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I Am UWC: Sinovuyo Tanci, Exploring the Future of Physics Education

I Am UWC: Sinovuyo Tanci, Exploring the Future of Physics Education

Sinovuyo Tanci likes to say that she didn’t choose to study at the University of the Western Cape - UWC chose her.

And it’s lucky for the University that it did, because Sinovuyo has excelled.

In her time here, she’s earned a BSc in Physical Science, a BSc Hons in Materials Science, and is on her way to earning a Masters in Physics Education  as well. In her free time (what there is of it) she’s worked as a first-year practical coordinator, assisted in scientific engagement programmes at iThemba LABS, has been a leading member (Chairperson and Treasurer) in the Anglican Society, and a Gender Education and Transformation Officer in the Anglican Student Federation Western Cape.

And in the most recent 62nd South African Institute of Physics (SAIP) conference, held at the

Stellenbosch University Department of Physics from 3 to 7 July 2017, she walked away with a shared first prize for her oral presentation of her MSc research on Students’ approaches in solving kinematic problems using linear equations of motion. (It’s not the first time she’s won an award at SAIP, as with her Outstanding poster presentation last year for Developing multi-representational problem solving skills in a mixed-ability physics class).

Here is what Sinovuyo has to say about her accomplishments, her appreciation of physics, and her aspirations...

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

I come from a small town in the Eastern Cape called Tsomo. I was born and bred in a village called Gqogqorha eMajwarheni. I did my primary school in Lower Gqogqorha JSS in Tsomo, New Horizon School in Butterworth and Get Ahead Project in Queenstown, where I also finished my high school in Get Ahead College. I have two older siblings, and we were raised by a single mother. While I’m in the Western Cape for academic purposes, I still spend my holidays at home.

What is your research all about?

My research is based on investigating how first-year students solve problems using kinetic equations. It also investigates whether the teaching approach (which is explicit and expert-like) has any significant influence on the way first-year students solve physics problems.

Why study this?

My choice of field was influenced by my personal experiences in high school - of the way physics is still taught there, and how it’s mostly based on the mathematics and not the conceptual understanding of the subject. Learners can leave high school knowing how to solve the equations they’re given, but not why they work, or how to apply them in novel situations. So my work focuses mainly on finding ways to encourage students to understand the background of the mathematics used in physics, and to to make sense of the answers they obtain after solving problems.

Why choose UWC?

UWC chose me, really. Growing up in the Eastern Cape I wanted to further my studies in physics - and since one of my siblings was based here, UWC was one of my best options. And it worked out well - I’ve learned a lot here, and I still have a lot to learn.

So how was SAIP 62?

I was actually attending SAIP for the third time this year - and I must say this was the best one. I’m a very reserved person, and seeing the by-now familiar faces made it easier for me to engage. I just loved everything about it.

What do you do when you’re not working?

I have been working temporarily as a first-year practical coordinator since last year. Juggling that with studying, iThemba LABS and my community work hasn’t really left me with much free time. Whatever time I get is mostly for resting, but I still make sure to avail myself for community and education outreaches.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

In ten years’ time I see myself working for an institute or organisation that is focused on educating the less privileged, bringing resources and information that can help develop the children of that community in any field of study.

Any folks you’d like to send a shoutout to?

There are a lot of people who have played a huge role in order for me to be where I am at today - I might not mention them all, but I really appreciate their efforts. Firstly, I’d like to acknowledge my supervisors, Dr Mark Herbert and Dr Honjiswa Conana. My mother, Nomgcobo Tanci, my aunts and uncles Mr and Mrs Mshumpela, Mr and Mrs Butshingi, Manana and Lwandi - these are the people who played a very big role in my education, making sure that I was on time and well fed, and that my fees were paid up. My two brothers, Tembaletu and Bandile. Nolitha Gcado and Mr and Mrs Mqoqi. The NRF for funding my postgraduate studies. And of course, thank you to all my friends who are inspired by my work and in turn always encourage me to work harder.