In celebration of Women’s Month 2018, we are featuring female researchers who receive funding from the NRF. We thank the ladies for volunteering to share their stories with us.
Delsy Sifundza is pursuing her Master’s studies at Rhodes University and has been a research student at NRF-SAIAB for two years.
I was born in Nelspruit in the Mpumalanga Province. I come from a big family in a rural township area. I am the second last born and the first in my family to go to university.
What made you decide to choose your field of study?
Growing up, I loved and appreciated animals but I did not see it as a career option at that time until I came across a magazine article about a course in aquatic animals. I became quite inquisitive after reading this article and I wanted to know more about this field. Since that day, I made a decision to follow that path.
I studied science subjects at ZB Kunene Secondary School and it is by no coincidence that I’ve pursued sciences even after high school. Having finished my secondary education, my life’s journey led me to Rhodes University where I began my undergraduate studies, registered for a BSc in Ichthyology and Zoology. I furthered my studies to an Honours degree in Ichthyology.
What does your current research focus on?
My research focuses on ecology, genetics and conservation of endangered freshwater fish species in order to make informed management decisions
How do you think your work/research can benefit/impact South Africans and/or the world?
I think that my research can impact South Africa considering that the country is increasingly becoming a dry region. Therefore, in order to conserve drinking water my research looks at the need to conserve the fish inhabiting this environment as fish are part of the ecosystem and fishing is an important cultural issue for some South Africans.
What obstacles did you have to overcome to get to where you are today?
Fortunately, I have not had many obstacles throughout my university career. The only challenge that I can recall was the transition from undergraduate to postgraduate studies. However, with my family having been my greatest inspiration throughout undergrad – they supported me and believed in me more than I believed in myself. When the going got tough in my postgraduate studies, I’m glad to say that I had supportive supervisors, and hearing them share their academic journeys with me has always been uplifting to know that they too have once gone through the difficulties that come with being a student
What is your vision for the future – what do you hope to achieve in the next ten years?
My vision for the future is to be an influential scientist in terms of conservation. To also be able to bridge the gap between scientists and managers of conservation programmes in prioritising endangered freshwater fish species.
What is your advice for young people who want to pursue a career in STEM?
My advice for young people who want to pursue a career in the sciences field would be for them to work hard in school in order to qualify to get into university and to always follow their passion. If you put your mind into it then it’s all possible
What other interests do you have outside of your chosen career?
Outside of my serious academic life, I enjoy contributing my time and efforts to community and outreach programmes, either through tutoring or mentoring high school learners. I also spend some time at the gym to release stress.