Senamile Masango

Senamile Masango was part of a team of students from the University of Western Cape (UWC), led by Professor Nico Orce, who got history to document that they are the first African research team to lead an experiment at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).

From what we gathered, the student researchers are studying the isotope selenium-70 so as to provide a better understanding of how its nuclei shape relates to its energy levels.

Here are the other facts about the team and their deed.

1. President Zuma has congratulated the only woman in the team

President Jacob Zuma extended hearty congratulations to Ms Senamile Masango. As a member of the team, Ms Masango became the first African woman to conduct the first African-led experiment at the CERN laboratory in Switzerland.

“We congratulate this inspirational young African woman on her excellent achievement and hope that she will serve as a beacon for all other young African women to follow in her footsteps and achieve their goals and dreams,” President Zuma remarked.



2. It’s the first African-led experiment of its kind

Yeah, the experiment Senamile Masango got herself involved with is the first Africa-led experiment at CERN. Masango and her team are hoping their presence at CERN will inspire other African scientists.

Professor Nico Orce confirmed this when he said:

“The first thing it tells people in South Africa is that if we – a historically disadvantaged institution – can do it, any university in South Africa can do it.”

3. It has inspired another African-led experiment

The team’s wish has already come to pass. It has been reported that a second South Africa-led experiment has been scheduled at ISOLDE.

As learned, a team led by Hilary Masenda from the University of Witwatersrand will study the lattice sites, charge and spin states of iron using Mossbauer spectroscopy.

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During an interview with CERN Senamile Masango said:

“I am a role model now. You will hardly find any women doing physics in South Africa, and you will hardly find any black physicists. Nico treats us all equally and he’s making us hungry to break every barrier. We’re making history.”

So what else do we know about Ms Masango?

Brief Look At Senamile Masango

Senamile Masango was born in a polygamous family to the second wife of three of her late father who was a chief inspector. The family lived on the fringes of KwaZulu Natal, KwaNongoma and she attended Mlokothwa High School, graduating in 2003.

At the young naive age of 16, she started her tertiary education, first getting a Diploma in Project Management from Varsity College; and Honours BSc in Physics with a Nuclear Physics major from University of Zululand. During this time, she got pregnant and had a daughter.

“I abused the freedom and subsequently lost focus,” she was quoted as saying about her teenage pregnancy.

Her seven-year-old daughter, however, died in 2016 after being struck by a car.

The now 30-year-old Masango is currently studying for her MSc in Nuclear Physics at the University of Western Cape where she is part of the research team to make history.

As a pioneer in the field, Masango founded and is the chairperson of the non-governmental organization South African Women in Science and Engineering (Wise Africa), which is registered with the department of social development.

Wise Africa provides leadership and role models for young people wishing to enter the fields of science and technology. It also profiles women Scientists and Engineers, and lobbies for their advancement, while highlighting and addressing the challenges faced specifically by women in the field.

On a smaller and more personal scale, Masango, right from an early age, has displayed her determination and leadership attributes. She once opened her house as a study centre for Grade 10 – 12 learners in her community, also providing Maths and Physics lessons, as well as career guidance. She also donated all her high school study material and books to pupils whose family could not buy prescribed textbooks, while she assisted University entrants with the application process and fees.

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“I am passionate about education and contributing to making the South African education system a better one by assisting in improving maths and science pass rates. I want to change the lives of youth in disadvantaged backgrounds, bring science to the people and encourage more black researchers in scarce skills,” she said about her passion adding that she will make sure education is fashionable in her lifetime.