Laurette Mhlanga

PhD candidate, Sacema, Stellenbosch University

And - Member of the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World


Brace yourself, enjoy the ride and do not forget to breath.

What do you do?

I am working on optimisation and benchmarking methods for HIV incidence estimation. I am investigating some missed opportunities in optimally estimating HIV incidence. The output of this work may lead to more accurate measures of HIV incidence, implying better intervention programmes leading to fast tracking the 90-90-90 UNAIDS goals that aim to eradicate the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Why did you choose this field?

My parents were strong advocates of STEM subjects and my siblings and I, all defaulted to pursuing STEM related subjects. I realised that I wanted to pursue the STEM world during my A levels due to the mental challenge it offered and its perceived difficulty. I loved the fact that answers to the “why” are non-trivial, but require thinking in an abstract manner and fully engaging the brain to arrive at a logical conclusion.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

It is all in the mind and I can achieve anything I set myself to do. Some pathways are not clear-cut but with persistence you will get there.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I wake up looking forward to the challenges that the day will bring. You never know what fog or confusion may cloud your mind and how much time you will spend looking at that problem. The greatest calming effect I have learnt over the years is to breath, take a step back, and look at things differently, which is a very insightful practice. The feeling of clearing the brain fog is most welcome.

Best advice for next generation?

I enjoy the process of imparting knowledge to the younger generation and seeing the aware on their faces as the science start to make sense.

My advice is pursue your first love, nothing is too complex or way beyond your reach! The good thing we exist in a world, which is levelling up and at times puts women at an advantage. Brace yourself, enjoy the ride and do not forget to breath.

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

Embrace the opportunities coming your way.

NOMINATE a woman in STEM

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