What sets Khuluse-Makhanya apart from others is that she has just completed her PhD in spatial statistics, a growing field, and has become the first black female researcher at the CSIR to do so.
Some of the research she is doing at present is looking at climate adaptation. Khuluse-Makhanya combines data from multiple sources and coverage over space and time as to which areas people will settle in and then maps a trajectory for the next 30 years.
In South Africa, there are too few women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics and statistics is a scarce skill worldwide.
In matric she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do, but she loved maths. Khuluse-Makhanya asked her mother for advice.
“My mom said I could be a clerk or a secretary. My mom was worried about finances,” said Khuluse-Makhanya. However, at the time a representative of the University of Natal came to give a talk at her school and discussed entry requirements.
This serendipitous visit set her on the path to university. Although she didn’t get a bursary, through her lack of knowledge of funding models, she managed to get enough funds to attend varsity and ended up studying statistics.
Fast forward to 2007 she started working at the CSIR in a research career. While working, she continued to study on a part-time basis. Khuluse-Makhanya was awarded a Mandela-Rhodes scholarship, which allowed her to take a year off to attend postgraduate courses at Harvard University in the US.