Rosina Makofane is a PhD candidate at the University of South Africa (UNISA) in the field of biotechnology. She graduated from the Vaal University of Technology with a Bachelor of Technology (Cum Laude), and then proceeded to do her Master’s degree on Environmental Science at UNISA (which she also passed Cum Laude). As an intern biotechnologist, she has worked at the Wits Medical School and the ARC- Institute for Soil, Climate and Water.
What led you to this profession?
The existence and evolution of microorganisms fascinated me so much that whenever I attended career exhibitions, my attention was always drawn to posters/presentations about biotechnology. Learning about how microorganisms function and how they can be applied in ameliorating environmental pollution and in industries was the main motivation for furthering my studies.
Did you always intent to be a scientist, if not, what was your dream career?
Yes, I was that person who knew exactly what I wanted, and my first laboratory experiment which was simply to grow bacteria from the air, by exposing the agar plate to air, blew my mind and I knew right there that I wanted to be a scientist.
At present, what are you working on?
I am currently a PhD student at UNISA, working on bioleaching, which is a process that uses microorganisms to leach/extract metals of interest from ore or mine tailings. This is an interesting field for me because my interests as a scientist is to focus on using microorganisms to improve the available solutions to environmental problems.
What is your opinion on the female representation in the biotechnology industry?
The representation of females in Biotechnology is growing as there are many young female scientists who are motivated to further their studies.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve encountered so far in your journey as a scientist and how did you overcome it?
Experimental failures in the laboratory. If there is one thing I have learned as a scientist, is that science requires patience, because things don’t always work out the way you plan.
Which undergraduate degree should someone enrol in, in order to become a specialist in your field?
National Diploma in Biotechnology or Bachelor of sciences degree.
Share a turning point or defining moment in your work as a scientist
During my MSc studies, at the Agricultural Research Council, I had the opportunity to learn how to analyse biological data through bioinformatics, using various software. Learning this is always a challenge for many researchers. Hence, acquiring such knowledge and being able to share it with others is a great honour for me. This knowledge was further applied in my MSc work which was awarded with distinction (cum laude)
What is your advice to young, aspiring female scientist and students?
Believe in yourself, be passionate about what you are doing, find mentors in your field, learn from them, be patient and wait for the right opportunity that will take your career to the next level.
What is your next move, career wise and what are you most looking forward to?
My next career move is to focus on completing my PhD while in the process of polishing and expanding my bioinformatics skills.