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12 February 2019
Celebrating Women In Science At UWC: Changing The World Through STEM

(Published - 12 February 2019)

The University of the Western Cape is one of South Africa’s leading academic institutions when it comes to science - and that’s due in no small part to the many impressive women involved.

Women at UWC are using cutting-edge methods to investigate our Universe, examining everything from the DNA in our cells to the nuclear reactions at the hearts of stars - and more besides. Their work can change the way we view the world - and the way we interact with it as well.

Each year, the United Nations marks the International Day of Women and Girls in Science - a chance to reflect on the difficulties faced by and amazing achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) over the years. Historically, women have been underrepresented in the sciences, and especially in the *story* of science - most people would have a hard time naming even five great female scientists.

At UWC, we don’t have that problem - so here are five amazing UWC women in science you really should know more about...

Dr Fanelwa Ngece-Ajayi - Taking STEM To Schools: UWC Senior lecturer in Physical Chemistry, Dr Ngece-Ajayi, is a research leader in drug metabolism nanobiosensors for antiretrovirals and tuberculosis treatment drugs - and a recent nominee to the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS) apart from being one of #Inspiring50SA 2018 winners. She’s also the founder of AmaQawe ngeMfundo, a non-profit foundation which promotes and enriches STEM by providing assistance with academic support at schools in marginalised communities.

Prof Leslie Petrik - Small Science For Big Improvements: A leading expert in the field of environmental remediation and water treatment, Leslie Petrik leads the UWC Environmental and NanoScience Research Group, which is known for research on treating and removing pollutants from industrial brine, acid mine drainage, and textile waste water. Prof Petrik received the NSTF-Water Research Commission Award for her work towards achieving sustainable water management, knowledge generation and solutions.

Mmaki Jantjies - Empowering ICT Educators: Dr Mmaki Jantjies, from UWC’s Department of Information Systems, is passionate about using technology to enable children - and especially girls - from disadvantaged backgrounds to get access to online resources, learn programming skills and gain exposure to high tech such as robotics. A champion of diversity in STEM, She’s been named one of the #Inspiring50SA, the M&G Young 200, and the Young Mandelas.

Priscilla Baker - Sensor Scientist Supreme: A recipient of the prestigious Women In Science Award, Prof Baker is SARChI Chair in Analytical Systems and Processes for Priority and Emerging Contaminants, co-head of UWC’s SensorLab (alongside fellow SARChI Chair Emmanuel Iwuoha) and specialises in the application of frequency-modulated electrochemical techniques that can be applied in water analysis and treatment, bio and industrial catalysis, as well as in energy-related applications.

Carolina Odman - Astronomy For Africa: UWC Associate Professor & (IDIA) Associate Director Carolina Ödman aims to empower our youth with the skills and independent thinking that will make them become natural leaders as the 4th Industrial Revolution pushes our societies to change. She has been recognised for her pioneering work in astronomy outreach, development and education with a Special IAU Prize by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

And Did You Know?

  • Of UWC’s 18 SARChI Chairs, who help to promote research excellence and innovation, and respond to the country's social and economic challenges, 9 of them (yes, that’s half) - are women renowned both nationally and internationally for their work.

  • Of the 6 UWC students who have been selected in as many years to attend the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Germany, to share their ideas on science and medicine with some of the finest scientists in the world, 3 have been women: solar energy nanoscientist Zebib Yunus Nuru, quantum dots researcher Sarah d’Souza and medical bioscientist Shireen Mentor.

  • Several UWC PhDs have been awarded the prestigious L'Oreal-UNESCO Regional Fellowships For Women in Science in Sub-Saharan Africa - Aline Simo, Sekai Tambo, Candice Rassie and Usisipho Feleni were among those young women scientists honored for their work on nanomaterials, photovoltaic cells, TB nanosensors and medication dosages for breast cancer, respectively.

And That’s Not All...

These aren’t the only amazing women at UWC. Do you know any other incredible UWC ladies? Not just women in science, but those who’ve excelled at their sports, performed world-changing research, created amazing art, or helped other people succeed? Why not contact the Department for Institutional Advancement at or 021 959 9566 and let us know who we’ve missed?