Dr Nosipiwe Ngqwala

Pharmacy lecturer, Rhodes University

Dr Nosipiwe Ngqwala is a pharmacy lecturer at Rhodes University and has been contributing to the intellectual pool of the country from a very young age. She has followed this commitment throughout her career, and today is a lecturer and researcher at the Environmental Health and Biotechnology Research Group, a role she took on after completing her PhD. She is now the head of research and supervises other PhD, master’s and honours students, helping them to achieve their dreams and goals.

“I was motivated to enter my particular field of study so I could put my knowledge towards improving patient care and outcomes,” says Ngqwala. “I also get to contribute to the intellectual growth and the empowerment of South African youth.”

Community engagement is also one of Ngqwala’s passions. She has a deep-rooted love for the country and she’s passionate about being one of the solutions to the many challenges facing South Africans today. Her desire to make a difference has also led her to found, and co-ordinate Children of the Soil, a nonprofit that works with schools to address climate change issues in the Eastern Cape. The programme is focused on bringing together people who work on, or are interested in, the water and sanitation sector in a meaningful way.

As for Ngqwala’s current role, she has an impressive repertoire of skills: “My special area of focus is on pharmaceutical chemistry, water, sanitation and the removal of pharmaceuticals from wastewater. I concentrate on wastewater treatment, wastewater, and antimicrobial resistance in the environment.”

Ngqwala wants to contribute to improving methods of removing pharmaceuticals from wastewater so that communities can gain access to clean water. Not only will this change lives, but it supports the Vision 2030 NDP goal of equal access to basic health and water. In addition to this work, Ngqwala is an active member of the Activate Innovation Leadership Programme, a national network of young leaders equipped to drive change for the public good across South Africa. She is also a fellow at the Africa Science Leadership Programme, an initiative that aims to grow mid-career African academics in areas such as thought leadership, team management and research development. She is also part of the South African Young Academy of Science. With this many achievements, accolades and roles, it’s hard to imagine she ever has time to sleep.

“One of the greatest challenges of being a young, black and female academic in the sciences is the pressure to represent your entire race positively by succeeding at everything,” she says. “For younger South Africans looking to enter this career, I would tell them that motivation comes from vision, setting goals and celebrating small successes. Science is not about how much you produce, but how much you put in for a good harvest.”

— Tamsin Oxford

Twitter: @Nosie_Ngqwala