Home » Content » Women’s Month Feature: Zenande Mcotshana

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.

Zenande Mcotshana is currently pursuing an MTech in Chemistry at the Tshwane University of Technology.

Brief background

I was born in Umtata in the Eastern Cape. I am from a loving family of six. I have three siblings of which one is my twin sister.

What made you decide to choose your field of study?

From a young age I have always been curious about life. I had a desire for knowledge and to understand the wisdom of God in created things like plants. Hence, my interest in Natural Product Chemistry.

What does your current research focus on?

I am doing my second year MTech in Chemistry and my research focuses on Natural Product Chemistry. My field of expertise is isolation, characterisation and structure elucidation of compounds from medicinal plants.

How do you think your work/research can benefit/impact South Africans and/or the world?

The research findings from this study will benefit the healthcare education system by making information readily available to people from all backgrounds, through teaching and training, about herbal remedies. This will also assist people to see knowledge as relevant in solving everyday problems. Pharmaceutical companies will also benefit as there is a great need for new drugs derived from natural products to prevent and cure various types of diseases.

What obstacles did you have to overcome to get to where you are today?

Finances, unemployment and paying off my tuition fees are some of the obstacles I had to overcome to get where I am today. But persistence and my love for chemistry have kept me going even when I felt like giving up.

Who has been your greatest inspiration? Who saw your potential/encouraged you when the going got tough?

God has always been my greatest source of inspiration. In difficult times, my siblings were my encouragers; they always reminded me why I chose to be in this field in the first place. 

What is your vision for the future – what do you hope to achieve in the next ten years?

In the next ten years, I hope to achieve my Doctorate in Chemistry. In the near future, I envision the problems we have now in treating incurable diseases like HIV/AIDS, will be issues of the past, because medicinal plants may hold clues to solving these deadly problems.

What is your advice for young people who want to pursue a career in STEM? 

Go for it! The field is so vast, do not allow fear, timidity, or even your background to hold you back from pursuing your career. Patience, humility and hard work are keys to success in any field.

What other interests do you have outside of your chosen career? 

I enjoy spending time with the elderly in old age homes. They have such great indigenous knowledge about plants and about life in general. I often take time off to learn and draw wisdom from them.

Women's Month, NRF funded