About Boitumelo Makgabutlane
Boitumelo Makgabutlane holds a Master’s Degree in Chemical Engineering that she obtained from the University of South Africa. Through her Non-Profit Company (NPC) RockAtScience, Boitumelo is looking to create a positive change in communities through science communication. She does this through community outreach initiatives, career expos and exhibitions, school visits, career guidance and mentorships.
What led you to this profession?
I have always been fascinated with how something small (atoms) can turn into something big (molecules or compounds) using chemistry and science. That directed my path into nanotechnology and I realized that there are even smaller particles that can solve massive worldwide challenges. The profession is multidisciplinary and relevant in the era we are living in, which requires several expertise to solve a particular problem.
Did you always intend to be a scientist, if not, what was your dream career?
I was not very clear with the career path I wanted to pursue but I was clear that I am a critical and analytical thinker who loves solving problems. Science awarded me the opportunity to do exactly that and because I achieved good grades in Science, it was a sensible career choice and I am enjoying every moment.
At present, what are you working on?
I am working on the engineering of carbon based-nanomaterials using green processes (e.g. waste) for application in the water-energy-food nexus as well as in the building and construction industry.
What is your opinion on female representation in the nanotechnology industry?
Female representation is improving in the nanotechnology industry mainly because the Department of Science and Technology is intentional about affording females opportunities in research and development. Initiatives such as Women in Science Awards (WISA) are very encouraging and show that an inclusive culture of gender equality is embraced.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve encountered so far in your journey as a scientist and how did you overcome it?
The greatest challenge which I believe even other scientist are suffering from is access to instruments (analytical and characterization). The instruments take time to be fixed or maintained when they are not working, and that causes a standstill which slows down progress. I overcame this by collaborations that allowed me to have access to a number of instruments in various institutions.
Which undergraduate degree should someone enrol in, in order to become a specialist in your field?
I studied Analytical Chemistry; one can also enrol for a BSc degree then proceed to do an honours degree and then a Master’s degree focused on nanotechnology.
Share a turning point or defining moment in your work as a scientist
The defining moment in my career has been receiving first price awards in conferences against other great scientists. This is very encouraging and motivates me to keep on doing great.
What is your advice to young, aspiring female scientists and students?
My advice is that they should keep the main thing the main thing (their studies). They should never feel inferior because of their gender but always put in their best work and reap the rewards.
What is your next move, career wise and what are you most looking forward to?
My next move is registering a PhD and advancing my knowledge in research and development of nanomaterials. I am looking forward to impacting lives through my I-STEM (Innovation Science Engineering and Mathematics) organization (RockAtScience Foundation) and through Science Communication which I am very passionate about. I believe we do science so that people’s lives can improve and we need to share our progress with the people in a way that they can understand.