Dr Kgomotso Mtshatsheni recently added another feather to her cap when she obtained her PhD chemistry. This is a major development not only for her but for the country as well given the country’s shortage of critical skills to address the widespread problem of waste water treatment. Several municipalities across the country are experiencing serious challenges related to how they can deal with polluted water due to poor infrastructure maintenance and the lack of qualified engineers and artisans. Dr Mtshatsheni’s skills and understanding of this area would undoubtedly strengthen efforts to resolve this crisis.
The title of her thesis was: Preparation and Application of Pine Grafted with Functional Vinyl Monomers for Removal of Dyes from Single and Binary Solutions. Dr Mtshatsheni’ s study specifically looks at innovative and scientific ways in which water can be purified after it has been dyed and discharged together with industrial textile waste waters. According to experts South Africa, the continent and the world is faced with deteriorating environment and quality of water due to widespread industrial pollution.
Strings of qualifications
Dr Mtshatsheni’ s PhD degree is a culmination of an academic journey that started in 2015 at the Vaal University of Technology, which she joined in 2007 as a lecturer in the department of chemistry. She holds a Bachelor of Science (BSc in Biochemistry, BSc Hons and MSc in chemistry from the then Potchefstroom University. At the moment Dr Mtshatsheni is a lecturer in the biotechnology and chemistry department where she also doubles as a marketing officer for the department. She is also responsible for chemical quality assurance and industrial chemical analysis. In addition, Dr Mtshatsheni serves in the board of Seeker’s Tower Maths and Science School.
Source of inspiration
Her achievement serves as a major inspiration to most young female scientists on campus and those in the broader STEM fraternity. But she had to wrestle with a number of challenges in the course of her studies. For instance, she had to play a role of a parent while attending to her academic work. At the same time her laboratory experiments were also not yielding any positive outcomes.
Challenges faced by women academics
Last year, University of World News carried a report on the findings of a peer-reviewed paper published in PLOS ONE journal which highlighted challenges women face during their studies. The headline of the article was: “women who pursue careers and embark on PhD training face consequences for their work productivity when they get married and have children”. It noted that: “these life events associate to fewer publications and slow the completion rate of their studies – something that does not equally apply to men. This is unsurprising, given that women often assume greater household and child-rearing responsibilities.” Although it was tough to juggle her studies and other chores, Dr Mtshatsheni never allowed these obstacles to distract her from fulfilling her academic dream. She vowed to continue with her studies with a view to contributing towards the existing body of knowledge within the national system of innovation.
She received numerous recognitions and awards which include:
- a merit Rectors Award for Teaching and Learning (RATE) in 2017
- organising and chairing a successful 2019 Science Week event held at VUT
- presenting her research discoveries at numerous international and local conferences
- publishing a peer reviewed article and a book chapter in reputable academic journals and two other articles which are still under review.
She believes her doctorate will undoubtedly propel her career forward and will also enable her to serve as a role model to aspiring female scientists to rise through the ranks. Her advice to aspiring PhD students is that they should work hard and ensure they complete their studies as the country needs more young people to pursue STEM streams to resolve the challenges it currently faces.