CHIETA in partnership with WITS University, Nurturing future scientists and reserachers

The WITS Research Assistantship Program (RAP) is a 100% CHIETA funded endeavour that supports and encourages 1st, 2nd and 3rdyear students to pursue Chemistry as their stream of study.

Amidst a growing decline in students both enrolling and remaining in the Chemistry stream, the University Of Witwatersrand School Of Chemistry developed a Research Assistantship Program (RAP) with the aim of retaining quality students in the field.

“We had noticed that the number of Postgraduate students and the quality of students was declining. The talent we had was seeping into other streams such as Medicine instead of staying in Chemistry. This, for one, meant that we had fewer demonstrators, meaning that staff needed to fill this need and therefore have less time for research,” said Shane Durbach, Associate Professor at Wits University.

He added that the department also felt that it was important to celebrate talent in the students to nurture an interest in Chemistry, the RAP program achieved both.

“Chemistry is core in the Chemical Sector, and as an education and training authority, ensuring a constant supply side pipeline in the field of Chemistry is imperative for the CHIETA.  The RAP project presented CHIETA the opportunity to support and advance this field for the sector” said Kedibone Moroane, CHIETA Executive Manager for Research and Skills Planning.

“Research and good research skills are vital for innovation and the advancement of the economy. It is my belief that the RAP project participants, following the completion of their studies, will make a meaningful contribution to knowledge generation and the development of South Africa,” Moroane added.

This Research Assistantship Program (RAP) offers support to 1st, 2nd and 3rd year students by giving them greater access to lab work and exposure to potential career options in the Chemical industry.

The program focuses on research and aims to have more learners staying on and taking up postgraduate studies in the field of Chemistry.

Durbach stated, “Even though we have our orientation programs and so on, by 3rd year, many students still don’t know what they want to do.” He added that often only after students visit companies such as Sasol, 90% of students who were not considering postgraduate study, reconsider and enroll for their masters and PHD.

During the course of RAP, students will complete a 3 week research project which they will present and have an opportunity to publish. These learners will also be trained on how to orally present their research findings to a scientifically literate audience and how to write up their research findings in various formal journals and scientific reports.

This complementary program will accommodate under 30 undergraduates for 2016/17 financial year students, who are selected through a blind process, where names, age, gender and race are scrubbed from the applications and candidates are selected purely on their merit and potential and 178 post graduate students.

93 applications were received.

Gugulethu Nkala (22), a RAP beneficiary shared that she applied for RAP mainly because of the opportunity to work alongside brilliant minds in the school.

“RAP would give me exposure to the research that is being carried out in other departments in the School of Chemistry and broadening my knowledge beyond my area of interest (Materials Science). Also, the references obtained through RAP would be very helpful when applying for funding to pursue my postgraduate studies as well as vacation work.” Nkala added.

The students are remunerated for their research work and present to some of the leading minds in Chemistry.

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