Dr Simone Dahms-Verster holds a PhD in zoology, and plans to use her expertise to perform work that will improve the natural environment, so that her child and younger generations will live in a world with clean rivers and rich biodiversity. Her research focuses on pollution in South Africa’s water resources. She says the people who are directly in contact with freshwater resources — and thus vulnerable to exposure to pollutants — are people in informal settlements and rural areas, where access to potable water sources is limited or non-existent. As a lecturer, she aims to marry her passion for her work with her students’ education. “Ultimately, they will be the custodians of a cleaner environment and a better future for all South Africans. My hope is that they pay it forward in turn,” she says.
Her proudest moment has been obtaining her doctorate — not an easy journey, because she battled with self-doubt. One incident that shattered her confidence and made her question if she was cut out for a PhD was when she received an unfavourable review. “A hazard of making a career out of something you are so passionate about, is that your work becomes a big part of you,” she says.
Her advice to her younger self and others is, “To try to just roll with the punches. You can plan as meticulously as you want to, but life has its own plans and you have to learn to be fast on your feet”.
Lastly, Dahms-Verster says people who want to pursue a career in science, should know they can — everyone can: they just need to be determined, persistent and enthusiastic.