Tamica Mopp caught up with Simanye Sam to find out more about his work as a chemical analyst and researcher.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
I’m not really a nerd. When you’re doing chemistry, people tend to automatically think of you as introverted or a nerd. But I am actually a very social person and I love fashion!

Have you always been interested in chemistry since childhood?
My interest in chemistry was not from childhood, I actually only realised that I loved science in grade 10, it was originally my second choice.

Where are you working at the moment and what are you doing?
I used to work as a chemical analyst for Johnson and Johnson but now I am a chemical researcher and second year Phd candidate at the University of Johannesburg. Currently I am busy doing research on water purification, finding “green” ways of doing things, using natural materials.

Simanye is on the right track here, finding “green ways” of doing things should be the priority in the world we live in, which is already experiencing the devastating consequences of global warming caused by the pollution of the air, earth and sea. When we decide to ‘go green’ we find ways of living that don’t rely on things that cause pollution, like fossil fuels or toxic chemicals and plastics. We rather use eco-friendly sources of energy and materials.

When we decide to go green, we are helping to decrease the number of pollutants released into the environment which is better for the planet and for our health…
Back to the interview…

What is a typical day like at work?
Because my PhD is research-based, I spend most of my time in the lab. My research is on water purification using piezoelectric materials so in my time in the lab I synthesize these materials characterize and apply them to see if they work. I also do a lot of writing, my thesis and academic papers to publish.

Can you explain to our readers who don’t understand what piezoelectric materials are?
Ok, so piezoelectric materials are materials (like crystals) that produce electric currents when mechanical stress is applied to them – the stress might be shaking, bending or stretching. So the follow up study will be to see if these materials can produce enough electricity to let’s say, light up a room. So we are kind of trying to kill two birds with one stone as the world has a shortage of water and power.

Read more about piezoelectricity here

What are the challenges you face in this field?
The only challenge is that it is very time consuming. You need to put in a lot of hours in the lab and always pay close attention to detail, other than that there are no real challenges if you love what you’re doing.

What is the best part about this job?
For me, it is the results. Knowing that your hard work paid off and seeing the end results of your constant research is the best part of my job. There is a lot of writing that goes into chemistry, a lot of research, but once you start getting results it is the best thing.

What advice do you have for people wanting to go into this field?
Firstly, finish school and study. Secondly, you must have a passion for it. Don’t just do it for the sake of doing it.


Tell us: Would you be interested in going into this field?