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Nomali Ngobese

Lecturer

University of Johannesburg

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The world needs you. Give it your best shot and let everyone see your talents.

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WHAT DO YOU DO?

I am a Botanist focusing on food security. I analyse underutilized plants to determine nutritional value for incorporation in the food system and develop postharvest handling techniques to extend shelf life in popular crops. I can do this because I have a multidisciplinary educational background. I was originally trained as a Plant Biologist, working on plant propagation and conservation, at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa up to MSc level. I later branched into the discipline of Bioresources Engineering, where I focused on potato cultivation and processing. This is where I developed an inclination towards agro-processing. I expanded on this interest by sourcing and characterizing starch from unpopular seeds as an alternative to popular sources while a postdoctoral fellow at the Agricultural Research Council and later joined the University of Zululand to work on value adding to improve nutritional value of staple products. My research interests include improving plant cultivation conditions, identifying suitable harvest stages and evaluating quality changes associated with food preparation.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS FIELD?

I chose this field because I fell in love with looking at plant cells as a 1st-year university student. I was fascinated by how cells change their form and chemistry in response to the conditions of their environment. At this point, I was doing a double major in biology and chemistry for my undergraduate Bachelor of Sciences degree. To me, this meant cells could predictably be manipulated to yield changes that would be beneficial to humankind. I then wanted to study this further and chose biology. I later discovered that I was interested in using this for our dietary benefit and now work in plant physiology, chemistry and agro-processing.

HOW DO/DID YOU TACKLE OBSTACLES?

By persisting, remembering why I started and keeping my focus on the goal. When I started university, I considered that I would only be done with my studies once I completed my PhD. With this in mind, no challenge was big enough to deter me from the goal of going all the way. Surprisingly, even losing my mother, who was my last parent, after my Honours degree did not discourage me.

WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT & THINK, "I WISH YOUNGER ME WOULD HAVE KNOWN THIS WAS POSSIBLE?"

To trust the process of growing up and know that with hard work things would work out eventually. I had so many doubts about myself when growing up and this sometimes delayed my progress.

WHY DO YOU LOVE WORKING IN STEM?

It is a challenging and intellectually stimulating approach to solving problems for humanity. This gives me fulfilment in my pursuits.

BEST ADVICE FOR NEXT GENERATION?

The world needs you. Give it your best shot and let everyone see your talents.

INSPIRATION

Go for your biggest goals. There are no limits to what you can achieve.