Yashodani Pillay (28)
PhD candidate, UKZN
Yashodani Pillay believes in the power of compassion and the constant desire to improve herself and those around her gives her purpose. She defines herself through her connection to others and how they impact each other. This became clear after personal circumstances solidified her decision to dedicate her life to the health and education sector.
The Durban-born leader is currently completing the final year of her PhD in Medical Sciences with a specific focus on toxicology and molecular biology. “I really enjoy the innovation, discovery process and social impacts of science,” she says. She has worked with organisations in health and education for both government and international communities, including the United Nations Association for Human Values in 2012. The experience helped her to better understand the specific needs and interventions required to tackle some of the most dire situations faced by many vulnerable people in society. It ultimately contributed to her interest in public health, the development of effective counteractive methods and the integral role of science and education in developing society as a whole.
She notes that some of her career highlights include presenting her work abroad, working with others and mentoring within the science and education sector. “Our lab has a strong culture of paying it forward in terms of training, support and helping others where you can, and I’ve learnt from and been able to share in this capacity.”
Pillay admits that she stands on the shoulders of giants near and dear to her heart. Her mother and aunt serve as powerful female figures in her life, always pushing the boundaries of what is possible. Their accomplishments and dedication to social justice issues as well as their compassion influenced her from a young age.
Above all, she is a strong advocate of doing one’s best. She believes one can never know what you can do if you don’t give it your all. — Leigh Wils