Dr Zikhona Tywabi-Ngeva

Lecturer, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Dr Zikhona Tywabi-Ngeva graduated from Durban University with a degree in analytical chemistry; she then followed this with a BTech in chemistry and graduated cum laude in MTech: Chemistry from DUT. She then added a doctorate in chemistry and focused her research on the application of ionic liquids in the processing of biomass and dissolving pulp cellulose. She worked as a research scientist at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Pretoria; then joined the CSIR at University of Kwa- Zulu-Natal (UKZN) Howard College’s Natural Resources and Environment Unit and is a researcher and lecturer at the UKZN PMG chemistry department.

It’s hard to image that Tywabi-Ngeva has any time left in her life considering all these roles, but she has also managed to publish several manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals, presented her work at national and international conferences and done experimental work in the US. The latter was part of her PhD studies, where she spent several months at the Centre for Green Manufacturing at the University of Alabama under Professor Robin Rogers, an internationally recognised pioneer in the field of cellulose and ionic liquid research.

“I wasn’t sure what career path I would take when I was at school,” says Tywabi-Ngeva. “I wanted to be a doctor, an accountant and a video vixen. I enrolled for a national diploma in analytical chemistry as I somehow knew that chemistry would direct me towards becoming either a pharmacist or a doctor, and after my first semester I never looked back; I knew that I loved chemistry.”

It was also after her first semester that Tywabi-Ngeva received a scholarship from the Chemical Industries Education & Training Authority and was told that she’d have to really up her game if she wanted to keep it.

“They encouraged me to continue with postgraduate studies and, after I completed these, I landed in-service training at Dunlop Tyres,” she says. “I wanted to do more, so I enrolled for my Btech degree, which I finished in a year, then I enrolled for my master’s, which I completed in two years, and then I completed my PhD in three years. I think it’s safe to say that chemistry is my chosen career!”

Tywabi-Ngeva’s research covers biomaterial, material science, tissue engineering, drug delivery and nanotechnology. She is keen to develop an interdisciplinary nano biomaterial research lab in the future, one that will focus on the development of green nanostructured biomaterials to develop next-generation materials for regenerative medicine, drug delivery and nanotechnology.

Tywabi-Ngeva is also a strong advocate for supporting young people in achieving their dreams and goals. “I often hear people say they’re not smart enough, and my response is that they’re smart enough to succeed at anything they’re passionately interested in,” she concludes. “There is one simple rule to job security as a scientist: conduct quality research that helps people.”

— Tamsin Oxford

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/ dr-zikhona-tywabi-4722bb89/?ppe=1