Siphokazi Gatyeni-Dube is a remarkable woman who has overcome many challenges to achieve her academic dreams. She is the first black woman and the first person ever to obtain a Doctorate degree in Applied Mathematics from the University of Johannesburg (UJ) in South Africa.
Siphokazi was born in a rural village in the Eastern Cape province, where she lost her father at the age of eight. She was raised by her mother, who worked as a domestic worker and struggled to provide for her and her two brothers. Siphokazi had a passion for mathematics since she was young, but she faced many difficulties in pursuing her education.
She completed her high school education with the help of a bursary from the Department of Education. She then enrolled at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) for a National Diploma in Mathematical Technology, where she graduated with distinction. She continued her studies at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) at Stellenbosch University, where she obtained a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Mathematics, also with distinction.
She then worked for five years in the IT industry as a software developer and analyst, while supporting her family financially. However, she never gave up on her dream of becoming a mathematician. She applied for a Master’s degree in Mathematics at Stellenbosch University, where she received a full scholarship from the National Research Foundation (NRF). She completed her Master’s degree with distinction and published two papers in international journals.
She then decided to pursue a Doctorate degree in Applied Mathematics at UJ, where she received another full scholarship from the NRF. She worked under the supervision of Professor Jan Harm van der Walt, who is an expert in numerical analysis and differential equations. Her research focused on developing efficient numerical methods for solving nonlinear partial differential equations that arise in fluid dynamics and heat transfer problems.
She successfully defended her thesis in July 2023, after four years of hard work and dedication. She became the first person and the first black woman to achieve this feat at UJ. She also published four papers in reputable journals and presented her work at several conferences.
Siphokazi is currently working as an assistant lecturer at UJ, where she teaches mathematics and applied mathematics courses to undergraduate students. She is also involved in mentoring and tutoring young girls who are interested in mathematics and science. She hopes to inspire them to follow their dreams and overcome any obstacles they may face.
She is also a visionary who has big plans for the future. She said: “I want to continue my research and teaching in applied mathematics at UJ or another university. I also want to start my own company that will provide mathematical solutions to industries and businesses. I also want to establish a foundation that will promote mathematics education and careers among black women in Africa.”
Siphokazi is a role model and a trailblazer for women in mathematics and science. She has shown that with passion, perseverance, and hard work, anything is possible. She plans to continue her research and contribute to the advancement of knowledge and innovation in her field.
Another shining example of what black women can achieve with hard work, determination, and support is Miona Short. She stands as an extraordinary individual, marked by a series of notable accomplishments in her journey. She proudly holds the distinction of being the inaugural African-American woman to achieve a Bachelor of Science degree in Astrophysics from the esteemed University of Wisconsin-Madison. Furthermore, she is the visionary founder behind Shukrah, a pioneering beauty company dedicated to simplifying and enhancing the hair care experience.
Short’s passion for astrophysics started when she was two years old, after watching a Kraft Cheese commercial that featured a cow jumping over the moon. She asked her mother what that was, and learned that it was the moon. She then decided that she wanted to go there, and later, to study the stars.
She pursued her dream and graduated from UW-Madison in 2018, exactly 100 years after the first African-American woman graduated from the same university. She was also one of the few Black women with degrees in physics and astronomy in the US. Read more on Miona here.
Siphokazi and Miona deserves to be celebrated and honored for their achievements. They are excellent ladies. Africa is proud of you. Keep Rising!
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