Honours graduate Mareya joins academic elite

Student progresses to PhD in the US without master’s

Nandi Ntini Social Justice News Reporter
Marvellous Mareya, a chemical engineering graduate from the University of Johannesburg, has been awarded to move from honours degree straight to PhD.
Marvellous Mareya, a chemical engineering graduate from the University of Johannesburg, has been awarded to move from honours degree straight to PhD.

A chemical engineering honours degree graduate from the University of Johannesburg has  been accepted into the PhD progamme at a US university after bypassing the traditional master’s degree.  

Marvellous Mareya, who was born and raised in Zimbabwe, moved to South Africa in 2017 to fulfil his dreams of being a pilot.  

However, his father – the family's breadwinner – passed away the same year. Mareya was then forced to drop out of the Germiston-based flight school.

“My passion was in aviation. I have always wanted to be a pilot but when I joined the school my father passed away. Flight schools are very expensive, and my mom could not afford the fees. I then decided to drop out and apply for a degree,” the 26-year-old said .  

Because he dropped out of aviation school in the middle of the year, university applications were already closed and he stayed home for the remainder of the year as well as 2018.

He then went back to school in 2019 to study chemical engineering.

“I received a merit bursary from UJ based on my high school results of A levels. I then did my honours in 2022, a year after I lost my mother to Covid-19. It was one of the hardest times of my academic years and I was really expecting her to attend my graduation,” said Mareya.  

He graduated in 2023 and took a job as an assistant lecturer at the institution and started applying to universities overseas for a master's degree.

"I have always desired to study abroad, to get exposed to high end technology and acquire in-depth skills to apply on local projects. So after completing my honours, I actively researched institutions known for their contributions to chemical engineering research and discovered UJ's t collaboration opportunities with prestigious universities abroad, which led me to apply.

“I applied for a Master's degree at Louisiana State University and after their admission committee reviewed my application, they offered me a PhD admission rather.”

Professor Daniel Mashao, executive dean of the faculty of engineering and the built environment at UJ, shared how Mareya ended up going straight to PhD.

According to Mashao, typically students who complete an honours degree require further training in research methodologies and publications, often by completing a master’s degree before being accepted into a PhD programme.

"However, Mareya demonstrated exceptional knowledge and grasp of research writing skills early in his academic career," said Mashao.

"He has consistently produced high-quality journal articles, meeting the rigorous standards of top-tier journals. Given his advanced capabilities and proven research competence, he has been deemed ready to perform at the doctoral level without the intermediary step of a Master's degree,” said Mashao.

Mareya also received the prestigious UJ Vice-Dean's Postgraduate Award last year in recognition of his outstanding academic performance during his honours studies.

He credits Professor Thandiwe Sithole for her invaluable mentorship as his supervisor. 

“Her passion for the subject and dedication to student success have been truly inspiring. Her encouragement and support have motivated me to strive for excellence and explore new ideas with confidence,” he said.  

He told Sowetan that losing his parents, who believed in his dream, only made him stronger and also gave him the willingness to go on and do it for his family back home in Zimbabwe.

“Even within my family, their dreams have changed. If you grew up in an environment where you have never seen a doctor or an engineer, it becomes hard to envision yourself being that. For me, it is like I am breaking barriers and saying it is possible and doable irrespective of your background,” Mareya said.  

Despite this promotion being one of the few they have experienced at UJ,  Mashao said this was quite a rare and exceptional achievement.  

Mareya’s PhD programme is scheduled to begin next month.

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