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Dr Tozama Qwebani-Ogunleye the astonishing woman in Science
By Puleng Maphisa – 31 August 2021
“I am a life-long learner. Open to learning, unlearning and relearning. A guest blog writer for TechWomen Fellow (USA) (TechWomen is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It is a platform for emerging women leaders in STEMI and the award encompasses a one month working visit to the San Francisco’s Silicon Valley) and We CAN Leadership Institute and an author. My second book came out on the 30th of August 2021, the webpage is www.100nuggets.co.za and you tube link is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BhkWFhRIsQU’’ said Dr Tozama Qwebani-Ogunleye.
Dr Tozama known as Dr T, a Xhosa woman who was born and raised in Flagstaff, Eastern Cape. A mother of 2, boy and a girl; Anuoluwapo and Asanda Ogunleye. She spends most of her life around the world, lived in Bizana, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria, New Jersey USA, and currently reside in Vanderbijlpark. One of her favourite activities is to travel the world and be a remarkable writer that she is. A volunteer as a judge in Eskom expo, a speaker in youth events and science events, a mentor for young people.
During her youth days Dr Tozama, wished to be a Social Worker and a sudden change took place when she started to fall in love with maths and became a scientist. Dr Tozama’s adolescent afternoon was spent preparing for the Maths 24 School Challenge which made it easy to reach her life achievements. “My parents bought the Maths 24 kit and each Sunday my parents, brother, sister and I would play. My passion for maths, along with my family’s support, culminated in me representing my school at a national level at the Maths 24 School Challenge. Mr Mthithala, my maths teacher at Bizana village primary school was excellent in maths and added to my interest in it” said Dr Tozama.
She further said that her passion in science began after reading about penicillin and how it was discovered by chance, starting to imagine herself in lab and wearing safety glasses searching cure for something. She won multiple school competitions and one that set her life path, which was exciting, challenging and impactful. It’s when she was 14 years old that she got an opportunity to represent South Africa at a youth science event in Vienna, Austria, where she met young scientists from all over the world and rubbed shoulders with South African and Austrian dignitaries.
Dr Tozama, obtained a Bachelor of Science, B. Sc. (Honours) in Chemistry, MSc in Chemistry with studies on the Synthesis, Cyclodextrin Inclusion and Biological Activity of Ajoene Analogues as Potentially Novel Anti-Cancer Agents from University of Cape Town, and PhD in Chemistry with thesis of Biocatalytic Synthesis, of Novel Oxidized Aromatic Compounds as Potential Anti-Bacterial and Anti-Cancer Agents from University of Witwatersrand/CSIR/UMDNJ.
Her passion in science led her to be a Project Manager for Dihlare Remedy Pty, Ltd, Faculty of Applied and Computer Sciences, Traditional Medicine Entity at Vaal University of Technology. Dr Tozama was once a lecturer at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) and a Researcher at Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
In her career accomplishments, she got approved by the minister of the Department of Science and Innovation to be on the Steering Committee of the World Science Forum in 2020. She is also a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development-Global Science Forum (OECD-GSF) Mobilising Science in Times of Crisis Working Group. She was nominated by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAF) and the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS) to represent young scientists (3-7 years after PhD) at Global Young Leadership Workshop and the World Science Forum (WSF) from the 19-23 of November in Budapest.
She has won awards on the following, NYDA Youth Awards, Mail and Guardian top 200 Young South Africans, DST Woman in Science Award, CSIR Biosciences PhD student of the year, and Fogarty Fellowship grant (Aurum institute USA-SA).
Currently Dr Tozama is a member of the South African Young Academy of Science. A platform for the voice of young scientists. Her professional triumph that she is most proud of is to have several products or product portfolio of herbal origin at Dihlare that originated from a conceptual idea. And that makes her career to be more rewarding by brining solutions to the challenges that are of national importance while globally competent through Science Innovation and Technology.
The key to her professional success is to have an Attitude, authenticity, being a team-player, collective leadership, work ethic and resilience which bring to the effect of bridging the gap between Science and the Society, while having a unique creative ability, innovation and being a good mentorship.
In closing Dr Tozama dedicated a message to youth by saying “it is important to have a good professional attitude, and to never forget that you are brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous, whatever you want to be – if you dare to believe, have a resilient spirit and put effort, you can achieve it. So, pick your lane and run your race, all the best”.