The best thing about growing up in rural South Africa is the ability to explore your surroundings freely. The discoveries we made while searching for cattle in the veld ignited my inquisitive mind at a very young age. From then on, I knew that I wanted to be part of the teams that made groundbreaking discoveries.
It was only in my matric year that I was exposed to the possibility of a career in astronomy in South Africa. The UKZN postgrad students passionately shared how they were trying to solve the mysteries of the universe; I was instantly sold. I am currently studying towards a PhD in applied mathematics with a research focus in astrophysics. For my project, we use radio telescopes such as the proudly South African MeerKAT telescope to study galaxy clusters, which are the most massive objects in the universe (1 000 000 000 000 00 times heavier than the mass of our sun!).
Throughout my academic career, I have struggled to find mentors or role models that I could fully relate with. This experience drove me to be vastly involved in educational outreach programs. I am now a member of the Astrophysics and Cosmology Research Unit’s (ACRU) outreach committee, and I work closely with UKZN’s college of agriculture, engineering and science public relations office. My hope is that even a girl from eXambu (my village) can dream of becoming an astronomer and realize this dream because they see their journey reflected in mine.