Winding up 2022 and making way for 2023.

As each year ends, I take time to reflect on all that I have done, what I have achieved, and what could be better. During this time, I use a gardening model where I use headings inspired by gardening to reflect on my year.


Flower – what I loved about the year
Fertilizer – things I could add or improve on
Weeds – things that were a distraction or I could leave out.

Flowers
One of the best things I developed this year was the ability to learn and be teachable. I have loved the tenacity in me and the way that through all the curveballs life has thrown at me, I have remained teachable and a better listener than I have been in the past. I was fortunate to be part of the SAYAS 2022 blogging team and this came at a point where I doubted myself and my ability to do anything. I saw this as an opportunity to let people see another side of me, a side that is not only academic but spoke about the realities we face on a day-to-day basis.


I have appreciated blending into the Pietermaritzburg UKZN campus and being part of the inorganic and nanomaterials group. I have learned to make friends, and I have learned to be patient and understanding. I have and continue to learn diligence and excellence. Through being part of both the SAYAS 2022 blogging team and chemistry at UKZN, I have learned to love and respect my work. What I put out there is the only impression people will have about me. I have also learned that people are not always against you but their criticism directs you on the right path, sometimes it may not be easy to swallow the truth, but we have to for growth. I have also appreciated using the therapy facilities provided by the university which helped with my mental health during the hard times.

Weeds
Many distractions have come along the way. Things that I cannot go back to and change but can do better for the future. One of them is dwelling on the negatives. Like many people in the PhD journey, I have had funding rejections and rejections from publishers. Sometimes, I would take longer to snap back to reality. I also wish I was a better planner; chemistry requires a lot of experiments and one should plan to make the work cohesive. I have worked on it and continue to.

Fertilizers
As 2023 awaits, I intend to improve my networking skills, attend more conferences, and learn how to collaborate with other scientists. I have honed my skills in writing and editing, through my supervisor and Jen, the SAYAS editor. I have also been learning to be patient with myself and my work: when experiments don’t work, I have been learning to be patient rather than frustrated. I could also add more fun to my life, read more books, go out for breakfast alone or with a friend, or learn a new hobby. Three words that summarize my 2022: growth, tenacity, and patience. I also intend to learn more about money and have financial literacy. Many postgraduates are funded by the NRF or the CSIR and other funding institutions (private or public). The money comes as a lump sum to most of us, and we must use it well to sustain us through the year and into the year that follows before the funds are released again. We sometimes get it wrong, due to financial responsibilities of our own, this is one of the goals I want to improve on to become a holistic being even as a postgraduate student because finances play a pivotal role in this journey.

2023
A phrase I wish to go to 2023 in is ‘leap before you look’. We are often told to look before we leap but I want my 2023 to have an opposite narrative. I want to start taking risks, apply for more scholarships, network more, collaborate more with my peers or even seek mentors from seasoned professors. I want to believe more in my chemical reactions and myself. I want to take a leap of faith in everything I do and let the universe run its part. 2022 has been a year of learning and opportunities and 2023 has to be taking a leap of faith.


The opportunity to be a SAYAS blogger is one I will cherish for the rest of my life. I have learned to conquer my fears and put my best foot forward. I have learned to be a better science communicator without being too scientific. This has made me understand my work and the works of others better because it made the work relatable. I have appreciated every moment of 2022 and believe that 2023 will be better.

A Year of Blogging

In December 2021, I was selected from a number of South Africans to be one of the four 2022 science bloggers for the South African Youth Academy of Science (SAYAS). At first, I was shocked by the news of my selection into this wonderful team, and then I started to realise the impact I could make by talking about some of the most important issues in science. Fortunately, I would be able to communicate this through a platform that was already known and established, that is, SAYAS. So, what was it like being a SAYAS blogger? Is blogging an area I would like to venture further into?

Luckily for me, I had quite a lot of challenges and changes during this year, so coming up with topics relating to my personal science experiences was not too difficult. Additionally, writing, especially creative writing, is my favourite type of communication (yes, I prefer creative writing even though I’m a scientist). Blogging for me, felt quite therapeutic. It provided me with a creative outlet for my science “drama” and forced me to be more optimistic about some of the challenges I faced throughout the year. And of course, it was also fun! I thoroughly enjoy making content, whether it’s through a presentation or a written piece, that combines science with entertainment, and that’s exactly what I hope I achieved through my blogs and definitely with my Vlogs.

Before being part of the SAYAS team, I had never done a vlog. At first, it felt unnatural to be constantly videoing myself, from eating to driving to lab work. However, by my second vlog, I was very comfortable with both videoing and editing. So, that’s a great new skill I can add to my list. Thanks to SAYAS you might be seeing more of my face here and there! Additionally, these vlogs and blogs from other members of the team helped me learn more about other topics of research and helped me reach a realisation that MY topic is not the only important one in the field or, in the world.

Other than nurturing some skills through SAYAS blogs and vlogs, I also listed this experience on my CV and landed a part-time role in scientific writing. Additionally, this writing experience enhanced my science communication activities and interviews. So, all in all, being a SAYAS blogger not only provided me with a platform to “talk science” but also nurtured specific skills that could be used in science communication in corporate and non-corporate environments and in writing (scientific or non-scientific), which are both areas that I am continually exploring as a post-PhD career.

So, now that my SAYAS blogging experience is nearing its end, where am I headed? Well, since next year will be my final year of my PhD, I’m hoping to focus predominantly on my work. However, I hope to find a part-time or freelance opportunity which involves writing and talking science, as this would be a great way to earn some money and gain experience while completing my degree. Post-PhD, I aim to find a job in big pharma, or medical writing and, if all goes well, perhaps a role which combines my love for science and creative communications. Wherever my PhD takes me, I just hope its OUTSIDE of WITS, although I will always cherish my memories as a Witsie, I am definitely looking forward to the next chapter. I hope to keep my creative juices flowing by generating an online presence through more personal blogs, vlogs and science communication videos on Instagram. But most importantly, I would love to start working on a side business, one which actually combines both science and creativity. I already have the idea, but what’s an idea without the execution, right? So, perhaps we will meet again in the future and talk some science.

Now that my blogging days for SAYAS are over, what advice would I give to the SAYAS 2023 team? Simply be yourself and write about topics that matter and that other people can relate to. Also, market YOURSELF. You are a brand, so showcase your blogs and let everyone read them, friends, family, supervisors and colleagues. Write about your challenges and lows, not just about your achievements, because there may just be someone that needs your advice on how to deal with the same or similar situation. Alternatively, someone may just read about your challenges and could have a solution for you. So, be open, be yourself and be honest.

It has been a pleasure and privilege to be a part of the SAYAS 2022 team, I have learnt and grown through this experience. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity. And thank you to everyone who has read and supported my blogs. Also, a special thank you to Prof Jennifer Fitchett for her time, energy and leniency on my delayed blogs 😊 So, until the next time, that’s it from me.

For any science comm collabs/interviews/podcasts/projects please reach out: tasvidaya@gmail.com