College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)


This women’s month the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science would like to acknowledge some of our female scientists, by profiling their work, sharing their stories and celebrating their achievements.

Ms Danielle Jade Roberts
Lecturer in Statistics 

Danielle is a lecturer in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science. She is in the process of finishing her PhD in Applied Statistics, from which she has already published three research articles in high end journals. Danielle has keen interests in biostatistics, spatial statistics, and machine learning, as well as programming and coding. 

Dr Hloniphile Mthethwa
Lecturer in Mathematics

Dr Hloniphile Sithole Mthethwa is a lecturer in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science at UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg Campus. Hloniphile holds a BSc in Applied Mathematics and Statistics from UKZN, an Honours degree with focus on Biomathematics from the University of Stellenbosch in conjunction with the African Institute for Mathematical Science (AIMS). 

Dr Jemma Finch
Senior Lecturer in Geography

Jemma Finch is a Senior Lecturer in Geography at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. She is an NRF C2 rated scientist, and has produced a career total of 24 peer-reviewed journal publications and two book chapters. She is a member of the SA-INQUA National Committee, and is a Neotoma data steward, assisting the relaunch of the African Pollen Database.

She is currently the coordinator of the new Data Science programmes in the school, where she is developing and teaching two of the new modules. She has also supervised six Masters students to completion.

She further obtained her MSc and PhD from the UKZN. She is proud of supervising postgraduate students and having published articles in peer-reviewed international ISI journals recognized by the Department of Higher Education, Science and Technology.

Hloniphile’s achievements include obtaining the AIMS and Stellenbosch University Honours Scholarship and the SACEMA- South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis Scholarship for her MSc studies.

Through the UCDP University Capacity Development Programme, she has received funding for teaching relief, presentations at various conferences and participation in the Mathematics in Industry Study Group. In 2020 she received a unique opportunity to meet the International Mathematical Union (IMU) executive through a day of engagement between the IMU Executive Committee and South African mathematicians and graduate academics.

She was selected as one of UKZN’s Wonder Women in Science in 2020. Most recently, she got selected as a Fellow for 2020 and 2021 Pathways to a Successful Career Programme offered by the Graduate Academy of Mathematical Sciences.

Hloniphile’s research interests includes mathematical biology, numerical analysis and fluid dynamics. Her PhD was on boundary layer flows, heat and mass transport with the particular application on complex non-Newtonian nanofluid models in various geometries and boundary conditions.

Jemma’s research tracks climate and environmental change through time. She uses fossil remains of plants and animals to piece together past climate, vegetation, and coastal dynamics. Research into long-term environmental change has implications for understanding ecosystem functioning and natural baselines, important for informing conservation and land use management. Her ongoing research into long-term patterns of sea-level variability in southern Africa will assist in refining future projections, helping prepare coastal managers and reduce the impacts of sea-level rise in this vulnerable region. Jemma received a PhD from the University of York, UK where she was employed as an early career researcher on a Marie Curie Excellence Grant. She was awarded a Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Cape Town, before returning to KwaZulu-Natal to take up a lectureship in 2011.

Ms Katelyn Johnson
Lecturer in Civil Engineering

Katelyn Johnson is a lecturer in the School of Engineering, Civil Engineering as part of the New Generation of Academics Programme. Her teaching areas include Fluid Mechanics and Engineering Hydrology. Her research focus area is in flood studies and updating design flood estimation methods for the design of hydraulic infrastructure. She is currently completing her PhD within the Centre for Water Resources Research (CWRR) working in an interdisciplinary space that combines engineering hydrology, hydrometeorology and climate change. 

Ms Khuthadzo Mugodo
Lecturer in Bioresource Engineering

Ms Khuthadzo Mugodo is an nGAP (new Generation of Academics Programme) Lecturer in Bioresource Engineering. She is presently a PhD candidate in Agricultural Engineering. As an Agricultural Engineering graduate, she has successfully occupied the agricultural research and development space for more than 7 years.

In her capacity as a research engineer she employs a collaborative and holistic approach in solving technological challenges faced by farmers in the country.

Dr Lauren Hoyer
Lecturer in Geology

Dr Lauren Hoyer is a lecturer of economic geology in the Discipline of Geological Sciences and was awarded her PhD in structural geology in 2016. She is dedicated to spending time in the field, both teaching students and doing research on aspects of our natural laboratory, the Earth. Her scientific research focuses on geological processes related to ore deposits and geological structures that form due to collapse structures, forming deposits that are fragmented and where hot magma interacts with fluids in the Earth’s crust.

