At the age of 16, Senamile Masango was a pregnant teenager who had no idea that one day she would be a nuclear scientist.
Fate proved to be on Masango’s side and she was able to rise above her circumstances. Last year, she was part of the first group of scientists in Africa who conducted research at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) laboratory in Switzerland.
CERN is the place where the world’s best physicists and engineers go to find out more about the make-up of the universe.
Masango is currently registered for a PhD in nuclear physics with the University of Cape Town. She is based in Canada where she is collecting data for her research at the Triumf, which is Canada’s premier physics laboratory,
The 32-year-old who hails from KwaZulu-Natal said she struggled to break the cycle of poverty but her hard work paid off.
“I grew up in rural Nongoma as part of a polygamous family. I started university as a naïve teenager at the age of 16 and hardly a year into my studies, I was pregnant. After giving birth, however, I managed to finish my course,” she said.
Masango told Vuk’uzenzele that she had always dreamed of becoming a scientist.
After completing matric, she enrolled at the University of Zululand for a BSc in physics and electronics. She proceeded to do her honours in physics and masters in nuclear physics.
Besides being an outstanding achiever in the field of science, she also founded an organisation called South African Women in Science and Engineering, which provides leadership and role models for young people who enter the field of science and technology.
“I’m passionate about education and contributing to making the South African education system a better one by assisting in improving mathematics and science pass rates. I want to change the lives of youth from disadvantaged backgrounds,” she said.
She added that she is a firm believer in hard work. “Nothing great comes easy in life. If you want to be a well-respected scientist you have to work hard for it.”