A rural girl from the Dikebu village in the North West province has overtaken research interns from across South Africa. The first Unisa student to be accepted as an in-service trainee at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Segametsi Songwane recently scooped an award for best in-service trainee at the CSIR Materials Science and Manufacturing Excellence Awards for 2012.
It’s all about taking a chance and this is exactly what Songwane, a third-level Chemical Engineering student, did when Unisa’s Directorate for Counselling, Career and Academic Development hosted a career exhibition with various exhibitors on the lookout for outstanding students. Joseph Tshikomba, Senior Manager: Studentships and Internships, CSIR Strategic Human Capital Development, handed out information on a Department of Science and Technology project called Black Science, Technology and Engineering Professionals (BSTEP). Songwane applied and was offered funding to pursue her training at the CSIR.
This is the first time the CSIR has accepted a Unisa student to undertake in-service training, so the pressure was on for Songwane to make it count. Putting shoulder to the wheel she poured her energy into not one, but two projects, the second of which holds real-world benefits in terms of removing hazardous heavy metals from waste water.
Very passionate about her work and studies, Songwane is flying the Unisa flag high. Being recognised as best in-service trainee at the CSIR Materials Science and Manufacturing Excellence Awards for 2012 has motivated her to increase both the volume and quality of her work. “I have managed to complete a lot of my lab work within four months, reflecting my hard work and dedication. I also offer skills transfer to high school learners who visit our centre – I’m always excited to tell them about our project.” Focus is a big part of Songwane’s drive: “I have learnt to focus on my purpose here and I try my best to work hard and be obedient. The way I see it, the award defines the success of an undergraduate from a distance learning institution who has dreams and is not afraid to ask questions.”
Giving her much deserved praise is Songwane’s supervisor, Dr Arjun Maity (Senior Researcher, Polymers and Composites, CSIR Material Science and Manufacturing). “She has grown tremendously as a research candidate and has showed her potential to make an impact in research,” he says. “During my association with Segametsi, I have been impressed by her sincere and hard-working nature, and her critical approach to academic and research activity. As a supervisor, I am extremely satisfied with her work.”
Written by Kirosha Naicker