College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

A Balancing Act between Academia and Riding

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A fascination since grade eight about aliens, is what sparked Ms Kathleen Alexandra Sellick’s interest in pursuing a career in Astrophysics and Cosmology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Sellick chose UKZN after attending a number of public lectures on astronomy, interacting with some of the staff in the astrophysics department, particularly Mr Strini Rajgopaul, who provided information on the coursework, requirements and the bursaries offered by Square Kilometre Array (SKA) to study Astrophysics.

After registering at UKZN for her Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree, Sellick was named recipient of the prestigious SKA Bursary. She successfully completed her BSc degree and set her sights on the BSc honours.

‘Honours was just a small step towards my final goal of completing a PhD in astrophysics,’ said Sellick. In addition, Sellick was awarded a bursary from National Astrophysics and Space Science Programme (NASSP) and SKA to undertake the BSc honours degree. The honours project titled Hunting for Exoplanets with Kepler was supervised by Dr Matt Hilton.

‘I was very lucky and grateful to have received the SKA bursary for my undergraduate and honours studies and the NASSP bursary for my honours and Masters studies and to have studied through the Astrophysics department. The support structure throughout my studies has been amazing. Whenever I encountered a problem, there was someone to help and guide me. Staff in the department have always gone the extra mile to make the students’ experience the best it could be,’ said Sellick.

Despite having a full academic work load, she finds time to play the guitar and piano as well as go horse riding. Sellick has competed in show jumping (up to 1.30m). During her honours year, she took a break from competing but still rides for enjoyment. Her passion for horses stems from breeding horses.

Sellick is currently doing her masters degree through NASSP, which is a research project titled The Study of the Radio Pulsar Magnetosphere with her supervisor,  Professor Subharthi Ray.

She hopes to continue this line of research into her PhD studies.

Words: Leena Rajpal