Science & Technology

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Dumisani Biyela, 34

Senior civil engineer
Mthabeleni Consultants

Dumisani Biyela is a senior civil engineer with Mthabeleni Consultants. Biyela has more than 11 years of professional experience in the design and construction of bulk water supply, secondary bulk, reticulation and contract management. He worked on the ePhatheni Water Supply Scheme as a project manager, which won numerous South African Institution of Civil Engineering Awards for the best community-based project. Biyela says this was one of his best moments because he achieved great recognition along with his team. After working for a while in the municipal environment, Biyela decided that his work was becoming too routine-based, and decided to take a chance and join a newly established consulting firm. Throughout his success and experience, Biyela says he has learned that it’s important to get involved and learn to listen. He is also driven to excel by “an ability to learn new things on each assignment taken”.

Choose your friends wisely, as they play an important role in one’s life, which might ruin or build you.

Author - Fatima Moosa
Lindo Nkambule, 24

Lindo Nkambule, 24

Associate computational biologist
Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

The Broad Institute is a world-renowned biomedical research hub and is home to one of South Africa’s most prodigious youngsters in computational biology. Lindo Nkambule has been tasked with leading the development of novel software for analysing large genomic datasets, which he describes as the highlight of his career. At only 24, his best years are yet to come. Nkambule’s upward trajectory from his roots in Diepsloot and Madadeni took him to a BSc at the University of the Witwatersrand. He then qualified with first-class honours from the University of Cape Town. He also found time to kickstart Get Sum1 Out, a non-profit organisation that assists disadvantaged children with their academic performance.

I am driven to prove that indeed young people, and young black women particularly, can undoubtedly do well in these positions and beyond

Zia Haffejee | mg.co.za
Lerato Mpye, 34

Lerato Mpye, 34

Scientist
Mintek

The hard-won PhD in molecular medicine before her 29th birthday and her daughter’s recent graduation from grade R – these are the moments that Mpye cites as the proudest of her life. But it is more than maternal pride: having others flourish academically seems to rank alongside this research scientist’s own endeavours on her priority list. She mentors university students in her field and looks to nurture their holistic development, encouraging them to engage in extramural activities apart from their academic commitments. Offering mathematics and science tuition to high school learners is another example of this; a grassroots act of service. Her research work occupies the other end of the ambition spectrum, as she is currently involved in a project to develop test kits for rapid mycobacterium tuberculosis diagnosis. Mpye also has a penchant for travel and preaches about the wisdom one earns from wider exposure.

Follow your gut and trust your passion. Otherwise you will end up in a career that doesn’t motivate you, which will make it difficult for you to be the best version of yourself.

Zia Haffejee | mg.co.za
Kelita Shadrach, 27

Kelita Shadrach, 27

PhD candidate
University of the Witwatersrand

Pursuing a career in archaeology and travelling the world as a result have been beautiful surprises for Kelita Shadrach. She currently holds bachelor’s, honours and master’s degrees from the University of the Witwatersrand and, as a PhD candidate, her research investigates the cultural changes and behavioural adaptations of past human species. The period she studies is associated with widespread diversification in culture and represents the roots of modern human origins. Finding the courage to take on a doctoral degree is one of her proudest moments, because she had to change her internal dialogue from fear of failure to one of confidence and self-worth. “I want my parents to be able to see me graduate and I want them to be proud and know that, whilst life is often difficult and unpredictable, they raised a strong young woman who can take on science and maybe even the world.”

Making the world a better place through technology is at the core of what I do.

Oratile Mashazi | mg.co.za
Ritesh Ajoodha, 29

Ritesh Ajoodha, 29

Senior lecturer
School of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics, University of the Witwatersrand

Ritesh Ajoodha’s expertise across diverse topics of interest is truly remarkable. A senior lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand’s School of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics, Ajoodha combines his passion for pedagogy with his interests in music, mentorship and academic citizenship. At only 29 years old, Ajoodha has accrued degrees, diplomas and distinctions across music, education and computer science, rising through academia and actively restructuring courses and curricula. He fundraises for the National Research Foundation, has published 42 peer-reviewed articles and leads the Probabilistic Graphical Models Laboratory, where his students participate in research presentations to encourage the machine learning research community. His broad range of research topics feels disparate until you hear Ajoodha point out the common thread in his work: problem-solving. He says: “I feel strongly that if one nurtures a positive attitude and enthusiasm towards problem-solving, then one will have the potential to succeed in any domain.”

