South Africa, Cape Town – Nompumelelo Shange and Roderick Juba have served as motivation for each other. Receiving their PhD degrees together on the same day – both in the Faculty of AgriSciences at Stellenbosch University – they are an inspiration on many levels.
Shange obtained her doctorate in food science and Juba in conservation ecology.
Hailing from Inanda and Humansdorp respectively, they were second years, living in the Erica and Helderberg residences, when their paths crossed in 2010 through mutual friends.
What started out as “just being friends” only blossomed into a relationship six years later. They both realised that they not only shared the same sense of humour, aspirations, and work ethic but are in fact soulmates and best friends.
The couple was married in September last year during a traditional wedding in Inanda, near Durban. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, however, they had to postpone their white wedding to next year.
For the past year or two, they successfully navigated the intricacies of a long-distance romance due to their shared career aspirations. While Shange was based in Stellenbosch and Oudtshoorn, Juba studied part-time towards his Ph.D., while working for Living Lands, an NGO involved in the holistic management of important catchment areas.
“I’ve learned about persistence, perseverance, and hard work from him,” says Shange.
“And I’ve learned that she’ll do anything to get things done, and that hard work is part of that,” Juba adds.
For her Ph.D. in Food Science, Shange investigated to what extent two emerging pathogens, campylobacter and arcobacter, are found in the ostrich meat industry. These pathogens can cause gastrointestinal infections in humans.
“Regulations that govern the contamination of any meat products with these species are not yet in place in South Africa, but my work could serve as a good baseline should the government want to put guidelines in place,” she says.
Juba focused on the impact of invasive alien trees on riparian zones and the potential value that could be derived from harvesting its biomass.
Among others, he looked at the monetary value attached to producing value-added wood products made from invasive trees being chopped down.
“Bioproducts made from invasive plants, such as biochar and wood chips, can be used to varying degrees of success by wheat and canola farmers to improve soil quality,” he says.