Stellenbosch University chemistry student Kayla Heinrich has been awarded the South African Chemical Institute's (SACI) coveted James Moir Medal as the Best Chemistry Honours Student at SU in 2020.
The James Moir Medals are awarded annually to the best BScHons student in chemistry at each university in South Africa, and only students achieving an average final mark of at least 75% are eligible.
Kayla, who is a former learner from Fairmont High School in Durbanville, says she initially wanted to become a geneticist, but after enjoying physics in her first year, decided to change degree programmes to biological laser physics. Finally, in her third year, she made the decision to switch to chemical biology to follow her passion.
“Unfortunately I had to extend my degree by a year. I was sure after my third year that Chemistry was for me and that I wanted to continue with the BSc Hons-degree in Chemistry. Despite it being tough, especially during a pandemic, I enjoyed the challenge and how much I was able to learn in one year."
She is currently doing an MSc in Chemistry under the supervision of Prof Selwyn Mapolie and Prof André de Villiers.
Her advice to fellow students?
“Never give up. You are not alone, everyone goes through the lows where you feel like you can't do it anymore. But don't give up on yourself. What if you can do what you've been told you would not be capable of? I've made it this far by pushing my boundaries."
She is considering pursuing a PhD in chemistry, but she also wants to explore her passion for teaching: “I have been a high school and university tutor for eight years. I enjoy helping students achieve that 'aha' moment by pushing themselves past their limits to find that the subject they initially struggled with, is now one of their favourites."
Recently, Kayla also received the SMM award for the best BScHons-student in SU's Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science.