Her PhD topic is ‘The Estimation of Extreme Rainfall Events and Accounting for Non-Stationary Data in Design Rainfall Estimation’.

She has presented her research at local and international conferences and has published in both local and international journals, including WaterSA and the Journal of Hydrology: Regional Studies. In addition, she has served as a reviewer for international journals in civil engineering and atmospheric science fields.

Katelyn has successfully served as project leader on a Water Research Commission-funded project dealing with the impacts of floods and data on the estimation of design floods. She is a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society and has received various awards and funding for her research including the UWP Consulting Prize for ‘Commitment to integrating sustainable Engineering solutions into their project work’, British Council Newton Fund Grant, and NRF Scarce Skills Research Funding.

In addition to her academic expertise, Katelyn has experience working in industry in the fields of water engineering, hydrology and hydraulics.

Ms Mugodo has successfully led projects focused in research and construction of agricultural infrastructure funded by national (GDARD) and international donors (New Zealand High Commission). In recent years she has been awarded international fellowships, including the Orange Knowledge Programme Fellowship in the Netherlands.

Her current specialization is on food/agro-processing technologies for several agricultural commodities, including drying technologies for orange-fleshed sweet potato and she has published research in the area. She is also a 2021 recipient of the University Capacity Development Programme (UCDP) fund and the National Research Foundation – nGAP funding.

Ms Mugodo is also a junior reviewer for the African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development (AFJAND).

This includes the analysis of iron ore deposits hosted in preserved sinkholes in the Northern Cape in collaboration with Kumba Iron Ore, and the potential loss of shale gas in the Karoo Basin when magma intrudes and heats up the fluids in the rock, which then explosively erupted as volcanoes of sand at the Earth’s surface ~180 million years ago.

Another avenue of her research profile focusses on academic scholarship including the impact of ‘parachute science’ in African geoscience, which culminated in a paper published with UKZN colleagues in the journal Earth-Science Reviews. This article sparked global debates across social media platforms with the intention of creating awareness so that this practice is mitigated in the future.

She is passionate about her students and is undertaking a study on how to improve the understanding of geological concepts by students at UKZN and in South African universities.

Dr Laurencia Govender
Lecturer in Dietetics & Human Nutrition

Dr Laurencia Govender is a registered dietitian and Nutrition Lecturer in the Dietetics and Human Nutrition department at UKZN since March 2018. She is the KwaZulu-Natal branch chair of the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA), a professional organisation for registered dietitians. She teaches and supervises students up to PhD level. 

Ms Mbalenhle Gwacela
Developmental Lecturer in SAEES

Mbalenhle is a passionate, pioneering and persistent woman.  She holds a Bachelor of Science in Geography and Environmental Management, a Postgraduate Diploma in Policy and Development, and a Master of Science in Agriculture. Currently, she is pursuing her PhD in Food Security, focusing on food systems and community development.  

Dr Nkosinomusa Nomfundo Dube
Lecturer in Soil Science

Dr Nkosinomusa Nomfundo Dube is a Soil Science lecturer and joined UKZN in 2015. She completed her BSc, BSc Hons, MSc and PhD at UKZN. Her research interest is in ethnopedology in which she engages communities to understand their knowledge and management of soils, for sustainability of soil resource. 

Prior to taking up employment at UKZN, she worked for the Department of Health as a Clinical Dietitian at Edendale Hospital and was an accredited training dietitian for the fourth-year UKZN dietetic students. 

She obtained her BSc Dietetics, PgDip Dietetics, MSc Dietetics summa cum laude and PhD Dietetics at UKZN. She was a recipient of the Water Research Commission (WRC) bursary, which assisted her to complete her doctoral degree.

Govender published three manuscripts from her PhD work in high impact journals prior to submitting her thesis for exams. She had support with funding for one of the publications from the Sustainable and Healthy Food Systems (SHEFS)  project and uMngeni Resilience Project (URP). She presented her research findings at several local and international conferences.