I feel strongly that if one nurtures a positive attitude and enthusiasm towards problem-solving, then one will have the potential to succeed in any domain.

Dylan Lazarus | mg.co.za
Mohube Tebeila, 30

Mohube Tebeila, 30

Manager in strategy, robotics, and AI
Deloitte Consulting

Mohube Tebeila grew up in a small village in Limpopo, far away from server banks, fibre optic cables, or any of the ideas and technologies informing her current work. Today she is a driving force in digital transformation and the application of artificial intelligence (AI) in the modern workplace in her job at Deloitte. Tebeila’s work involves helping organisations of all sizes across the globe with the implementation of modern technologies. Much of this effort involves educating management teams on how to approach the problems facing 21st century businesses. Alongside 29 other women, Tebeila is also part of the Forbes Ignite programme, which aims to leverage AI to improve healthcare services in developing regions. She attributes her success to an innate curiosity, saying: “Reading inspires a level of confidence in an individual — and the lack of that confidence can hold people back.”

I want to see the youth being inspired in being the change that they’ve always wanted to see in the world

James Nash | mg.co.za
Gauta Matlou, 30

Gauta Matlou, 30

Postdoctoral researcher
University of Johannesburg

Postdoctoral researcher Gauta Matlou is building a legacy based on innovation in pharmaceuticals and improving the wellbeing of cancer patients. At the University of Johannesburg, where he is currently undertaking a research fellowship, Matlou’s research involves the development of a drug delivery system for use in targeted photodynamic therapy for cancer patients. This research could pave the way for safer cancer detection and treatment without the side-effects of chemotherapy. He is also the founder of Innovau, a start-up harnessing research and innovation skills to find solutions to South Africa’s energy, water and health issues. In addition to publishing research in international peer-reviewed journals, he is the recipient of various accolades, including the 2017 Rhodes University Community Engagement Top Volunteer Award, the Independent Pan-African Youth Parliament Outstanding Youth Personality Award, the Hult-Prize Nairobi winner with Team E-Smart and was a participant in the 2019 Hult-Prize accelerator programme held in London.

You are responsible for your life, health, dreams and mostly your future.

Sandiso Ngubane | mg.co.za
Lyndon Naidoo, 26

Lyndon Naidoo, 26

PhD student
Durban University of Technology (DUT)

Lyndon Naidoo is a 26-year-old PhD student at the Durban University of Technology (DUT). He received his master’s of applied sciences in chemistry cum laude in 2021, winning the Dean’s Merit Award. Naidoo says this was one of his proudest moments. “It was a culmination of all the hard work I have put in together with the support of my friends, family and colleagues over the years.” It wasn’t the first time his work has been recognised. In 2019, Naidoo received the DUT Chancellor’s Award in recognition of innovative excellence for his volunteer work helping grade 12 learners with their physical science practicals. In his work, Naidoo hopes to contribute towards establishing food and health safety regulatory frameworks in South Africa through projected research outputs in a collaboration with Germany. He also wants to slow down the academic “brain drain” he says the country is experiencing.

The learning never stops

Fatima Moosa | mg.co.za
Keitumetsi Tsotetsi, 29

Keitumetsi Tsotetsi, 29

Senior specialist in governance, risk and control, and chief information officer
Vodacom and Geekulcha

Keitumetsi Tsotetsi is a cybersecurity expert working for Vodacom, where she specialises in implementing and evaluating projects that strengthen the organisation’s digital security. Her role is that of the stalwart defender, protecting customers’ data and ensuring safe and secure service delivery. But that’s not the only feather in Tsotetsi’s cap; she also serves as the chief information officer of Geekulcha, an organisation that creates platforms for young talent to step into the ICT industry. Geekulcha also hosts regular events such as the annual #SafeHack, an iniative that she leads. At only 29, she is the chairperson of the advisory committee to the National Youth ICT Council. This committee focuses on three developmental pillars: research, ICT skills and ICT products. “I believe it is my responsibility to drive digital inclusion in the youth,” Tsotetsi proudly says.

Be prepared to lose, but then be prepared to get back up every time and work twice as hard.

