School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences

From left: Mr Mohamed Suleman, Ms Samantha Nicholson, Ms Anne Chisa, Dr Nomali Ngobese and Ms Nchafatso Pitso.

UKZN Students and Alumnus Among M&G Top 200 Young South Africans

Four UKZN students and an alumnus of the University are included in the Mail&Guardian 2022 Top Young South Africans list, a prestigious initiative that recognises future leaders.

Mail&Guardian editor-in-chief, Mr Ron Derby said that for this year’s instalment they looked for ‘innovators and creators of viable and non-conventional solutions through convergence with technology, who are helping to create an equitable future.’

Executive Director: Corporate Relations at UKZN, Ms Normah Zondo said that University management is proud of the five who are making an impact in their fields of study: ‘We celebrate their accomplishments and support them as they continue to inspire greatness.’

Fourth-year student at the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine Mr Mohamed Suleman is listed in the health category. He has received numerous awards and accolades over the years and was unanimously nominated as UKZN’s Best Student Researcher and Best Student Innovator in the Medical field in the 2021 awards. He is one of only three Medical students selected globally this year for the Changemaker Scholarship to attend the Youth Pre-World Health Assembly and World Health Assembly at the World Health Organization’s headquarters in Geneva.

Suleman is also involved in social welfare-oriented academic research on hair loss and HIV susceptibility in women of African origin, and volunteers for the Childhood Cancer Foundation of South Africa.

‘It is an honour for me to be counted among the Top 200 Young South Africans. Being the second youngest in the health sector for the award is noteworthy and I think it is a testament to the hard work and dedication I try to aim for,’ he said. ‘This will serve as motivation and inspiration to strive for a better future.

Two PhD candidates and an alumnus of the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science are among those recognised in the categories of technology and innovation, and the environment.

Ms Samantha Nicholson is a PhD candidate in Zoology and project manager at the Endangered Wildlife Trust where she drives the African Lion Database project to collect, consolidate and analyse key data on the species’ population and distribution in Africa to inform conservation-related decision-making.

PhD candidate in Crop Science Ms Anne Chisa’s transdisciplinary research adopts a biophysical and social science approach. Her podcast series, The Root of the Science Podcasts that she founded during the COVID-19 pandemic to profile diverse, accomplished African scientists and promote careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) among young Africans has been nominated for a science, technology and innovation award from the Association of African Podcasters and Voice Artists.

Dr Nomali Ngobese is the Deputy Head of the Department of Botany and Plant Biotechnology at the University of Johannesburg. She completed all of her degrees at UKZN, and her PhD in bioresources systems investigated the suitability of nine European potato cultivars cultivated in South Africa for processing into frozen French fries.

A plant physiologist, Ngobese is passionate about linking her knowledge of indigenous plants to social development and enhanced food security. She aims to highlight underutilised crops and the potential of unconventional plants as alternative food sources and drivers of economic development for rural communities. Her research has investigated the nutritional value of plants like monkey oranges and wild mangoes, using scientific evidence to promote their commercialisation and the use of postharvest processing technologies to extend the shelf-life of popular crops. She is also investigating agricultural practices that will improve crop yields and nutritional value, focusing on potatoes.

PhD student in Industrial, Organisational and Labour Studies in the School of Social Sciences Ms Nchafatso Pitso said that she is thrilled and honoured to be recognised for this prestigious award under the law and justice category. Her research examines this issue through the lenses of corruption and the shadow state, and analyses the efficacy of the Zondo Commission.

The youngest managing director at 20 of Elevation Construction and Landscaping, a construction, waste management and logistics company from 2019 to 2020, she focuses on the sociology of work, examining the direction and implications of trends in technological change, globalisation, labour markets, work organisation, managerial practices and employment relations and their relationship with changing patterns of inequality in modern societies. She is also interested in the ways in which employees challenge, resist and make their own contributions to the patterns of work and shaping of work institutions.

She believes that ‘it is critical to not let fear prevent you from taking the steps needed to achieve your goals. Listen to your heart, no matter how scary it seems.’

Words: Christine CuenodMaryann Francis and Melissa Mungroo

Photographs: Supplied