A 28-year-old woman, who grew up in Ndwedwe, north of Durban, has overcome the odds to graduate with a doctor’s degree in Chemistry at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Nomfundo Mahlangeni, who was brought up by a single mother after her father died, says the situation at home was difficult but she was determined to pursue her degree in order to assist her family.

“I took it upon myself to study and actually uplift my family. I started being interested in science at Grade 8 and from. Chemistry was the most awesome part of science for me. For now, I am currently doing a post-doctorate at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. We are focusing on technology – combining it with traditional medicine. I have not decided yet whether I want to go into academia or going to industry and work.”

Mahlangeni has been praised by her direct science supervisor as an intelligent, but a humble student.

Dr Roshila Moodley says she is always impressive. “Actually, the first time I really realized how impressive she was, was when she presented herself on the Honours project. She then continued to do her Masters Degree with us; passed with cum laude.  She continued with her PhD under my supervision and Professor Hanagadas.”

Mahlangeni’s mother, 67-year-old Thulisile, says she could not hold back her tears of joy on receiving the news that her youngest daughter had graduated with a PhD.

“She is a hard-working child. She is quiet. She obeys everybody. She is a very good child. I am very proud of her. I was shocked because I didn’t expect that she had received the PhD degree. It was too much for me. I felt like crying because of happiness. At the beginning it was hard because I had to buy food for her, clothes  and the money was not enough.”

Mahlangeni says she is not yet certain whether to go into academia or into the industry to find employment.