Cikida Gcali

Petroleum engineering master’s student

Solving the world’s fuel crisis is the field Cikida Gcali chose to make her impact. This former Wits University student is now a Fulbright Scholar, studying for a master’s in petroleum engineering at the University of Tulsa in the US.

She’s determined to become a gamechanger in the mining, minerals and manufacturing sectors in South Africa, and eventually in Africa. “I consider myself as a future pioneer in the energy sector within sub- Saharan Africa, planning to use all that I learn in the US to combat some of Africa’s pertinent issues regarding energy,” she says.

“The Fulbright scholarship has allowed me to dive into an international network of brilliant minds, and to also share ideas and connect with future game-changers in the most relevant industries in the world,” she says. “It allows me the opportunity of networking with other engineering students from different parts of the world to discover their insights on some of the world’s toughest engineering problems concerning energy and fuel.”

Her research focuses on how to optimise the production of natural gas using artificial lift methods. Her work won her second place in the Society of Petroleum Engineers Mid-Content Regional Paper Contest, making her the only female engineer to win in the master’s and doctorate divisions combined.

Gcali graduated from Wits with an honours degree in chemical engineering, having researched how to create bio-fuels using waste materials in a safe, environmentally friendly manner. At Wits she was the treasurer of the Golden Key Honorary Society, and represented it at the International Scholar Laureate Program in Washington DC, Philadelphia and New York.

At Tulsa her financial acumen saw her become the treasurer of Tulsa University’s Student Investment Fund, valued at close to $5-million. Students chosen to be part of this fund actively manage investment portfolios and asset allocations.

She also founded a digital publication called The Money Fam to help ambitious students learn how to master their finances. That was named one of the top five new ventures in the Tulsa Startup Series, a competition for upcoming entrepreneurs. Gcali is a member of Engineers Without Borders, a society using engineering to solve problems within disadvantaged communities, and an ambassador for WomEng, the society for women engineers, which hails her as one of South Africa’s top female student engineers.

— Lesley Stones

Twitter: @MissGMagnate