Durban University of Technology (DUT) doctoral student in Chemical Engineering, Nomthandazo Sibiya, was recently awarded a 2023 National Research Foundation (NRF) Research Excellence Award for Next Generation Researchers.
The announcement was made at the 2023 NRF Awards gala event which was hosted at the Capital Zimbali Resort in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.
The university said the award was in recognition of Sibiya’s outstanding performance as a final-year doctoral student.
She is one of the postgraduate students funded by the NRF, to address the skills shortages in the fields of science, engineering, technology, humanities and social sciences, by increasing the possibility of retaining suitably qualified young scientists. This programme assists the NRF to increase the pool of researchers and knowledge workers in the National System of Innovation.
Sibiya was born in Durban and raised by her grandparents in Mangamazini Township in Folweni.
Sibiya said she is grateful to her mentor Dr Emmanuel Kweinor Tetteh from DUT, for nominating her for this award.
“I was selected to receive this award in the engineering (female) category. I received this based on my master’s degree output because I am in my first year of my PhD studies. All the hard work I put into the past three years are reaping rewards,” she said.
She worked on a project named “Treatment of industrial effluent using specialised magnetised coagulants” throughout her master’s studies.
DUT said Sibiya’s PhD research focuses on the removal of heavy metals from wastewater using hybridised absorbents. South African companies produce over 40 million metric tons of wastewater annually, threatening the environment and human health.
“A treatment solution for removing heavy metals from wastewater is through absorption, however, recovering these absorbents is challenging. Thus, magnetising agro-waste absorbents for the removal of heavy metals will present a unique solution for treating wastewater for reuse, while mitigating zero waste. My research findings will aid water (mining industries) and agricultural stakeholders in evaluating the economic viability of adsorption technology,” said Sibiya.
Sibiya said she is proud of the fact that she is the first of three siblings to study at university level and credits her success to her upbringing by her grandparents in Folweni.
She also gave credit to all the African people who have attained their doctoral degrees moving to being professors.
“It shows that indeed ‘black child’ it is possible, and it can be doable. I want my kids to have their mother as their role model. I want them to be proud, I want them to explore more opportunities at a tender age, unlike me,” said Sibiya.
Her supervisor, Professor Sudesh Rathilal, Acting Executive Dean: Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment at DUT, said the award is well deserved.
“We, within the Green Engineering Research Group and the Faculty of Engineering and the Build Environment are extremely proud of her achievement. I have known her for a number of years, having been her lecturer during her BTech qualification and supervising her master’s and doctoral studies.
“She is an exceptional scholar and I am sure that she will attain many more accolades during her career. I look forward to a long-lasting collaborative partnership with her even beyond her doctoral studies.”
Other interesting facts:
- She is a PhD candidate at DUT who also holds a white belt in Lean Six Sigma and a certificate in project management.
- In 2018, she graduated Cum Laude for her BTech in Chemical Engineering.
- She further attained her Master of Engineering (MEng) with Cum Laude plus the prestigious Dean’s Merit Award, for academic excellence, at the 2023 DUT Autumn Graduation ceremony, held in May this year.
- She has international research experiment as an ERASMUS exchange candidate at the University of Valladolid in Spain.