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Alumna’s path to Scientific Excellence
Mandela University alumna Dr Avela Majavu's roots trace back to the picturesque Kentane Village in Eastern Cape, where she grew up under the nurturing care of her retired principal father, Boy Majavu, and her mother, Nozibele Majavu, an educator at Fundisa Special School. Her formative years were shaped by a blend of rural chores and academic pursuits, guided by her father's role as an agricultural teacher. A quiet yet responsible child, she found joy in reading and playing with local children, fostering a sense of community.
The transition to a Roman Catholic boarding school at the age of 8 marked a turning point, instilling values of discipline, respect, cleanliness, punctuality, and social care. Initially aspiring to become a Social Worker, her trajectory shifted towards science, driven by a determined spirit and the encouragement of her science teacher, Mr. Budu.
Navigating a school environment with limited resources, her love for science blossomed despite the absence of electricity, laboratories, and extracurricular activities. Her first encounter with a real laboratory occurred at Walter Sisulu University, where she completed her National Diploma in 2004. Undeterred by financial constraints, she persisted, making photocopies of expensive textbooks to fuel her academic journey.
Embarking on a BTech in Analytical Chemistry degree, she overcame challenges, graduating in 2005 as one of two students in her class. Scholarships paved the way for her Master's in Chemistry at Nelson Mandela University, where her dedication attracted various accolades. The pursuit of a PhD led her to Rhodes University, and later, after moving with her supervisor, completed her doctoral degree at Nelson Mandela University in 2015, gaining recognition for her ground-breaking work on the separation of rhodium and iridium.
Dr Majavu's professional journey led her to roles as a Senior Analytical Chemist at Aspen Pharmacare and later to her current position as a Research and Development Chemist at Sibanye Stillwater Precious Metal Refinery. Her responsibilities include providing technical support, conducting research, and overseeing projects.
A passionate advocate for science, she is an active Science Communicator and a vital member of organizations like Black Women in Science, where she plays a pivotal role in promoting STEM among young women. Her involvement extends to moderating events, participating in science expos, and serving on various committees dedicated to uplifting women in science.
Dr Majavu's contributions have not gone unnoticed. She received the South African Council for Natural Scientist Professions' Chairperson Special Recognition award and was honoured as an Inspiring Fifty South Africa Winner in Women in STEM in 2021. Recently, she was recognized as an Inspiring Fifty Africa Winner in Tech in 2023.
Looking ahead, she aspires to join the National Advisory Council on Innovation of the Department of Science and Innovation, aiming to contribute to national objectives and serve as a beacon for women in STEM beyond South Africa.
A standout moment in Dr Majavu's journey was her international exposure during her PhD studies in Florence, Italy, which expanded her understanding of chemistry. Her collaboration with Prof Tshentu bridged pharmaceutical and mining sectors, showcasing her adaptability and expertise.
Rooted in her Brown's Promise made at the age of 7, her motivation stems from a commitment to God, country, and helping others. Her philosophy emphasizes the importance of being coached, challenged, and believed in. She encourages a teachable spirit and holds onto the "Triple P's": Patience, Perseverance, and Passion. “My Passion is my Calling, don’t allow criticism to weigh you down, your solution or answers are in that criticism statement.”
Dr Avela Majavu's story is one of strength, dedication, and a commitment to making a meaningful impact in the world of science and technology. As she continues to climb new heights, her journey stands as an inspiration to aspiring scientists, especially women, paving the way for a brighter and more inclusive future in STEM fields.