James Nash | mg.co.za
Jade Abbot, 31

Jade Abbot, 31

Machine learning lead
Retro Rabbit and Masakhane

Jade Abbott has worked as a software engineer and data scientist in every field, from fintech and non-governmental organisations to start-ups across the continent. In 2019, Abbott cofounded Masakhane, a grassroots organisation that aims to strengthen natural language processing research in African languages – for Africans, by Africans. Abbott is also a machine learning lead at software solutions company Retro Rabbit, where she is responsible for deploying machine learning systems to perform a variety of tasks for real life systems. On her aspirations, Abbot says: “I want to enable African participation to shape and own 4IR technological advances, and move us towards human dignity, wellbeing and equity.” As much as she works with technology, she has found understanding and collaborating with people far more exciting and impactful. “We are only as strong as our community, and we should maintain those relationships and reach out to them when in need.”

I’ve always been so deep into programming that I thought I’d be inventing new algorithms forever, but I’ve found understanding and collaborating with people far more exciting and impactful.

Afrika Bogatsu | mg.co.za
Edith Phalane, 30

Edith Phalane, 30

Postdoctoral research fellow
Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Johannesburg

Dr Edith Phalane is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Johannesburg. Her current project focuses on understanding the differential impacts of Covid-19 mortality in South Africa in order to create better mitigation strategies for vulnerable populations. Phalane emphasises the importance of understanding the trends of Covid-19 deaths within the country and identifying which parts of the population have the highest risk of death. At the moment, these efforts are hampered by the scarcity of evidence and in-depth analysis on South Africa’s unique context. Phalane’s research will lead to more informed control measures and epidemiologic models that will allow a more equitable and incisive response to the pandemic. “Through my work on differential impacts of Covid-19,” she says, “I want to impact strategies and policies that mitigate the historic socioeconomic, demographic and environmental factors that serve as barriers to equal and quality healthcare services in South Africa.”

Our biggest goal is to allow Africans to create African solutions to African problems

James Nash | mg.co.za
Natasha Ross, 34

Natasha Ross, 34

Senior lecturer and researcher
University of the Western Cape

Chemistry may have been the bane of her childhood, but with a PhD in the field, Natasha Ross can finally proclaim to have conquered her scholastic nemesis. The Kuils River native is the first university graduate in her family. Through lecturing and the work of her Akeelah Foundation, she aims to teach students how chemistry can be used to improve their quality of life. This pragmatism behind her passion influences her research work, too. Ross’s focus on renewable energy sources is geared towards replacing costly materials with cheaper alternatives to make electricity more easily accessible for all South Africans. She is also committed to using her platform to tackle gender inequality and enhance women’s economic security. Through her community engagement projects, she seeks to inspire more women students of colour to pursue postgraduate studies and careers in the spheres of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Helping people meaningfully reach their human potential is what gets me excited

Zia Haffejee | mg.co.za
Daniel Ndima, 34

Daniel Ndima, 34

Founder and chief executive
CapeBio Technologies

Daniel Ndima is a biotechnology entrepreneur and founder of CapeBio Technologies. His primary role is to build the structures and networks that support the development of locally developed bio-solutions by ensuring researchers, developers and manufacturers have access to the relevant reagents, enzymes and assays. By developing local value chains, Ndima hopes to help make South Africa, and the continent, better able to deal with global challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic. Ndima points to global trade restrictions, and the limitations they placed on Africa’s ability to react appropriately to the pandemic, as indicative of the need to empower the local biochemical research, development and manufacturing industry. Beyond building Africa’s ability to handle crises like pandemics, Ndima wants to improve the overall quality of life for South Africans through scientific advances, as well as the creation of jobs for unemployed life science graduates.

Great projects exist because they have gone through various iterations. You can’t fast forward through them. Fall in love with exploration. I promise you it’s worth it.

Anita Makgetla | mg.co.za
Archana Arakkal, 27

Archana Arakkal, 27

Practice lead: intelligent data division
Synthesis Software Technologies

Artificial intelligence (AI) and data should be used to improve the healthcare sector, believes Archana Arakkal. As a thought leader in the AI and data space, her job involves providing clients in the finance sector with innovative solutions based on emerging technologies. She is also a PhD fellow at the world-renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology and cofounder of a grassroots community initiative called SisonkeBiotik. The community of researchers, practitioners and enthusiasts aims to bridge the gap between healthcare and technology practitioners with the goal of using technology and machine learning to improve healthcare across the continent. Her ultimate goal is to see the continent-wide adoption of AI, something she believes can provide solutions for the betterment of the healthcare sector as a whole. Considering Arakkal and her team have already helped a mine reduce fatalities by 67% using AI, it’s not hard to imagine that her goal is within reach.

The greatest lesson I have ever learned is that the most powerful visionaries and pioneers take risks, and they back ideas before they are widely acceptable.

Sandiso Ngubane | mg.co.za