UNIZULU’s Cohort of Five Future Scientists

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UNIZULU’s Cohort of Five Future Scientists

UNIVERSITY of Zululand’s Physics Department offers a Masters in Material Science (MatSci) and a Masters in Accelerator and Nuclear Science (MANUS) degrees in collaboration with the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and iThemba Laboratory for Accelerator Based Science (iThemba LABS).

A cohort of five UNIZULU students has been accepted into this programme next year. They are currently completing their Honours degree in physics.

The programme offers an academic and practical course at MSc level to enable science graduates to be absorbed by relevant industries and specific government institutions with appropriate skills or to progress to a doctoral qualification (PhD).

The programme gives students an opportunity to use the state-of-the-art research facilities at iThemba LABS, the biggest accelerator facility in the southern hemisphere, and also exposes them to different experts in their field of study.

Postgraduates taking the MANUS/MatSci course are fully funded by the National Research Foundation Scare Skills Programme and the three participating institutions – UWC, UNIZULU and iThemba LABS.

Over the last 10 years the programme has produced a number of Master’s and Doctoral graduates who are now working in different industries, government and academic institutions.

Five students were selected to be part of this programme – Phumzile Zandile Mabika, Nomvelo Dindikazi, Bonginkosi Richard Zikhali, Thobeka Patience Lamula and Nkanyiso Mantengu.

Nontobeko Khumalo finished her Master’s degree in Science in 2013 and she is now pursuing her doctoral studies at Kentucky University, USA. She will conduct her doctoral research on nuclear physics. She was supervised by Dr Sifiso Ntshangase of the physics department.

Ntshangase said: “It is our obligation as a department to inculcate the passion of physics. It is only through education that our communities can be truly transformed. At MSc and PhD levels science becomes more exciting because students focus on a research topic of their choice.”

Aspirant nuclear scientist Mabika from Gobandlovu Reserve, near Esikhawini graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in May. “By obtaining my degree in chemistry and physics and qualifying to be part of Manus/Matsci programme will help realise my dream,” she said.

She hopes to obtain her Honours degree in physics with merit at the end of this year.

Future nuclear physics researcher Lamula from Madwaleni area in Mtubatuba graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in industrial science. She is currently doing an Honours degree in physics and aspires to  be a nuclear physics researcher. She said being accepted to join the programme at MANUS would help make her dream come true.

Researcher on nuclear medicine Dindikazi from Ezingolweni, near Port Shepstone, graduated with a degree in physics.  She is currently completing her Honours degree. She wants to do research in nuclear physics in the nuclear medicine sector, as this field has so much potential in curing cancer.

She is currently tutoring first years at UWC. She also did vacation work for two months at the National Metrology Institute of South Africa (NMISA) where she did research on nanoparticles.

“Completing my degree and joining the MANUS Honours programme at UWC has been my biggest achievement.  I finally made it. Hard work really pays off,” Dindikazi said.

Story and photo: Sphamandla Gumede