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Dr. Nomcebo Mthombeni head of Chemical Engineering at the Durban University of Technology

This week on Womanity-Women in Unity, Dr. Amaleya Goneos-Malka talks to Dr. Nomcebo Mthombeni, who heads up the Department of Chemical Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering & the Built Environment at the Durban University of Technology. She highlights the broad applicability of chemical engineering across sectors and the need for collaborative research between industry and academia, that addresses societal and industrial challenges. For example Dr Mthombeni highlights some of the water projects she has been involved with that dealt with disinfection  to target pathogens in water; sensors to detect modern water contaminants; recycling waste water to generate energy; and utilising solar power to pump water in rural communities.

Dr Mthombeni notes that engineers are problem solvers and asserts that chemical engineering students – no matter how far along they are in their studies – should be confident and if they think they can solve a problem to tackle it now, not wait until they have earned their qualification. 

Although the engineering discipline is traditionally male dominated, there is a strong cohort of female graduates however they seem to drop out of the pipeline. Some of the reasons for this include environments that are less accommodating for women, the need for men to open opportunities for women to enter the space, the family responsibilities that women tend to carry, negative socialisation that may inhibit women from believing in their capabilities, and a lack of development programmes with intentional career paths.

Lastly, Dr Mthombeni emphasises the importance of knowing your “why” and pursuing your purpose. Tune in for more…

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