Stellenbosch University
Welcome to Stellenbosch University
A day in the life of: Lucky Mokwena
Author: Elbie Els / Photographer Stefan Els
Published: 12/05/2021

Making a difference in people's lives is what keeps Lucky Mokwena motivated in his work.  He serves as a divisional manager in the gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GCMS) laboratory of the Mass Spectrometry Unit in Stellenbosch University's Central Analytical Facilities (CAF).  

In the month of Workers' Day, we feature some of our staff and their part in keeping the wheels turning at our institution. Mokwena told us more about his typical workday.

What is your role at Stellenbosch University?

I support academic research by performing sample analysis for students, researchers and industry. Some of my most important tasks include training students on the applications of gas chromatographic instruments and maintaining the instruments.

What does a typical day at work look like?

My typical day at work entails sample analysis for students and other clients, and the development of methods for sample analysis in support of research for tertiary institutions across the country, as well as for industry. Most days, I am busy with the maintenance and upkeep of the instruments in the laboratory, writing reports for external clients, as well as helping students with projects and data interpretation.

How did your education or past experiences prepare you for this job? 

I obtained my MSc in Chemistry at Stellenbosch in 2009 and gained experience at different industry and academic institutions, such as the Agricultural Research Council, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, KWV and Nampak, which all prepared me for my current position. I started as a junior analyst at CAF in 2010, but through hard work and commitment, have progressed to my current position of divisional manager.

What do you enjoy most about your role and working at SU?

I enjoy interacting with students from different departments at SU, as well as with other academic institutions and industry. I am very pleased to see how students walk into the laboratory at the beginning of their academic studies, and then walk away with data to go and complete their research. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than knowing that I played some role in helping a student successfully complete his or her degree.

The pandemic has changed the way we work and live. What keeps you motivated during these times?

As a believer and a Christian, my faith is what keeps me going and motivated. The fact that I can open my eyes every morning and still have all my limbs intact is motivation enough. I am always grateful for grace. I am also motivated by the fact that I can make a difference in other people's lives in one way or another.

Tell us something about you that few people would expect/something exciting that few people know about you?

I am an elder at the church and enjoy worship and preaching to the congregation as and when the opportunity arises.