Not many people even know what catalysis and organometallic chemistry are. But Mzamo Shozi is an expert in the field, and his knowledge will help push us into a green energy future.
His work involves the conversion of sugar alcohols found in plants to valuable chemicals used in the fuel industry.
This wasn’t what Shozi first decided to learn: he applied to study medicine at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. But when he was accepted, he turned it down and decided to study chemistry instead.
“Over the years, I came to realise that my passion was actually chemistry, which saw me progress all the way to a PhD. I had only wanted to do medicine because it is one of the more sought-after degrees.”
In 2018, Shozi was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to spend time doing research at the University of California in the United States — a long way away from where he grew up in Umlazi, KwaZulu-Natal.
He says: “I grew up in a township. And I guess I see myself as one of the examples of ‘it doesn’t matter where you come from’. You can be what you want to be when you work hard for it.”
Shozi says the future South Africa he wants to see is one in which “young, black candidates in the fields of Stem [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] are not only afforded more career opportunities, but also taking up space in more senior positions”.
To that end, he is now working towards becoming a professor before he turns 40. “I know what is required of me to get there. So every day I’m driven to achieve this and continuously work towards it.”