Funeka Nkosi

Founder, Green Girls Stem Foundation

Funeka Nkosi is a PhD student at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) studying manganese oxide-based cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries. She won the CSIR master’s segree student excellence awards, got her MSc degree cum laude and has presented her work at both local and international conferences. Her papers have been published in renowned scientific journals, she has been on radio explaining her research to the country, and she is an advocate of supporting young women in science. To drive this goal she started the Green Girls Stem Foundation, which focuses on Stem promotion, career awareness, mentoring and skills development.

“South Africa needs more scientists, especially women scientists,” says Nkosi. “I really do encourage young people to take up careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to help advance South Africa. They need to believe in themselves and follow their dreams. If there ever was a good time to be a scientist, it’s the 21st century.”

Nkosi’s research focuses on improving the performance of lithium-ion batteries. These are used in mobile phones, laptops, cameras and toys, and lose their ability to store energy over time. She is working on manganese oxidebased cathode materials as they are cheap, easy to prepare and deliver a good performance.

“I also study manganese oxide-based battery materials because of the abundance of manganese in South Africa,” she says. “We are one of the major exporters of this ore and have the biggest ore reserve worldwide.”

In addition to this work and her PhD, Nkosi has participated in the National Science Week programs since 2013 and visited numerous universities to expand her experiences and research. These include the National University of Singapore, Saarland University in Germany and Vrije Universiteit Brussels in Belgium. In 2016, she was a semi-finalist in the FameLab competition and won South Africa’s best postgrad science writing competition. In 2017, she has already ticked some achievement boxes as she’s been selected as one of the young scientists to represent South Africa at the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting in Germany.

“To do well in science you have to work hard and have a great support system,” concludes Nkosi. “I advise any young people heading into this field to take advantage of the opportunities available to them and to believe in themselves.” — Tamsin Oxford

Twitter: @mafunkaiza