwe North-West University

Raven Motsewabangwe (25) hails from Mafikeng in the North West. He completed his Bsc degree in biology and chemistry at the North West University Mafikeng Campus and is a few months away from graduating for his BSc honours degree in microbiology. Raven is currently an intern with the National Research Foundation with research interests in molecular biotechnology. During his spare time he plays volleyball. His favourite quote is by Albert Einstein who, when asked about his intellect, said: “I am not a genius, just passionately curious.”

Runners up

  • Gugulethu Mabuza University of Johannesburg and CSIR

Gugulethu Mabuza (34) is from Mpumalanga. She completed an MTech and MSc: electrical engineering in non-destructive sensing of food materials using radio frequencies from the Tshwane University of Technology and the French graduate school ESIEE in Paris respectively. She is currently doing her PhD with the University of Johannesburg, where she is focusing her research in biometrics, specifically on the classification of human irises. She enjoys doing aerobics and in her spare time she does research on ethnic hair and tries to make her own hair products. She is inspired by the words of the famous author, Laura Baker: “Don’t dare to be different, dare to be yourself — if that doesn’t make you different then something is wrong.”

  • Cornelis Van Niekerk University of Pretoria

Cornelis van Niekerk (27) was born in a small town in Mpumalanga called Machadodorp and now lives in Pretoria. He is currently completing his master’s degree in metallurgical engineering at the University of Pretoria. His interests lie in alloy design and the metallurgy of specialised welding techniques, such as laser cladding. For the past two years Cornelis has been working for the department of materials science and metallurgical engineering at the University of Pretoria as a research assistant officer where he also presents a practical course in materials science. When he’s not pretending to be a scientist he likes to read old books, exercise and party on tabletops. The reason why Cornelis loves what he does so much is, as Mythbusters host Adam Savage once said: “The difference between screwing around and science is writing it down.”

Semi Finalists

  • Abejide Ade Ibijola University of Witwatersrand

Abejide Ade Ibijola (28) is from Ekiti State in Nigeria. He holds a bachelor of science degree with honours, and graduated as the overall best student with first class in theoretical and applied computer science in 2007. He progressed and bagged a master’s degree in advanced computer science with a distinction, specialising in video game development and game AI algorithms in 2011. He’s currently pursuing a PhD in computer science, focusing on automatic programme comprehension at the University of the Witwatersrand. Since his PhD enrolment at the University of Witwatersrand in 2013, he has supported teaching in the School of Computer Science and won a number of academic awards and distinctions, such as the best tutor for the year 2013; Microsoft’s local and international publications award 2013; and the postgraduate merit award 2014.

When he’s not researching, he likes watching and playing soccer and video games, following soccer leagues around the world and watching science fiction movies. He is inspired by the words of an unknown author who said: “There aren’t many geniuses in this world, the rest of us have to study hard if we desire it”.

  • Mabu Manaileng University of Limpopo Mabu

Manaileng (23) is from a village called Ga-Masemola in Sekhu-khune district of Limpopo. He obtained both his BSc and BSc honours in computer ccience from University of Limpopo — Turfloop Campus. Mabu is studying towards a master’s degree in natural language processing, also known as speech technology, a field of artificial intelligence where he focuses on developing modelling units for under-resourced languages. He likes watching soccer and cricket, science-fiction movies and getting involved in scientific debates. During his spare time he likes engaging in public debates and promoting science. He is most inspired by Carl Sagan when he said: “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”

  • Nombuso Palesa Khetsi KwaZulu Natal Science Centre

Nombuso Palesa Khetsi (24) is from Durban, Glenwood. She holds a BSc geological sciences degree from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. She is a contributor to the community and is a volunteer facilitator at the KZN Science Centre, hence her keen interest in science communication. With a family of scientists, the pressure inspires her to succeed. She is smart, witty, funny, has a fear of popping balloons and cannot stand stuffed animals. In her spare time she enjoys looking at fashion blogs and nail art trends. Her favourite words are Faith and Hope, always reminding her about the pleasures of life.

