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CSIR researcher appointed as affiliated associated professor at UFS

Publication Date: 
Thursday, September 14, 2017

The University of the Free State (UFS) has appointed the CSIR’s Gugu Hlengiwe Mhlongo as an affiliated associated professor in the physics department. Mhlongo is the first and youngest black African female from the CSIR who has been appointed into this position. She has a rich history with the institution; she completed her Doctorate at UFS and was the first black woman to do so.

The University of the Free State (UFS) has appointed the CSIR’s Gugu Hlengiwe Mhlongo as an affiliated associated professor in the physics department. Mhlongo is the first and youngest black African female from the CSIR who has been appointed into this position. She has a rich history with the institution; she completed her Doctorate at UFS and was the first black woman to do so.

Mhlongo lives by a simple mantra, “Don’t look down on yourself or anyone, you are not competing with anyone.”  This self-affirmation has carried her through some difficult times in her journey, from the time she suffered major injuries in an accident days before her final matric exams to taking on a career in science, which traditionally has been dominated by men.  

Mhlongo was introduced to science during high school. She wanted to become an engineer and her aptitude for mathematics and physical science made it a natural fit. She studied up to Master’s level at the University of Zululand. Mhlongo says she has always looked around the classroom or lecture room and saw very few females in the class. The competitive nature of her peers kept her focused and she used that determination to lift herself out of her disadvantaged background.  

Mhlongo was drawn to nanotechnology when she was doing her Honours degree. She decided that this was the path she should pursue when she realised the kind of difference that nanotechnology can make in improving the quality of life through its numerous fields including energy, health and safety amongst many. She joined the CSIR in 2007 as she was doing her PhD to fine-tune her research skills. She received a PhD studentship award from her CSIR unit in 2011, became finalist in the student award at the CSIR Excellence Awards, and received an emerging researcher award at the CSIR Excellence Awards in 2014. Mhlongo says she has honed her skills by attending, contributing and engaging in different conferences, science publications and researcher exchange programmes with different international research institutions and believes that good quality work speaks for itself.

Her appointment as affiliated associate professor at the UFS means she has come full circle in her science career. She sees the position as an opportunity to expand on the capabilities that she acquired over the years and most of all, give to show that science is for everyone.