Raesibe Sylvia Ledwaba

Physics PhD candidate

Raesibe Sylvia Ledwaba is only 27-years old and already a PhD candidate in Physics at the Materials Modelling Centre (MMC), University of Limpopo. She got her BSc in 2011, her honours in physics in 2013 with distinctions, enrolled for her MSc in 2013, and had it upgraded to a PhD in July 2015. She is considered one of the best PhD candidates at the MMC to complete the research experiments and computations expected during her duration of study. A genuine force of nature, Ledwaba has contributed to numerous projects and initiatives and was selected as one of the top seven Women in Physics in South Africa/ ICTP/UCT Poster Project candidates.

“I am a naturally curious person and have a habit of mingling with older people, especially those who excel in their respective careers,” says Ledwaba. “It has led me to discover how diverse and broad physics really is. When I did holiday work at the MMC it was first a way of getting extra cash, but when I realised how huge computational modelling is and that I could make a career out of it, I knew this is where I wanted to be.”

Ledwaba had found her calling as a researcher and worked hard to achieve her goals. On top of all her achievements and recognitions, she has produced two publications and three draft articles, ready for submission into accredited journals, and her research findings have been presented at 13 local and five international conferences. Her current research project uses Centre for High Performance Computing infrastructure to look into improving cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries through large scale atomistic stimulation techniques that complement experimental approaches in the area of high-power rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.

“To get to where I am today I had to learn a few important lessons,” she adds. “I had to learn how to initiate — to approach people and look for guidance and be open to suggestions. To be innovative and keep on trying until things work out. And I had to decide to carry on with school — as a mother it was a hard choice between carrying on with my studies or settling for a job with my junior degree. The latter wouldn’t have allowed me to get where I am today, so I had to take a leap of faith and be the mother who took a chance.”

This passion for upholding her own dreams to inspire others continues up to today. Ledwaba is a voice for the next generation, particularly young women — raising a flag for those who want to explore the fields of physics, chemistry and materials sciences. She was also a project co-ordinator for the department of science and technology/WiPiSA Grant for the 2015/2016 outreach project and is currently serving on the WiPiSA committee as a national student representative. She is deeply passionate about outreach, encouraging young girls from rural areas to get involved in programmes such as University of Limpopo Women’s Academic Solidarity Association, WiPiSA, the Mashashane 77 Foundation and more.

“We need to take charge of the country’s growth and this is only possible if we invest in our dreams and apply the i3 mentality — initiate, innovate and inspire,” concludes Ledwaba. “We must each live in YOLO mode and autograph our crafts with excellence.”

— Tamsin Oxford

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/ sylvia-ledwaba-956a3835/?ppe=1