Change the world


Final year PhD candidate in Analytical and Inorganic Chemistry, Pulleng Moleko-Boyce, emerged the winner at the Nelson Mandela University heat of science communication competition FameLab South Africa.

Moleko-Boyce, 30, was one of 10 participants from the University, who shared their scientific research in a manner that is accessible to the lay person during the heat yesterday (12 April 2018). The aim of the FameLab competition is to encourage a great deal people who work in science and engineering to engage more with the public. Participants were judged on content, clarity and charisma.

Having enjoyed chemistry as a subject in school, Moleko-Boyce decided to pursue a career in science and was motivated by the way in which her supervisor and head of Nelson Mandela University’s Chemistry Department, Prof Zenixole Tshentu, portrayed chemistry.

“I’m so happy that I went through to the next round. I really did not expect it at all,” she said after she was announced the heat winner.

It was an extremely tight competition, with Moleko-Boyce, Cari-Ann Bloom and Chris Dunderdale recognised as the “top three”. Moleko-Boyce will go on to represent the University at the national semi-finals taking place in Port Elizabeth on 10 May 2018, after attending a Masterclass in science communication and public speaking in the two days prior.

The overall winner of FameLab South Africa, who will walk away with a R5000 cash prize, will represent the country at the Cheltenham Science Festival in the United Kingdom (UK) in June.

Moleko-Boyce, from Motherwell in Port Elizabeth, has done research towards developing and improving the recycling of precious metals from waste by designing reagents that are able to extract each of these from a mixture of metals.

“My research focuses more on precious metals since these are in demand and irreplaceable in the automotive industry,” she says.

“These precious metals play a significant role in cleaning up toxic gases from the engine to less toxic gases that we breathe every day. These precious metals are found in a pollution-reducing unit, called a catalytic converter, which is found in the exhaust system of the car.

“I chose this research area because I am a person who likes to analyse things in general, finding problem statements and challenging myself to come up with factual solutions and making a difference in someone's life and chemistry has that basic tool to make a difference in the world.”

Driven by a deep-seated desire to “change the world”, as the University slogan charges, through their work, the participants’ research was anchored on finding environmentally sustainable solutions to existing problems. These included environmentally friendly ways to dispose of and recycle tyre waste to new energy sources, designing low-cost solar panels with triple the efficiency of existing ones in the market and preserving the blue carbon eco-systems along estuaries.

FameLab is an international initiative aimed at developing science communication skills and, in particular, public speaking skills in young scientists between the ages 21 and 35. While it takes the format of a competition, it is primarily a development initiative, encouraging young scientists to step out of the so-called comfort zone.

FameLab 2018

Contact information
Ms Zandile Mbabela
Media Manager
Tel: 0415042777