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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 & 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 / FUN FACT

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