College of Science, Engineering & Technology

Mentoring the next generation of female organic chemists

Prof Malose Jack Mphahlele (FRSC) (Department of Chemistry, CSET) is a mentor par excellence.

Prof Malose Jack Mphahlele (FRSC) of the Department of Chemistry in Unisa’s College of Science, Engineering and Technology (CSET) couldn’t hold his excitement upon learning that one of his former doctoral students, Dr Marole M Maluleka (Dr M), has been appointed to the prestigious position of senior lecturer in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Limpopo (UL).

Dr M hails from a poor educational background and completed all her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees through Unisa. At the outset, she was made aware by her mentor that the journey to becoming a leading researcher requires determination and time - time dedicated to research, knowledge production, conference presentations, reputation-building, mentoring students and publishing papers in peer-reviewed journals. Dr M listened to his advice and has, to date, since 2013, published 23 scientific papers in international journals of high-impact factor, and presented lectures annually at several international conferences.

One of the basic challenges facing the country and the continent is the scarcity of qualified and skilled female researchers in many fields, especially in the natural sciences. What enthuses Mphahlele as her former mentor most is that her appointment coincides with the current PhD review programme, and the department will make the panel aware of its high-quality outputs and their placement.

Another former Unisa graduate from the same research group, Dr Mabel M Mphahlele, is a senior lecturer and CoD at UL. The appointment of these hard-core female organic chemists to higher positions complements the pronouncement by the Minister of Higher Education for academic institutions to train high quality female researchers and retain them in the system, especially in decision-making roles.

To quote French physiologist Claude Bernard, Art is I; science is we, and Dr M will continue to collaborate with the Unisa Dream Team to develop an independent research area. Mphahlele has committed to affording her the necessary guidance and support to develop a research area that will distinguish her outputs from his to stand a better chance for her NRF rating in 2022, and, possibly, as one of the DHET Future Professors Programme.

After all, says Mphahlele, quoting Ian Jukes, we need to prepare students for the future and not our past.

* Submitted by Thembeka Ntuli-Mpapama, Communication and Marketing Specialist, College of Science, Engineering and Technology

Publish date: 2020/08/12