  • Clifton Masedi University of Limpopo and CSIR

Clifton Masedi (27) is from Moletjie, 20km from Polokwane. He completed a BSc in chemistry and physics, a BSc honours in physics and an MSc in physics (material science) from the University of Limpopo (Turfloop Campus). He is currently working at the Centre for High Performance Computing as part of a studentship researcher and doing his PhD, where he is focusing his research on advanced energy storage technologies mainly focusing on materials used in rechargeable lithium batteries using high performance computing.

He likes all forms of sports, but mostly soccer, and when he does manage to find some spare time, he likes to take his family to the mall and have some fun. He is inspired by the words of the famous Nobel Prize winner in physics, Max Planck: “A new scientific truth does not ­triumph by convincing opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

  • Giverson Mupambi Stellenbosch University Giverson

Mupambi is currently­ studying for his PhD in horticultural science at Stellenbosch University. His research looks at sunburn in pome fruit with emphasis on tree water status. Giverson did his undergraduate studies in agricultural economics and plant production at the University of Fort Hare before moving to Stellenbosch to do his postgraduate studies in horticultural science. He is a big fan of Arsenal football club. He also enjoys wine tasting in his spare time. He is inspired by the words of Niels Bohr: “An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field.”

  • Sibusiso Biyela University of Zululand

Sibusiso Biyela (22) is from Esikhawini, a small town near Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal. He is a Bsc Chemistry and Physics undergraduate at the University of Zululand, a bona fide bibliophile and is obsessed with science and its big ideas, especially in astronomy. He is a science and maths tutor for high school students. He loves writing on science and philosophy (sometimes simultaneously) in the Zululand Fever, a free weekly regional newspaper, and is an advocate for the communication of science­ to lay audiences. His favourite science quote is by the cartoon character Princess Bubblegum of the Candy Kingdom: “Science is my rat.”

  • Melissa Boonzaaier Univer­sity of Western Cape and Iziko Museum

Melissa Boonzaaier (27) was born and raised in Cape Town.She completed her BSc and honours in zoology at Stellenbosch University, before moving to Port Elizabeth to pursue her dream of working on sea turtles. At the Nelson Mandela Metro­politan University in Port Elizabeth she obtained her MSc in zoology, returned to Stellenbosch for an internship in marine biology and supports the saying “Maties forever”.

She is enrolled as a PhD student at the University of the Western Cape, based at the Iziko South African Museum as an assistant curator working on existing collections of marine bryozoans of South Africa. Melissa loves outdoor activities, such as camping, hiking, trail running and snorkeling, while her unidentical twin brother is an accountant and would prefer to just dine out. One day Melissa wants to visit Rwanda to see the silverback gorilla population saved by the efforts of late Dr Diane Fossey and believes in Fossey’s quote: “When you realise the value of all life, you dwell less on what is [in the] past and concentrate more on the preservation of the future.”

  • Katlego William Phoshoko University of Limpopo

Katlego William Phoshoko (25) was born, bred and currently resides in Mankweng, a township east of the city of Polokwane in Limpopo. Katlego holds a BSc with majors in physics, chemistry and computer science; he is currently enrolled for an MSc in physics (computational modelling of materials), which is in progress of conversion to PhD studies.

In addition to conducting scientific research as a postgraduate student and as a research assistant, he serves as a systems administrator in the Materials Modelling Centre at the University of Limpopo. He enjoys reading inspirational books, likes listening to music, takes pleasure in watching movies in his leisure time and aspires to publish at least one book before he turns 30. He is inspired by the words of American industrialist and founder of the Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford: “Whether you think that you can or can’t, you are usually right.”

  • Mbangiso Mabaso Central University of Technology

Mbangiso Mabaso (23) is from Botshabelo. He completed a national diploma in electronic engineering and he is currently doing his BTech degree in electronic engineering. His research focuses on the use of radio frequency identification technology to improve retail industry. He likes community services, mathematics and The Big Bang Theory sitcom.

