Young scientist, Palese Mgaga, is one of the finalists for South African Women in Science Awards.

The ceremony will be held on August 17 at the Hilton Hotel, in Sandton.

These awards recognise and reward excellence achieved by women scientists and researchers, and profile them as role models for younger women.

Mgaga is nominated under the DST Fellowship for Postgraduate Students category. It recognises the outstanding ability and potential in research which in turn enhances the women’s research experience and output.

The 23-year-old said she put her heart and soul into her work, and added that winning the Women in Science Award (WISA) would serve as recognition for her efforts.

“It would also present an opportunity for me to pursue my studies further,” she said.

The former St Francis College learner is pursuing a Master’s of Science by Coursework Degree in Environmental Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand.

She said she was nominated by her prestigious Master’s supervisor, Prof Mary Scholes.

“I will forever be grateful for her continuous support, encouragement and expertise for my research.”

“I thank her for the countless opportunities for advancement she afforded me as an early scientist; it would have been very hard to exhibit my talents without her trust in my abilities.”

When asked what inspired her to study environmental sciences, she said the 21st century environmental issues such as climate change are an area of global governance and international co-operation that most interest her as the discipline is so broad and she enjoys its interdisciplinary approach to problem-solving.

“There is never a dull moment when working in an area like environmental issues because there is so much controversy,” she said.

In 2014, she completed a Bachelor of Science and, in 2015, a Bachelor of Science with honours at the University of the Witwatersrand.

The Cloverdene resident always knew that she was destined to be a scientist.

In July, she selected to speak at the seventh Forest Science Symposium in Pietermaritzburg.

She will offer another oral presentation at the International Union of Forest Research Organisations’ (IUFRO) 125th Anniversary Congress held in Freiburg, Germany, in September.

Magaga said her family and friends keep her motivated.

“My mother, Thokozani Mgaga, always supports and believes in my endeavours,” she said.

In five years’ time she wants pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in the area of global change and governance to gain a clear insight into the industry.

Mgaga’s message to other young people is: ‘Always cast a wide net.’

“My academic advances over the years, from a second class student to a clear first class student, are matched by my attitude and behavior,” said Mgaga.

“I hope that my journey serves as inspiration and motivation to other young scholars on the East Rand.”