The field of agriculture is continuing to grow and we’re planting the seeds of STEM inspiration.
Anne Chisa is a PhD candidate in Crop Science and podcast host with a passion for Sci Comm and supporting Africans in STEM.
As a Black Women in Science (BWIS) in South Africa fellow, Anne got started in Sci Comm blogging about her experience as a woman in STEM. Anne works with Visibility STEM Africa to highlight the contributions of Africans in STEM fields globally and amplify their voices.
Anne started The Root of Science podcast to highlight people in STEM and give them a platform to share their work to spark interest in the field. Sharing about the many different STEM careers and opportunities through The Root of Science podcast is introducing many to exciting fields they might not have otherwise found! Although Anne’s only been interviewing scientists from all over the world since March, the podcast is already up to 50 episodes in its first season.
How did you start the Root of Science podcast?
I launched a podcast called The Root of the Science Podcast end of March 2020. I started this initiative during the lockdown period and have since interviewed over 35 Africans across the globe in various Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. The purpose of the podcasts is to highlight Africans in the STEM field and give them the opportunity to talk about their research projects in their own voice. I hope that by bringing the podcasts into mainstream media, they can inspire more young Africans into STEM. In a space of over 3 months since launch, the podcasts have been listened to by over 2500 people globally. This work has allowed me to grow my global network extensively
How did you get into STEM?
I was inspired to pursue studies in agricultural science after a family friend who was an agricultural engineer advised me on career choices, and by her mother’s passion for gardening and growing her own vegetables. In high school I had a great love for Geography and Biology which also led me to this field. However, I had misconceptions about a career in STEM, picturing white coats, laboratories and teaching. Her perspectives broadened after I started my course and even more so last year when I was part of a Fellowship called Black Women in Science (BWIS), South Africa. I realized the networking and empowerment opportunities available to people working in STEM.
Who inspires you in STEM?
Firstly it is my supervisor, Dr Alfred Odindo. He has been so instrumental in my journey. He has taught me the power of reliance and work ethic. Most importantly the way he guides and leads his student is second to none! If ever I am an academic I would emulate his styles. The others include Ndoni Mcunu, Nathasia Muwanigwa, Nataša Lazarević, Asma Bashir, and Amanda Obidike. This is a short list but these ladies make me so excited about the future of STEM. They are founders of BWIS, Visibility STEM Africa, HerRoyalScience Podcast and STEMi Makers Africa respectively. They are ambitious, driven and always strive to be better but in the process of helping others. Lastly, just all the amazing Africans in STEM who I had the pleasure of interacting with in my podcast or as a result of it.
What’s been your most exciting experience in STEM?
Definitely it has been the podcast! It has taught me about the very many opportunities available in STEM. Most importantly, I have seen wealth of knowledge that is being produced by the amazing Africans worldwide. It gets me so excited.
What’s something about your field that you wish others knew about?
That agriculture is a science! I say this because people have a misconception that science is only the lab and that we “play with dirt”. This is untrue because agriculture is the basis of all life. Firstly because the soil gives us the food and we get fed from the work done by my field.
What was your path towards pursuing a PhD like?
It was not an easy one! My master’s journey was a tough, there were moments that I felt like I would never finish. I finished thankfully to the support of my supervisors and my family. I actually did not even want to pursue my PhD. I thought I was done because the previous journey was not easy.
However, I was advised to pursue and I found a project that resonated with me. I am so grateful it all worked out. For my PhD study, I will be at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa in the Discipline of Crop Science. The title is “Developing local circular economies through tree planting within urban spaces, using a transdisciplinary nexus approach; Challenges and opportunities in relation to the social, political and environmental context.” I start this August and I am excited as this is an interdisciplinary study part of a greater project called WoodRIGHTS (Well-being, sOcial cOhesion, and Dignity by restoring environmental RIGHTS) which a UKZN flagship initiative.
Best advice I have received?
“Do not be so hard on yourself’. I think it has been only recently that in academia has been so open about mental health. We all go through so much and, in talking to people who are further ahead in this journey, I realize that some of these feelings that I feel are completely normal. So if I have hard days I should not be hard on myself to strive to perform but I should take the time. Also I learned that during the path of success there will be so many failures and disappointments.