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Sibusiso Mahlangu

2023 Intern

Sibusiso Mahlangu says he is proud to be black and African. What he’s also proud of is his foray into the world of science and the chance to share his new knowledge with others who have not had that privilege. Hailing from Pretoria in Gauteng, he completed his Master’s degree in Zoology at the University of Johannesburg where he focused on DNA barcoding.

He was chosen to intern at the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) based at Pretoria Zoo where he will be working as a geneticist in zoology. To this end he will be barcoding DNA, curating databases and applying molecular lab techniques.

We posed a few questions to Sibusiso to find out what makes him tick and where the path ahead might lead:

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about self-growth and new knowledge. I am intrigued by the process of solving problems as this opens doors to learning and teaching. Because science strives to discover and rediscover what is out there, the traditional consensus is constantly changing. That is why I love the field of science and its potential benefits for humankind. I love acquiring knowledge that helps me and those around me.

What inspired your choice of study?

I learnt about genetics and conservation during my undergraduate studies. I was intrigued by how genes tell you so much about an individual, a community and a population. I enjoyed my lecturer’s way of explaining things and continued with it at postgraduate level. I found Molecular Ecology the most exciting and challenging course. My lecturer ran a project that studied estuarine organisms in a novel way, and I wanted to tap into that. That is how I ended up studying DNA barcoding at Master’s level.

What excites you about your internship?

I am delighted to be part of SANBI, a research institute that covers a range of research topics. As a recent graduate, I am used to a smaller lab focused on academia, so the internship will grow my skills and expose me to new techniques and equipment. I will also have slightly more independence when contributing to research projects.

What are your expectations of this internship?

My expectations are hard work, refining my molecular technique skills and learning from my colleagues. SANBI as an institution does amazing work and being part of the team will elevate my knowledge.

What contribution do you hope to make towards a future in which people and nature thrive?

I hope to find efficient ways for sustainable living and conserving nature and its constituents, especially those utilised by humankind. There is increasing pressure on nature, while many people also need resources to improve their socio-economic situation. I would like my research contributions to bridge that gap.

Who inspires you most and why?

Family members and friends inspire me, so the list is extensive, but I am generally inspired by those who work hard, are humble and strive to grow into themselves. These traits remind me to reach higher but remain humble and stay open to learning from others.

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