College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

Maths PhD Candidate Part of Top Women Conference Panel

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Ms Sinenhlanhla Precious Sikhosana participated in a panel at the Standard Bank Top Women Conference where she joined Miss Universe, Ms Zozibini Tunzi; Standard Bank Head of Policy, Advocacy and Sustainability, Ms Wendy Dobson; and United Nations Women South Africa representative, Ms Anne Githuku-Shongwe to discuss how to build a future ready generation.

The two-day virtual conference comprised a rich programme featuring 100 global thought leaders and experts who provided inspiration, practical solutions, networks and support to 10 000 female entrepreneurs in Africa.

The PhD candidate at UKZN’s Astrophysics Research Centre (ARC) was approached through the ARC to contribute her knowledge and experience as a scientist to the discussion. A passionate advocate for the representation of women in science, Sikhosana believes women should aspire to hold positions where their input will lead to lasting change.

‘I was really excited to be part of such a prestigious event,’ she said.

The discussion included an outline of how much remains to be done to ensure generational and gender equality, with panellists emphasising that action taken by the current generation would be key to enabling the next generation to make greater equality a reality.

‘Our generation took the baton from the generation that fought for freedom and quality education; it is now our time to ensure that the future generation has equal access to all spheres, which includes opposing current systems that are barriers to entry,’ said Sikhosana.

Adding to the experiences of Tunzi, Dobson and Githuku-Shongwe, Sikhosana spoke on equal access to quality education, saying this is crucial to ensure that future generations are able to participate fully in all sectors of society and industry, even those that are currently male-dominated. She noted that big change in the future begins with small actions taken today in one’s immediate setting.

Working in a sphere where outdated systems often discourage women from remaining and flourishing in academia has inspired Sikhosana’s advocacy for women in science. She called for female scientists to engage with their communities, particularly young women who aspire to pursue scientific careers, in order to demonstrate that women belong in the sciences. She also encouraged women to mentor younger generations in an effort to promote the contributions of women to science.

In 2017, Sikhosana was named one of the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science’s (CAES) Wonder Women in Science. Her achievements include being awarded her undergraduate and honours degrees cum laude, being listed amongst the top performing students in the CAES, and winning the Hope Scholarship that took her to Princeton University in the United States for a month. More recently, she received a Department of Science and Innovation TATA African Women in Science Doctoral Scholarship, and a L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women In Science research grant. She was amongst the top 20 young scientists selected to represent South Africa at the 69th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Germany, and is currently a blog team member at the South African Young Academy of Science.

Sikhosana is conducting her PhD research on diffuse radio emission in Atacama Cosmology Telescope (ACTPol) clusters. Using radio telescopes such as South Africa’s MeerKAT, this research involves understanding how photons emitted by fast-moving electrons travel to extremely large scales. It would aid in mapping the interactions of relativistic electrons with large scale magnetic fields in the universe.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Image: Supplied