Khanyile developing young "technopreneurs"

Wits Phd candidate Thulile Khanyile
Wits Phd candidate Thulile Khanyile

Thulile Khanyile is using technology to develop "technopreneurs" who can use science and technology to make an economic impact.

Khanyile, a Wits PhD candidate in the HIV Pathogenesis Research Units and a lecturer in the school of pathology, is the co-founder of Nka'Thuto Edu Propeller.

The nonprofit organisation (NPO) aims to advance innovation, science and creativity in previously disadvantaged communities.

"The Edu Propeller aims to increase the visibility of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and innovation to teach children research methodology, select projects with potential and assist children to develop business models for their solutions. The idea is to ensure that the technologies are prototyped and ultimately commercialised in relevant markets," Khanyile said.

The idea to start the NPO started when she was doing her in-service training at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

Khanyile was invited by her cubicle mate, Thandeka Mhlanga, to participate at a Science Expo that she held at a school in her township in Katlehong, East Rand.

"We became involved with a group of students whom we mentored and guided and they won at the district level of Eskom Science Expo. The success of this endeavour led us to set up a think-tank that aimed to use technology to solve problems identified by the children," she said.

Khanyile is involved in a research to find an HIV vaccine by trying to mimic the broadly neutralising antibody response of the super responder in small animal models.

"During my master's, I worked in the field of bio-photonics examining the use of laser for precision delivery of antiretroviral drugs in the cell culture," she said.

Khanyile said people often think opportunities are given to females just because they are women, and not based on ability.

"In the biological field, there is a good representation of females at the entry and lower levels, but this is not translating in the more senior positions which are still male-dominated. As a result, empowerment programmes often assume that women are not empowered. During my period in bio-photonics, a very male-dominated physics field, it was particularly challenging to move between biology and physics," she said.

Khanyile said there is still a long way for African female scientists, but opportunities for collaboration are better overseas because there are more financial resources in first world countries.

"Our children need to learn about these challenges, and that is why we aim to raise a curious generation through the cultivation of science research skills which will lean to an innovative culture."

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