She was awarded the South African Association for Food Science and Technology (SAAFoST) CoE Bursary to present at one of the congresses. She has also published an article in the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers Resource magazine. Her research focuses on food-based nutrition interventions to reduce over and undernutrition, particularly in rural population groups. Govender has a passion for teaching and hopes to be an inspiration to her students.

Her area of speciality is Food Security as well as Agricultural Extension and Rural Resource Management. Her recent achievements are many. She was selected as Ezemvelo’s KZN Wildlife Covid-19 Community Relief Programme Ambassador in recognition of an active, involving and influential role in society in 2020.  She is one of the young emerging researchers within the Sustainable and Healthy Food Systems (SHEFS), a global research programme spearheaded by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

She was honoured as a Wonder Woman in Science for the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science in 2019.  She was invited by the Kenya National Academy of Sciences (KNAS) to speak at the Regional Young Scientists’ Conference in partnership with The World Academy of Sciences Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Partner (TWAS-SAREP) in Kenya in 2019.

She was a speaker at the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS) Food Security and Policy Workshop in 2018 which contributed to the Food Security and Policy Development for the SADC region. She was awarded a certificate by the Iowa State University for participating in their Professional Development Workshop in 2018. She has been involved as a panellist in numerous engagements including the KZN’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Summit in 2018.

Nkosinomusa graduated with a PhD in Soil Science in 2019, with her thesis entitled: Application of soil indigenous knowledge in rural communities of eastern South Africa. 

She was awarded a Thuthuka grant in 2020 to research on soil fertility gradients on smallholder farms. Dr Dube has graduated four MSc and five Honours, is currently supervising four MSc and four Honours students and has published eight articles in high-impact peer-reviewed journals. She has attended and presented her research work at a number of national and international conferences and was recently invited to chair a session at the EUROSOIL conference, in Switzerland.

Nkosinomusa serves as a member of a reference group for a Water Research Commission project, reviewer for peer-reviewed journals and examiner of Masters dissertations. She also serves in the University Research Farm and School Teaching and Learning Committees, and as the academic coordinator for Soil Science.

In addition, she makes significant contributions in community engagement through her work on land evaluation and mapping exercises with students, and the products are used by farmers in land use planning. All this is in addition to being a wife and a mother of four. Nkosinomusa enjoys adventure and is a fitness enthusiast.

Dr Nontobeko Mvubu
Lecturer in Microbiology 

Dr Nontobeko Mvubu is a Microbiology Lecturer in the School of Life Sciences. She completed her PhD in 2016 and Post-Doctoral research in 2017. She was recruited as part of the UKZN Talent Equity and Excellence Acceleration Scholarship (TEEAS) programme and appointed as a Lecturer in June 2017. To date she has published a total of seven manuscripts in Q1 and Q2 international journals. 

Dr Shenelle Lottering
Lecturer in Human Geography

Dr Shenelle Lottering is a lecturer in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences. She specializes in Human Geography with a particular focus on socio-ecological systems. Her research is driven by her passion for working with people, specifically marginalized communities in rural areas. Her research interests involve rural development, community empowerment and climate change resilience. 

Dr Sindiso Nkuna
Grassland Ecologist

Dr Sindiso Nkuna is a Grassland Ecologist in the School of Life Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal with more than eight years’ experience. She is registered with the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professional (SACNASP) and is a member of Grassland Society of Southern Africa (GSSA), the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) and the Golden Key International Society

She has been awarded NRF Thuthuka grants in two cycles (2018 and 2021). Recently, she was excited to be one of the awardees of the International European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) career development fellowship starting in 2021 for three years to advance her Bioinformatics skills.

She is currently supervising two Honours, four Masters and two PhD students and has graduated five Honours and two Masters students. Her areas of expertise include host innate immune response to Mycobacterium tuberculosis and using Bioinformatics tools to understand TB pathogenesis.

Other collaborative projects include M. tuberculosis effect on Neurodevelopment and using South African medicinal plants for treatment of Uropathogens, with Dr. T. Mpofana and Dr. B. De Gama, respectively.

She is involved in numerous research projects and has collaborated with colleagues from various disciplines. Shenelle is a successful and up-coming female academic who has notched up impressive achievements.  She is a member of the Society of South African Geographers and was selected as part of the top 15% performing students by The Golden Key Honor Society.

