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Five questions with PEI scholar, Tawseef Latona

This week, we were delighted to speak to PEI scholar, Tawseef Latona, who has recently started a PhD in Chemical Engineering at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Tawseef spoke eloquently about his research, the benefits of the HE Ameenah Gurib-Fakim PhD Scholarship Programme, and his staunch belief in boosting the capacity of local experts who can address Africa’s development challenges.

1) What are you studying, and why?

The focus of my doctoral studies is the simulation of flow in horizontally stirred mills. This study’s primary aim is to reduce the energy input required in stirred mills in industry. It has been observed that grinding fine materials requires a large amount of energy and this is crucial to many industries in Africa including mining, agricultural, food and even pharmaceutical manufacturing. I believe that my research will allow engineers to save a lot of time and money by running simulations rather than using expensive materials to run trials. Optimising processes in this way will facilitate more efficient production in industry.

2) What are your plans once you have finished your PhD?

Once I have finished my PhD, I hope that there will be many professional and personal opportunities. Since I have just started my PhD and very much enjoy doing research, I may choose to stay in academia. I believe that, through research and technological advances, we can make a real impact on the world. However, I also wish to implement my research in the real world. As a result, I may choose to work in industry, which would give me the opportunity to help increase the efficiency of technologies being used. A PhD not only gives you expertise in a specific area, but it also equips you with a number of transferable skills which are most valuable to employers. This is why I plan keep all my options open.

3) What are the benefits of the HE Ameenah Gurib-Fakim PhD Scholarship Programme?

One of the greatest benefits of the HE Ameenah Gurib-Fakim PhD Scholarship Programme is that many partners are co-sponsoring the programme. This means that the recipients of the award have direct contact with some of the world’s largest industries. For me, this is a great opportunity to get some industrial experience by undertaking internships. Many graduates, including myself, find that companies are always looking for employees with relevant work experience, which we often lack. The PEI scholarship ensures that we will not be facing that situation at the end of our studies.

Another great benefit is the constant support provided by the PEI team. I am extremely grateful to them for providing me with all the assistance I needed during my application process and throughout the numerous logistical issues I faced.

4) What advice would you give to African students who are hoping to pursue a PhD in STEM subjects?

Since the beginning of the 21st century, countries have found that they must invest in scientific and technological innovations to address the challenges of globalisation and a knowledge-based economy. In order for young Africans to succeed in an information-based and technological society, we need to gain high-quality and industry-relevant STEM competences.

Today, when African countries face a problem, we turn to experts from around the world to help resolve the situation. I believe that it is imperative for African students to pursue a PhD in STEM subjects to help boost the capabilities of local experts who can address the development challenges facing the continent.

5) What is your hope for science in Africa in 2017? 

I hope to see greater investments in education across the continent, particularly in critical thinking in the sciences. Africa is a continent that is rich in natural resources, and I believe that the development of science and technology is the key to using those resources efficiently. We need to encourage local students to pursue education in the sciences by holding events such as STEM week in schools or related exhibitions. Through education and scientific development, I hope that we can work towards building a more sustainable Africa.

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