|Women in Physics
This exhibit profiles a number of physics career options in South Africa - using real life examples. It demonstrates how physics can be fun and is an essential part of everyday life. Across South Africa scientists and communicators are working towards inspiring a new generation of physicists.
In recognition of women’s scientific achievements, the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA), an organisation committed to put the world of science in society’s hands, is sharing women physicists’ love of physics with you as a way of bringing the world of physics and the realisation of a possible career in physics a step closer.
Some of the scientists profiled:
Igle is a scientist at the CSIR. She is also a Fellow of Defencetek, a CSIR division which concentrates on peace, defence, and security. Her job is to extract meaning from models. In aeronautics, it’s difficult to predict how air will behave as it flows over an aircraft near the speed of sound, because the flow is complicated by shocks and turbulence. However, predictions are still needed by the engineers in order to understand aircraft safety and performance, and they need the calculations of lift and drag. The team Igle works with tries to understand rapidly maneuvering aircraft. She is also applying her physics expertise in the biotechnology field. Her job in the team is to use computer models to gain insight into how enzymes might be inhibited, especially those enzymes that are active in infectious diseases.
Zinhle Buthelezi is a Physicist Researcher at iThemba Labs. Zinhle works independently and as a member of a team to perform new and original experimental investigations of an applied and basic nature. This includes collaborating with other physicists on projects. She plans and sets up experimental equipment and performs calculations with various sophisticated nuclear models, statistical and mathematical methods. The new scientific results are then published in refereed international journals. She also gives presentations at international and national conferences or other research facilities. She is involved in the development and training of young scientists and supervises nuclear physics postgraduates.
Patricia is an astronomer with the South African Astronomical Observatory. She has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of SA, a member of the Academy of Sciences of SA and an Associate (honorary fellow) of the Royal Astronomical Society (UK). Inspiration She had a powerful fascination with astronomy (which in modern terms is identical to astrophysics) from the age of 9. She really wanted to be an astronaut and explore the universe first hand, but it rather quickly became clear that she’d been born too soon and had to settle for scientific exploration. Research is the exciting side of being an astrophysicist. She is investigating stars that would once have been rather like our Sun, but which are now nearing the ends of their lives. This is a very poorly understood phase of stellar evolution, but very important because it is by this process that much of the carbon in the universe, which is so important for life, is distributed and becomes available for the next generation of stars and planets.
Delia Marshall is Associate Professor in the Physics Department, University of the Western Cape. She received a National Research Foundation President’s Award for promising young researchers in 2001. This award is made to young researchers who, according to their peers, have the potential to become world leaders in their field of work. Inspiration The curious and counter-intuitive ideas in quantum physics and relativity she read about in popular science books as a teenager. She was also interested in philosophy at the time, and many of the great physicists of the early 20th century seemed to her to be addressing deeply philosophical questions. Teaching physics to undergraduate students is her passion. She enjoys the challenge of changing students’ attitudes towards physics. Her research in physics education looks at how university students learn physics and why many experience difficulties with learning physics.
Jaynie Padayachee is studying for her PhD in physics at University of KwaZulu-Natal Her project involves the development of a computer program that automatically analysis images for the detection of tumours in mammograms (x-ray images of the breast). This will be useful for the detection of breast cancer. She loves her project for two reasons: • the software written in this project will contribute to the current computer-based methods to improve early detection of breast cancer since successful treatment of breast cancer relies on early detection; and • she can explain to anyone, even if they have never heard of physics, what the project is about since everyone knows about computers and breast cancer.
What does the exhibition consist of?
The exhibit consists of portable frame units, enabling the exhibit to be dismantled and transported with ease.
Although the exhibit itself is static, when used at public exhibitions and relevant events, role models can be brought in to speak about their specific physics career and so interactively profile physics careers and answer questions.