“Your career is your own. The quicker you find your passion, the easier it will be to attract the opportunities that will harness that passion" – Dr Nonkululeko Radebe, MSc-degree in Polymer Science from Stellenbosch University, and a PhD-degree in Chemistry from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany (2021).
Dr Nonkululeko Radebe started studying at Stellenbosch University in 2012 for a BSc-degree in Chemistry and Polymer Science. In 2015 she did her BScHons in Polymer Science and 2017 she finished a MSc in Polymer Science. She then moved to Germany, where she did her PhD in Chemistry at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), finishing in 2021. Dr Radebe is currently employed at the Institute for Chemical Technology and Polymer Chemistry (ITCP) at KIT in the Polymeric Materials group as a Scientific Researcher.
“My work is quite dynamic and changes every so often," says Nonkululeko. “For my PhD I focused mainly on method development. I developed a novel combination of a rheometer with an FTIR spectrometer using off-axis parabolic mirrors. It involved a lot of system optimisation and troubleshooting of those two instruments. Since my project was interdisciplinary, with physics, chemistry and engineering aspects to it, I collaborated with colleagues from 10 other technical universities within the framework of the German Research Foundation (Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)). For this, I participated in online and in-person meetings and had to present my progress."
Nonkululeko enjoys being exposed to a wide range of scientists from all over the world, who not only inspire her but actively participate in her own growth as a woman in science. “I truly enjoy the intellectual stimuli and seeing the progression of ideas – from lab experiments and finally into real life applications."
She also appreciates the opportunity to travel internationally to conferences and meetings.
According to Nonkululeko Stellenbosch University taught her to be brave and steadfast in her goals: “The most important lesson was that your career is your own and the quicker you find your passion, the easier it will be to attract the opportunities that will harness that passion. The best advice I could give is get yourself a mentor or three. Being in constant contact with someone who is where you would like to be can be one of the best forms of inspiration and motivation. Ask them to be truly honest about the ups and downs so that you can be as prepared as you can possibly be. And when you are still interested, just give it your best try!"
Dr Nonkululeko Radebe started studying at Stellenbosch University in 2012 for a BSc-degree in Chemistry and Polymer Science.
This BSc-alumnus profile is part of the Faculty of Science's #100CareersinScience project. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to share your career journey with current students.
On the photo: Nonkululeko Radebe. Photo supplied