"Astrophysics leading lady": SA woman achieves her Honours in a class of 16 men

"Astrophysics leading lady": SA woman achieves her Honours in a class of 16 men

- Tebogo Moremadi Mahile was the only woman in her Honours class at UCT

- She holds 3 degrees, but says her BSc Honours in astrophysics and space science is the one she's most proud of

- Tebogo works as a Junior Astronomy Policy Researcher at Square Kilometre Array South Africa (SKA SA)

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Tebogo Moremadi Mahile, was the only woman in her Honours class of 17 students at the University of Cape Town. The degree she was studying; Astrophysics and Space Science, is a male dominated industry.

She said she hopes her achievements will encourage young women in South Africa to not be afraid to dream big and pursue their goals.

The 30-year-old grew up in the rural village of Ga-Mphahlele, until her family moved. She now lives in Flora Park, and attends the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS), where she's studying for her Masters in Astrophysics.

“My current highest qualification is a BSc honours in applied mathematics from the University of Limpopo and a BSc honours in astrophysics and space science from the University of Cape Town (UCT), which is the one I am most proud of.

"I also hold a BSc in physics, chemistry and applied mathematics from the University of Limpopo. I was the only female out of 17 students in my honours and first-year masters class at UCT.

"This sometimes played to my advantage as the class was divided and when there was a decision to make, I would sometimes have the final say. This is where I earned the title ‘astrophysics leading lady’ from my former classmates," she said.

"Astrophysics leading lady": SA woman achieves her Honours in a class of 16 men

Tebogo achieved her Honours in Astrophysics and is now studying for her Masters. Photo: Review Online

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Briefly.co.za learned that Tebogo sometimes felt intimidated, but she said it never stopped her from pursuing her passion.

"There was a time when I felt intimidated but that never affected my performance. I was often asked how I would manage a family and a career in science as it was a demanding career choice, but I know and believe I will be able to manage both exceptionally.

"It is my passion and I want to use the qualifications I have obtained to make things possible for women in South Africa."

Tebogo works as a Junior Astronomy Policy Researcher at Square Kilometre Array South Africa (SKA SA) in the National Department of Science and Technology.

"Astrophysics leading lady": SA woman achieves her Honours in a class of 16 men

The SKA project is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope Photo: SKA website

“I am excited to be part of the SKA project. It’s a huge infrastructure project, still at an early stage, with many opportunities and highly experienced people to learn from, although the travelling and work can get too much sometimes.

"I am new in the astronomy field and most of the meetings which I sit in on lack female representatives. This is why I still fear not receiving great opportunities and not being successful as I might be deemed not good enough to be considered for any meaningful opportunities.

"The profession is highly demanding when it comes to time as you have to balance between being a student, travelling and work. In this profession, however, you get to travel locally and internationally which gives you great exposure and networking opportunities,” she explained.

Her advice for young women in South Africa is to not be intimidated.

“With South Africa becoming a significant player in the world of astronomy, it is about time young women take full advantage of opportunities which already exist in this field.

"The SKA is a South African project so young women should equip themselves with the necessary skills. Quite often when you mention astrophysics, many people tend to think of it as a career largely dominated by white males, but I always tell people it is possible for black women to pursue a career in astrophysics and don’t let anyone tell you differently.”

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Source: Briefly.co.za

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