Famelab’s South African finalists

Michael Bondurin – winner of the Science Forum South Africa heat

Michael Bondurin is a postgraduate student in the School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering, University of the Witwatersrand. His research is centered on the development of low-cost titanium alloys for land-based applications.
Bondurin’s research is supported by the University of Witwatersrand’s African Materials Science and Engineering Network and the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Strong Materials.  His article Titanium: metal of the future was selected as one of South Africa’s best postgraduate science writing in 2016 by Science Today, a writing and training project run by award-winning science journalist, Sarah Wild.

Saneliswa Magagula – first runner-up at the Science Forum South Africa heat

Saneliswa Magagula is a master’s candidate at Unisa’s Material and Process Synthesis engineering research unit. Her work focuses on the efficient conversion of biomass to energy through thermochemical processes. She is a member of Engineers Without Borders, where she contributes to the empowerment of communities through access to sustainable energy and the transfer of engineering skills. Magagula is inspired by Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, who says: “Ulala kanjani ungena Ph.D.?” which she translates to “Don’t be comfortable with not achieving your goals”.

Oluwasegun Kuloyo – winner of the University of Free State/Central University of Technology heat

Oluwasegun Kuloyo is a Nigerian-born scientist with a burning passion for contributing to the growth of science, having majored in microbiology after completing his high school education, and later achieving his dreams by obtaining a BSc in Microbiology at Babcock University, Nigeria. He is currently a doctoral student at the University of the Free State and a member of the pathogenic yeast research group with a special interest in opportunistic pathogens, in particular Candida Albicans. He is currently investigating how fatty acid arachidonic acid influences the vulnerability of Candida Albicans to antifungal drugs.

Wynand Van Losenoord – winner of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University heat

Wynand van Losenoord is originally from Hoedspruit, in Limpopo and started his career in science in the Eastern Cape, at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. He is currently doing his MA in Biochemistry, in which he is specifically focusing on diabetes and the treatment thereof. He is very passionate about science and was part of HIP2B2, a science and technology initiative. He is actively involved in tutoring science and mathematics after university hours and loves scuba-diving and playing the piano.

Tshepo Makgoba – winner of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) heat

Tshepo Makgoba is from Geluksdal, east of Johannesburg, and works at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in the Molecular Diagnostics Group. He has a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and Microbiology, and a BSc Honours (with distinction) in Microbiology. He was awarded membership to the Golden Key International Honour Society, which is a membership awarded to the top 15% university graduates. Makgoba just completed writing his first fictional novel (awaiting publication), and is currently busy with his second and third books! His FameLab presentation is aimed at using indigenous entomopathogenic nematodes as biological controls for farms in South Africa.

Dr Sheetal Silal – first runner-up of the University of Cape Town heat

Dr Sheetal Silal is a senior lecturer and researcher in the Department of Statistical Sciences, Faculty of Science, at the University of Cape Town (UCT), where she completed both her MSc and PhD. Her primary research area is the mathematical modeling of infectious diseases, with a particular focus on malaria elimination efforts in South Africa, Southern Africa, and the Asia-Pacific region. Through her research, she aims to analyse malaria transmission dynamics for policy advice. She is the head of the newly formed research group Modelling and Simulation Hub, Africa based at the UCT, a group that connects and trains African mathematical modelers working on tropical diseases.

For more information visit: //www.stats.uct.ac.za/stats/people/academic/silal

Tshiamo Legoale

Tshiamo Legoale from Rustenburg obtained her degrees in geology at the University of the Free State and Mineral Resource Management with Wits. She is currently pursuing an MSc with The University of the Free State. She joined Mintek in 2012 as a scientist and is based in the Small Scale Mining and Beneficiation division, working with marginalised communities to assist them in the legal mining of local geological orebodies. Some of the exciting projects she has headed include the extraction and use of chitosan from cigarette butts to purify water and the use of lemon peels to produce fertiliser. The subject of her FameLab talk is using wheat as a gold hyperaccumulator from mine tailing dumps, or literally, growing gold from wheat!

Phylis Makurunje

Phylis Makurunje is a PhD student at the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Strong Materials at Wits. She specialises in the making and testing of ultra-high temperature ceramics (UHTCs) for future space airplanes that can travel great distances in a very short time. Makurunje is a member of the President’s Council of Student Advisors of the American Ceramic Society, and is the first student from an African university to sit on this council. She is a passionate public speaker who is ardent about innovation on the African continent.

Nanji Sheni

Nanji Sheni completed her BSc in Chemical Engineering at UCT and then did her MSc with the centre for Minerals Research of the Department of Chemical Engineering, also at UCT. Her master’s thesis focused on flotation in Minerals Processing. Sheni currently works at Mintek as an Engineer-in-Training. She enjoys good books, idea generation talks and meeting new people.

