Nonhlanhla Vilakazi

Senior Lecturer at the University of Johannesburg


STEM is not just for men; we too can do it.

What do you do?

I'm a Palaeontologist, specifically looking at herpefauna (fossil snakes and lizards) around the Cradle of Humankind, South Africa. I also teach Human Evolution at UJ

Why did you choose this field?

When I started out as a Postgraduate (after finishing my BSc Zoology), there were no Black women in the Palaentology Department at Wits, so my curiosity sparked an interest and I also wanted to show everyone that we (Black women especially), are just as capable of studying fossils.

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

Teaching at three different South African universities, and getting my PhD. I only wish my younger self would have known that it eventually works out; no need to panic. Being able to publish my work as a Black South African woman is also one of the biggest achievements to date.

Why do you love working in STEM?

Teaching Human evolution and sparking interest to my students makes me really happy. Having students come back months, or even years later to thank me for going an extra mile for them and showing them that it is possible, no matter your circumstances. Learning more about the *forgotten* fossils and their importance also gives me a reason to wake up, go do fieldwork and study these fossils.

Best advice for next generation?

STEM is not just for men; we too can do it. Again, dont let your circumstances define you, and we (women in STEM) are here to guide and help carve your path.

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

When you educate a woman, you educate a nation-Dr. James Emman Kwegyir Aggrey

NOMINATE a woman in STEM

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