He dislikes people who complain too much, but never provide solutions to problems. He is inspired by the words of theoretical physicist and mathematician Free­man Dyson: “A good scientist is a person with original ideas. A good engineer makes a design that works with as few original ideas as possible.”

Finalists

  • Kgomotso Mohatalle North West University

Kgomotso Mohatalle (22) did her undergraduate studies in biology and chemistry and went on to do her honours degree in microbiology with a project in plant biotechnology, where she focused her research on the isolation and cloning of the uridine kinase protein from the Arabidopsis thaliana plant and determining its adenylate cyclase activity, as well as its kinase activity.

Kgomotso is hardworking and is about to register for her master’s degree. She believes in living life to the fullest and helping her community during her spare time and sing for the university choir. Her favourite quote is from Albert Einstein: “Never memorise something that you can look up.”

  • Itumeleng Lehupela University of the Free State

Itumeleng Lehupela is from the Free State. His love for science started while he was still in school and loved being in a white lab coat. He completed a BSc degree in medical microbiology at the University of the Free State and is currently a final year student in the field of information technology. His has a fascination with protein and proteome analysis as well as writing codes and bioinformatics. He enjoys good jokes, a good read, good company and all things strange. One of his favourite science quotes is by Professor Deon Visser, who wrote: “The first time you do chemistry you think you don’t understand it, the second time you do chemistry you think you do. The third time you do chemistry you know beyond all doubt that you don’t understand it.”

  • Karabelo Molo-antoa University of the Free State

Karabelo Moloantoa (24) is a scientist from the University of the Free State. He completed his bachelor’s degree in medical microbiology, his honours degree in biochemistry and he is currently pursuing his master’s degree in biotechnology. His research is focused on biore­mediation of mine waste-waters. He is a goal driven, passionate, outgoing and ambitious young man who believes in evidence before conclusion.

He likes coming up with new ways of doing things even when he has the best working method. He enjoys going for long adventure trips and car exhibitions because he loves fast cars. He is inspired and driven by a Bible quote from Mathew 19: 26 that states: “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

  • Kirsty Sanders University of Witwatersrand

Kirsty Sanders (23) resides in Johannesburg. An avid scientist she completed her BSc in 2012 and is currently pursuing an MSc at Wits University in condensed matter physics, focusing specifically on carbon material. She likes baking and volunteering her time with children in the local community and often tries to explain to her non-scientific family the beauty of physics. Her favourite quote is by Ralph Waldo Emmerson: “The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.”

  • Charlotte Hillebrand University of Cape Town

Charlotte Hillebrand (22) grew up in Johannesburg and spent four years in Pietermaritzburg, where she obtained her BSc honours in physics from the University of Kwa­Zulu-Natal. Charlotte is now based in Cape Town, where she is studying towards her master’s degree at the University of Cape Town. She is working in high-energy particle physics, looking for laws obeyed by the basic building blocks of the universe.

She enjoys fantasy novels, classical music, board games and occasionally attempting minor feats of needlework. She tries to bear in mind the adage: “If we knew what we were doing, we wouldn’t need research.”

  • Isobel Kolbe University of Pretoria

Isobel Kolbe (23) is from Johannesburg. She completed her BSc in physics at the University of Pretoria in 2013 and is currently pursuing an honours degree in physics. When she is not learning how to solve the mysteries of the universe, she enjoyes long distance endurance horse riding, tutoring maths and physics, star-gazing and inundating her decidedly unscientific family with titbits of interesting science. Although she believes that Niels Bohr was the greatest physicist of the 20th century, she is guided by Einstein’s belief that “difficult does not imply impossible”.

The project is delivered in South Africa by the British Council, The South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement and local science communication agency Jive Media Africa with the valued support of numerous partners. Content has been signed off by Jive Media Africa.