Nomandla Ngcoya

Medical chemist, UKZN

“I am into creating my own things. Science is fun, and broad; I feel like a doctor who is going to save lives when I find a cure for diabetes.”

Nomandla Ngcoya is currently doing her master’s degree in chemistry at the University of Kwazulu-Natal. The title of her project is the synthesis, molecular modelling and biological evaluation of O-substituted coumarins. And for her PhD, she will be synthesising compounds with the aim of enhancing the activity of the compounds against alpha-glucosidase, which is the enzyme that breaks down starch and disaccharides to glucose.

“I am hoping to file a patent for one of these compounds,” she adds. In simple terms, Ngcoya is looking to inhibit growth in diabetes. She’s also passionate about women and Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths).

“Women need to be told that science is everything and it is everywhere, you can be whatever you want to be. When I say you can be anything with science, I mean you can be a manager with no management degree, a journalist with no journalism degree or an entrepreneur. We are always talking about being “independent” —when I think science, I think independence. Now if independence is so important to women, then science is the way to go.”

Many become demotivated by the fact that most scientists end up doing their PGCE and becoming teachers, but Ngcoya finds that Stem programs like Take a Girl Child to Work are stepping-stones to producing more engineers and scientists.

“We always see people coming to do their postgraduate studies after doing their internship, because once you get a feeling of what you want to do, you want to learn more about it. We have to train them when they are still young. It took me three days to decide whether I want to go into the science class or not, because I was told by many that physical science and mathematics are hard.”

Ngcoya’s main inspiration is Judy Dlamini, a medical doctor and the chairperson of Mbekani Investment Holdings Limited and Aspen Pharmacare Limited.

“I dream of having her as a non-executive director of my pharmaceutical company one day. That woman has really worked hard to build her profile. You see, you can be anything you want to be with science.” — Tiana Cline



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