June is Youth Month and to commemorate this important period we zoom in on remarkable young women who are making waves in the science ecosystem. We focus on their career in science, their research decisions, their experience as scientists, as well as the challenges they face. To kick-off this series we introduce Dr Dalia Saad, an environmental chemist from the School of Chemistry in the University of Witwatersrand (Wits).
Dr Dalia Saad, is from Sudan and her vision is to contribute to the advancement of women in science and technology across Africa. She is passionate about bringing together like-minded women scientists to work for science; pushing capacity building and mentoring for young women scientists and also encouraging young girls to pursue a scientific career.
She obtained her MSc (with distinction) (2011) and PhD (2013) in Environmental Chemistry from Wits University (South Africa). Prior to that Dr Saad worked as a teaching assistant (2007-2009) at the University of Khartoum where she obtained her basic degree in Chemistry in 2006. Her research interest is on water pollution issues and promoting access to clean healthy water (purification of water and wastewater treatment).
Within her area of expertise, Dr Saad chooses to avoid abstract science, instead addressing the societal issues within her area of research as to have more impactful research with evidence-based knowledge that better serve communities. She believes that the knowledge needs to be extended beyond the confines of the university campus; arguing that the society is the laboratory. She believes that technological innovation needs to serve a broader vision and is not an aim in itself.
“After working in the technical aspects of water research as an Environmental Chemist for many years, I realised that my contribution to science/knowledge will always be irrelevant unless I understand science in the context of societal issues,” Dr Saad says. “I just believe that as a scientist, I need to be more creative, define my role, and broaden the scope of my contribution to serve our communities widely. Having this understanding, I decided to branch off into other realms; shifting from the pure technical work to more interactive type of research by addressing the Environmental challenges in a different way.”
Dr Saad has presented her work in local and international conferences; and has also published several articles in international scientific journals. She is among 30 young researchers from African countries including Sudan, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Cameroon, Uganda, South Africa and Ghana who will receive up to £300,000 each to conduct research over two years.
Though South Africa is ranked in the top 20 countries for mismanaged plastic waste, only one study on micro plastic waste in freshwater has been conducted, according to the Wits website. With her research, Dr Saad aims to fill this gap for the River Nile and Vaal River, which are a vital economic and social resource for the citizens of Egypt and South Africa, and determine micro plastic pollution to inform future policy and monitoring.