Thursday, 12 July 2018

Women in Science event at the IEEE School at iThemba LABS

A Women in Science event was held at iThemba LABS on Wednesday, July 11th. The event was hosted by an IEEE-sponsored school of instrumentation in Particle Physics. The event was organized and chaired by Profesessor Cinzia Da Via, from the University of Manchester in collaboration with Professor Igle Gledhill from the University of the Witwatersrand and Dr Joyce Mwangama from the UCT who also chairs the IEEE WIE (Women in Engineering) affinity group in Cape Town. Three prominent speakers addressed the audience: Prof. Diane Grayson, from the University of the Witwatersrand, Dr. Zinhle Buthelezi, from iThemba LABS and Dr. Joyce Mwangama from the UCT.

The event, aimed to encourage the discussion amongst men and women on issues related to biases in scientific working environments, was attended by the participants of the school, iThemba LABS staff members and a selected group of motivated learners and teachers from Thandukulu High-School.

Professor Diane Grayson holds a PhD in Physics from the University of Washington and an honorary doctorate in science teacher education from Umeå University in Sweden. She is passionate about helping students succeed through taking a scholarly approach to teaching and curriculum design that promotes effective student learning. She has served on the Council of the South African Institute of Physics, the International Commission on Physics Education and the STEM Committee of the Academy of Science of South Africa. She has worked as an academic and in management at the University of KwaZulu Natal, UNISA, University of Pretoria and the Mathematics, Science and Technology Education College, and also ran her own consultancy, Andromeda Science Education. From 2012-2017 she was a Director at the Council on Higher Education, where she was responsible for the system-wide Quality Enhancement Project, designed to promote student success at all higher education institutions. In 2018 she joined the University of the Witwatersrand as Senior Director: Academic Affairs. 

Dr. Zinhle Buthelezi holds a PhD degree in Experimental Nuclear Physics from the University of Stellenbosch. She is a Senior Research Scientist at the Department of Subatomic Physics, iThemba LABS, South Africa. Her research interest is in Experimental High Energy Particle and Nuclear Physics, and she is the Coordinator of the South Africa-ALICE team at iThemba LABS, and Deputy Team Leader of the SA-ALICE Collaboration. She is also Scientific Secretary of the South Africa – CERN Programme. 

Dr. Joyce Mwangama received her BSc degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering and MSc in Electrical Engineering from the University of Cape Town (South Africa) in 2008 and 2011 respectively. In 2012 she began her study towards a PhD in the Centre for Broadband Networks and joined the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Cape Town as a lecturer in 2015. Joyce received multiple research awards including the Google Anita Borg Scholarship and the L’Oréal-UNESCO Sub-Saharan Women in Science Fellowship. Joyce was a member of the IEEE MGA Women in Engineering Committee (2015-2017). She has previously served as the IEEE Region 8 Women in Engineering Coordinator (2013-2014), IEEE South Africa Section Students Activities Coordinator (2011-2013), IEEE South Africa Section Young Professionals Chairperson (2011-2013) and IEEE Student Branch Chairperson University of Cape Town (2009-2010).

Following presentations, Professor Grayson moderated QA Session and Round Table Discussion with the speakers on the theme of “Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) – Networking, Mentoring and Professional Development in South Africa”. The discussion was lively and involved both females and males. It was a terrific experience where students opened up about their own encounters, expectations and views on the subject. The discussion was frank on issues that too often get hidden under the rug. Attention was drawn to unconscious biases and the need to bring these to the surface in discussns with peers and academic staff.  

More information about the event can be found at:

Below are some pictures from the event.

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