Youth Month 2022: Dr Lerato Raganya

Youth Month 2022: Dr Lerato Raganya

June is Youth Month, and this year the NRF is celebrating the youth of the NRF who are working towards achieving the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. We thank all participants for sharing their stories with us and we hope that you are inspired by the young NRF-affiliated researchers who are helping to ensure a sustainable planet for all.

Dr Lerato Raganya is a senior researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). She was awarded NRF Thuthuka Doctoral funding as well as an NRF BTech/Honours bursary.  

This is her story…

I grew up in Tickeyline Village, Ga-Sekororo rural area in Tzaneen, Limpopo Province. I was raised by my grandparents because my mother, who passed away 13 years ago, struggled to get a decent job. The area lacked so many useful resources and activities, such as access to career exhibitions, internet, functional laboratories and libraries, undergraduate funding opportunities, improved teaching systems or methods, etc.  The top professions in our area then included nursing, teaching, and police work.

It was always my wish to enrol for a male-dominated engineering course because it was said that engineers’ salaries were quite good – engineering metallurgy was one of them. I obtained my BTech from the University of Johannesburg (UJ); a Master’s in Materials Science and Engineering from Technische Universität Bergakademie Freiberg in Germany, and recently my PhD from UJ.

I had never envisioned myself studying in a foreign country until I was awarded the opportunity by the Department of Science and Innovation. For my Doctoral studies, NRF funding covered all my financial activities including my PhD experimental work, conference attendance and student support (Master’s and Honours).

Did you have to overcome any obstacles to be where you are today, and what did you learn from it?

Miraculously, I was enrolled at UJ without any funds to cover my tuition fees and essential resources for me to survive in Johannesburg. I fell pregnant twice while studying, and had to juggle between pregnancy, studies, and work. Nevertheless, that was never a setback, because I was able to achieve all the set deliverables.

What is your research focus/area of expertise?

My area of expertise is materials research and development. My current research study focuses on designing and developing low-cost implant materials as alternatives to conventional biomaterials, that contribute to some of the chronic diseases affecting people (both young and old) globally.

The United Nations identified 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to ensure “…a better and more sustainable future for all…” by 2030. Which of these goals are you addressing through your research, or in your personal life?

Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages.

My research involves the development of a nontoxic implant material that would be beneficial to society because the material will be used to replace or repair a fractured or damaged human bone, to prevent pain and loss of function in elderly people and injured patients caused by accidents, degenerative diseases, including osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and general frailty.

Goal 4: Quality Education: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

My research provides me with the opportunity to supervise undergraduate and postgraduate students and ensure that their obtained degrees that will grant them greener pastures.

Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

The success of the research study will eventually lead to the manufacturing of the orthopaedic material locally, thereby contributing to the national objective of localizing the manufacturing of products and services and economic growth as well as job creation. 

Goal 1: No Poverty. This is a future goal. My wish is to start my own business that would employ many people and eventually establish its branches across the country. The established business would contribute to the national objective of job creation and localising the manufacturing of products or the delivery of services.

What are some of your proudest achievements?

Being awarded an NRF BTech/Honours bursary; a Masters Studentship from the CSIR; a Master’s scholarship to study in Germany from the Department of Science and Innovation, and NRF Thuthuka Doctoral funding.  Also, obtaining my PhD.

What are your career aspirations for the future?

I would like to be one of the NRF Thuthuka Postdoctoral funding recipients, be an NRF-rated researcher, and eventually start my own business.  

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