Stellenbosch University
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Applying your chemistry skills in the agricultural sector
Author: Laura van Laeren (Faculty of Science: Media and Communication)
Published: 29/06/2022

​“Always be receptive to learning, not only from those who have more academic knowledge than you, but also from people with real world experience." – Suleiman Sungay, BSc in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (2018)

Suleiman Sungay obtained his BSc degree in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology in 2018 from Stellenbosch University. He started out as part of the Extended Degree Programme. Suleiman is currently a supervisor and SANAS accredited Technical Signatory for the Agriculture Department at Bemlab, an independent analytical laboratory where they perform qualitative determination of elements in soil, leaves, fruit, compost and water.

His main responsibility as a supervisor of the department is reporting results of their analysis to clients. Samples are submitted to a variety of extraction methods and each element of interest is subsequently quantified on specialized instrumentation such as ICP-OES. Some methods are titrations while others are potentiometric, depending on what is being analyzed. The results from these experiments are then compiled into a report. In his position, he is able to work both as part of a team as well as individually.

“The thing I enjoy most about my work is definitely the chemistry!" said Suleiman. “When the theoretical and practical work all works out perfectly, it is the most satisfying feeling. It is quite interesting how all the elements we test for have an impact on the whole farming sector, and what can be done to optimize crop production. Another engaging part of my job is research and development. Setting up new methods to quantify elements of interest to a specific sector is quite interesting."

Suleiman asserts that the basic concepts taught in his science subjects in his degree, such as Biochemistry and Microbiology, apply in his sector. “Having to write all those literature reviews, statistics and scientific reports helped me to be able to join the scientific world out there." He added that statistics is a fundamental subject needed in the science field – MS Excel becomes your best friend in the lab.

“My advice to students is to strive to learn as much as you can. Always be receptive to learning, not only from those who have more academic knowledge than you, but also from people with real world experience. The learning does not stop," Suleiman said.

This BSc-alumnus profile is part of the Faculty of Science's #100CareersinScience project. E-mail us at if you want to share your career journey with current students.

On the photo: Suleiman Sungay. Photo supplied