One of the ways to have a great nation that is globally competent is by continually improving in fields such as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), said pioneering University of Johannesburg (UJ) Physics researcher Dr Buyi Sondezi at the recent Undergraduate Physics Conference (UPC 2016) conference hosted by UJ.
“These have been identified to contribute immensely towards the growth of the country’s economy. With that knowledge, as a country we still have a challenge in most of the sciences, including Physics,” said Dr Sondezi in her remarks as chairperson of the conference organising committee.
In 2014, the mother of two became the first woman in Africa to receive a doctoral degree in the experimental Physics of highly correlated matter. This is a remarkable achievement for someone who had attended a small township school in a rural area, as Dr Sondezi had.
“Despite the truth that we meet Physics daily, it still remains a reality that most of us, learners, and students, perceive this subject as one of the difficult ones in the curriculum,” said Dr Sondezi.
“We therefore face a situation where fewer students enrol for the courses and avoid the related careers. Statistics even show without a reasonable doubt that most women, young and old see this subject as one of the greatest ‘enemies’ in succeeding in their studies and gaining employment,” she added.
“To bring different perspectives to these ideas, to encourage our learners and students to choose Physical Science, and to undertake Physics-related careers, the UPC 2016 conference was birthed,” said Dr Sondezi.
“At the conference we highlighted the importance of studying Physics and having a career in this field. The talks addressed various questions that our students always had regarding the subject and job opportunities after obtaining a Physics-related degree,” she added.
The UPC 2016 was hosted by the UJ Faculty of Science on Monday, 19 September 2016 at the Auckland Park Kingsway Campus, where leading experts in Science discussed aspects of various methods and concepts of Physics.
The conference invited grade 10, 11 and 12 learners who have chosen Physical Science as one of the subjects. The learners experienced the university environment and received guidance on techniques needed for tests and exam papers.
Undergraduate students were encouraged to continue in Physics, by experiencing a professional conference, receiving information about the UJ Graduate School, information about professions in Physics, and access to other experts in the subject with whom they can share experiences, advice, and ideas.
One of the highlights of the conference were the presentations made by undergraduate students enrolled for the extended BSc degree. The students presented on powder x-ray diffraction, an important technique widely used in research as well as in other fields. The student presentations show-cased one of the initiatives that Dr Sondezi is currently busy with, where she arranges for undergraduate students to gain research experience.
Presentation topics included the importance of physics, what do Physicists do in work places, various research topics that are currently studied and available research divisions at UJ.
“The event was an honour for UJ and tremendous exposure for the students,” concluded Dr Sondezi, who lectures in the UJ Department of Physics.
Dr Sondezi introducing her research on video: