Rapela Maphanga

Principal Researcher, CSIR

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Scientific findings know no gender and everything is possible.

What do you do?

I conduct research on materials modelling, employing both classical and quantum mechanical methods to probe materials properties. Recently, I apply machine learning methods to understand structure-property relationships for various materials.

Why did you choose this field?

One of my primary school teacher noted that I was very good in mathematics and arranged that I get promoted from grade 5 to grade 7 the following year. When that happened I knew that I will work even harder so that I don't disappoint my teacher. I then started practicing mathematics and natural science everyday. Like many rural girls, after high school I didn't know which career to follow when I entered the university, but I knew that I will continue doing mathematics and physical science. I then registered for a Bachelor of Science and majored in Mathematics and Physics, followed by BSc Honours, Masters and PhD in Physics.

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

I wish younger me would have known that it is possible to be an Associate Professor of Physics at a tender age. It doesn't matter where one comes from.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I like the challenges that these fields bring and also the benefits that they bring to improve our well-being, particularly the technological developments that are capable of solving societal challenges from health to energy crisis. I wake up looking forward to using my skills to contribute to the well-being of global citizens.

Best advice for next generation?

I always say to the girls that scientific findings know no gender and everything is possible.

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

Learn as much as you can while you are young since life becomes too busy later.

NOMINATE a woman in STEM

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