In addition, she has also published a total of 14 research articles in DHET accredited journals and is currently supervising a number of PhD and masters’ students. Shenelle has shown the immense abilities and perseverance that women possess, by completing her doctoral degree in 2.5 years, while being a contract lecturer, mother and a wife.

Her goal is to be an inspiration to all women, by encouraging them that it is indeed possible to pursue one’s career aspirations, while juggling motherhood and being a wife. Her future endeavors are to establish an organisation to support young mothers pursuing careers and continue conducting research that makes a difference in the lives of marginalised communities.

Her leadership roles include being an External Relations Officer for the South African Environmental Observation Network – Graduate Student Network in 2013-2014. She holds a BSc and BSc Hons in Biological Sciences (UKZN), an MSc in Grassland Science (UKZN in collaboration with Yale University) and a PhD in Grassland Science (UKZN).

One of the results chapters from her PhD won the best student presentation at the 10th International Rangeland Congress, Teacher’s Credit Union Place, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, 16th to 22nd July 2016. Two results chapters from her PhD were invited for a special edition on Holistic Resource Management (HRM) in the African Journal of Range and Forage Science.

Her research interests include understanding the key drivers such as fire and grazing in rangelands and their interaction within grassland and savanna ecosystems, with the focus on the mechanisms of system function that can aid in better managing conservation, communal and commercial agricultural systems.

Dr Suveshnee Munien
Lecturer in Geography

Dr Munien, a geographer, presently lectures in the School Agriculture, Earth and Environmental Sciences (Westville Campus). After her PhD, on renewable energy and development (UKZN), she established multi-disciplinary research that draws on quantitative and qualitative techniques to examine the human-environment nexus from both the natural and social perspectives. This approach has seen her serve invited research sabbaticals in Cuba, Brazil and the United Kingdom.

Dr Yaseera Ismail
Senior Lecturer in Physics

Dr Yaseera Ismail is a Senior Lecturer within the School of Chemistry and Physics and an Experimental Quantum Physicist within the Quantum Research Group. Dr Ismail specialises in the development of quantum enabled devices for quantum information science. Dr Ismail initiated international collaborations with research groups in China, Russia and India, which led to a successful Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) Joint Multi-lateral Science and Technology Research Grant.

These experiences have shaped her recent publications that examine livelihood impacts of renewable energy technologies within low-income communities, environmental impacts of coastal and marine tourism, and health-related impacts of communal/shared sanitation facilities within informal sectors. She has also been invited onto the multi-country Sustainable and Healthy Food Systems (SHEFs) programme, examining the environmental and socio-economic factors influencing food systems among smallholder farmers.

Applied research has defined her career to date. She is the project lead on research solicited by the National Department of Tourism to establish a national strategy for stimulating SMME survival. In addition, she is part of a team tasked with the creation of the national climate change communication strategy for the tourism sector. She was instrumental in developing a scientifically robust methodology (GIS-based) to factually support previously disadvantaged groups in South Africa in their land claims.

Apart from her efforts to empower postgraduate students and practitioners, Dr Munien is also a member of the UKZN Human and Social Science Research Ethics Committee, and was recently appointed Research Ethics Deputy Chair for SAEES.

This project, QuSaF (Quantum Satellite and Fibre Communication), aims to establish a quantum network with a joint intercontinental satellite-based quantum key distribution link utilising the Micius satellite that the Chinese collaborators have developed and launched into the lower earth orbital. The long-term vision for developing satellite quantum key distribution is the realisation of a quantum internet. Furthermore, the project aims to establish a quantum fibre intercity communication link connecting major cities in South Africa. QuSaF will be South Africa’s/Africa’s first Quantum Satellite demonstration. Dr Ismail holds a Y1 NRF Rating since 2021.

She is a recipient of three Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) Seed Fund Grants and is an NRF Thuthuka Grant holder.  She received the 2016 TechWomen Emerging Leader Award by the United States Department of States and is a 2018 Optical Society of America (OSA) Ambassador. Dr Ismail is an editorial board member for the Scientific Reports Journal and was invited in 2021 to be guest editor for a special issue of the Scientific Report Journal on Quantum Information and Computation. Dr Ismail is the Chair of the OSA International Esther Hoffman Beller Award Committee and has served as an International Advisory Committee member for several International Conferences.  Dr Ismail was awarded in 2020 the DHET Future Professor Fellow Award, which recognizes top young researchers in South Africa.