Aviwe Matiwane

Matiwane is a PhD student registered at the Department of Botany atRhodes Universityand is a recipient of a Doctoral Bursary from the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Palaeosciences. She hails from a small village in Mqanduli known as Lower Nqwarha, outside Mthatha. She obtained both her honours and Master of Science degrees at Rhodes University. Her MSc is focused on the biodiversity of the Southern Mistbelt Forests of the Eastern Cape. She is currently working on a palaeobotanical and biostratigraphic project based at the Albany Museum, through which she hopes to get more people interested in fossil plants.


Clarissa Van der Loo – winner of the Academy of Sciences South Africa heat

Clarissa Van der Loo studied Biomedical Technology at an undergraduate level and obtained a master’s degree in the field of non-tuberculosis Mycobacteria at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. She is currently pursuing her doctoral degree at the University of Johannesburg, focusing on the different micro-organisms found in borehole water and the possible impact thereof on human health. Van der Loo’s passion lies in the promotion of and educating people about the idea that access to safe drinking water is a basic human right, a cause she is planning on investing her knowledge and time on in the future.

Fulufhelo Hope Mudau –  winner of the Unisa heat

Fulufhelo Mudau is PhD fellow at Unisain the Nanotechnology and Water Sustainability Research Unit. Before that she was a master’s student at the Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University. Mudau’s interest is in solving community problems such as water, energy and food nexus, and her primary research interests are in the field of material sciences. She is specifically focused on the development of novel nanocomposites membrane materials to purify surface and groundwater and point-of-use systems for rural communities.

Mapula Razwinani – winner of the Tshwane University of Technology heat

Mapula Razwinani is a D-Tech student and part-time lecturer at Tshwane University of Technology Department of Biomedical sciences. Her speciality is in medicinal plants and tissue engineering of articular cartilage. She holds a BSc honors in Biochemistry and BSc in Biochemistry and Microbiology. She is involved in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine research for articular cartilage and bone regeneration, using adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells.

Vereese van Tonder – winner of the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) heat

Vereese van Tonder works as a software engineer for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) in Cape Town. She completed her BEng and MEng in electrical and electronic engineering at Stellenbosch University. During her final year, she specialised in high-frequency techniques, systems and signals, and control systems. Before starting her career as an engineer, she was a volunteer for the South African National Space Agency. She also worked at the Green Bank Observatory, as a digital engineer, working primarily on developing the Phased Array Feed receiver, for which she earned an employee recognition award. At SKA her main project constitutes the design and implementation of control software for the MeerKAT radio telescope digitiser.

Ursula Rohlwink – winner of the University of Cape Town (UCT) heat

Ursula completed her undergraduate studies in Psychology/Neuroscience at Bosphorous University in Istanbul, Turkey. In 2009 she joined the Division of Neurosurgery at UCT. Based at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, she completed her MSc on intracranial dynamics in traumatic brain injury and her PhD in Neuroscience on biomarkers of injury and inflammation in tuberculous meningitis. She is currently engaged with a post-doctoral fellowship on transcriptomics in tuberculous meningitis and is the site coordinator of an international trial in pediatric traumatic brain injury. 

Mukundi Munyai – winner of the University of Limpopo heat

Mukundi Munyai studied BSc Animal production at the University of Limpopo.

Otto Joseph – first runner-up in the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University heat

Otto Joseph is studying for a master’s degree in Chemistry at Rhodes University. He is working with Phthalocyanines, their substituents and the investigations of their Non-Linear Optical properties. He obtained a BSc in Chemical Biology at Stellenbosch University. He enjoys interacting with those who are keen to learn more about science and supports the Khanya Maths and Science Club.

Zanele Matsane – first runner-up at the University of Free State/Central University of Technology heat

Zanele Matsane hails from Hazyview, Mpumalanga, currently based in Bloemfontein, Free State. She is a junior lecturer at the Central University of Technology, in the Faculty of Engineering. She studied quantity surveying and construction management in the faculty she works in and is currently doing a PhD in Construction Management at the University of Johannesburg.

Ntombikazi Jojo – first runner-up at the Tshwane University of technology (TUT) Heat

Ntombikazi Jojo is a full-time master’s student at the Tshwane University of Technology, in the Department of Chemical, Metallurgy and Materials Engineering.

Lungile Khambule – winner of the Wits heat

Lungile Khambule is a lecturer at Wits in the Department of Chemical Pathology, currently enrolled as a first-year PhD student. Her research work is focused on using branched chain amino acids to predict the risk of developing cardio-metabolic diseases before there are apparent clinical signs. Her interest in cardio-metabolic related research stemmed from seeing her grandmother battling with Type 2 Diabetes and hypertension. 



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