College of Agriculture, Engineering
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UKZN Celebrates Women in Chemistry

UKZN Celebrates Women in Chemistry

The School of Chemistry and Physics recently held a Women in Chemistry Breakfast at Westville campus in celebration of 100 years of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), as well as 150 years of the Periodic Table.

Over 120 guests from various industries, academia and technical staff, as well as postgraduate students attended.

UKZN School of Chemistry and Physics lecturer and event co-ordinator Dr Brenda Moodley said, ‘The aim of the event was to celebrate IUPAC and the Periodic Table. In doing so, we wanted to create a platform for women chemists from academia as well as industry to come together and network which we hope will lead to future collaborations between them.’

Over 200 similar global breakfast events were held on the same day and the attendees were able to see the global chemical hand wave indicating that breakfasts were commencing as the time zones changed across the globe. The first breakfast was held in New Zealand, while Hawaii hosted the final breakfast event for the day.

The attendees received a warm welcome address from the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Teaching and Learning and Chemist, Professor Sandile Songca.

Professor Mary Garsons, an international organiser from New Zealand, gave a video presentation of the global event.

IUPAC member and UKZN Chemistry lecturer Profesor Bice Martincigh gave an IUPAC presentation.

‘The mission of IUPAC is to provide objective scientific expertise, and develop the essential tools for the application and communication of chemical knowledge for the benefit of humankind and the world,’ said Martincigh.

Guest speakers from industry, Dr Ntsapokazi Deppa, the Laboratory Manager at Umgeni Water, and Dr Tracy Wessels, the General Manager of Technical Services at Sappi Saiccor, shared their personal journeys in Chemistry including highlights and challenges being females in a chemical industrial environment.

‘It’s been quite a journey for me throughout my academic studies and career. It’s a very volatile and challenging environment out there. It took a lot of determination, hard work and pushing myself to the extremes to get to where I am today.

‘To the young women out there, I would like to say it is not as easy out there, but don’t be deterred. Know exactly where you want to go. Lastly, attitude is everything. It is important to have an open mind to learn if you are to go far,’ advised Deppa.

‘I encourage all of the female chemists out there to go out and take the opportunities that are presented to them because there are opportunities available, but you need to grab them with both hands. ‘The industry is changing and (it) is looking for more female chemists to be a part of their growing companies. It won’t be easy, but with pure determination, nothing is impossible,’ advised Wessels.

Their talks were inspirational to many of the younger women in Chemistry who were present at the event.

‘I found the talks very empowering, motivational, eye-opening and thoroughly enjoyable. This event was a great way for me to start my morning and week very inspired by these great women,’ said Ms Lumeshni Pillay from NCP Alcohols.

‘I thoroughly enjoyed the talks from the ladies. The event was a wonderful way to mingle with others in our shared interest that is Science and Chemistry,’ said Ms Karabo Botolo, a Chemist from Bosch Projects.

‘I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the team for planning and organising such a brilliant event. It was indeed an honour to be invited and to be among outstanding Women of Chemistry,’ said SMRI Laboratory Manager Ms Lola Naidoo.

In closing, Moodley gave a vote of thanks to the PR team for organising the event alongside Dr Thishana Singh, Dr Chantal Koorbanally and Dr Roshila Moodley. Moodley also acknowledges and thanks Dean and Head of School for the School of Chemistry and Physics, Professor Ross Robinson, and the South African Chemical Institute (SACI) for funding and supporting the event.

‘It was our aim to create a platform for women chemists in industry and academia to collaborate. So I would encourage you all to let chemistry be the common ground between you and we look forward to forging many good relationships with our industry partners,’ said Moodley.

The event ended on a high note with the soothing sounds from Professor Chats Devroop and Ms Jamy-Lee Simons.

Words: Zolile Duma