Dr Rejoyce Gavhi-Molefe, Resident Researcher in Mathematics and AIMS South Africa House of Science Manager was awarded a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) in Science and Technology Studies. Her studies were focused on Science Communication and Public Engagement offered by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Stellenbosch University. The associated degree was conferred on the 31 March 2020, in absentia, as a result of the university and country’s precautionary measure to combat the spread of the global Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Dr Gavhi-Molefe’s research study was supervised by Dr Marina Joubert. Her research focus was on how and why scientists participate in science festivals, with special reference to Scifest Africa – the oldest, largest and most celebrated annual science festival in South Africa, which is held in Makhanda (formerly known as Grahamstown) in the Eastern Cape Province. Dr Gavhi-Molefe intends to share her findings through a publication in due course.
“Scientists play a crucial role in science festivals – one of the most important platforms for public engagement with science and understanding factors that drive or deter them to take part is imperative”, said Dr Gavhi-Molefe.
“Over the last decade, governments, scientific organisations, and scientists’ funders around the globe have been calling upon scientists and scientific institutions to engage with the general public and policymakers who are looking for answers to the pressing global challenges that society is facing. Such challenges range from climate change, vaccines, to emerging infectious diseases such as COVID-19 amongst others”.
Dr Gavhi-Molefe has always been passionate about science and society engagement, popularization of mathematics, and gender equality in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). She is the founder of MathAfrica, a founding member of the Canadian organisation MentorUP, co-founder of South African Women in STEM and a Chairperson for Women’s Advancement Forum: International Exchanges, Research and Academia South Africa National Coordination Team. She believes that her theoretical knowledge and practical skills gained during her MPhil studies, and her strong mathematical background, have made her a well-rounded mathematical scientist.
Dr Gavhi-Molefe’s interest is on Subdivision – an area of Computational Mathematics used in computer-aided design application areas, such as aircraft design and animation movie production. As a Senior Manager at AIMS South Africa’s House of Science, she provides leadership, direction and drive on the Public Engagement landscape. Furthermore, she develops sustainable Public Engagement frameworks, provides capacity building and training for Public Engagement across diverse platforms and multidisciplinary approaches; monitors, evaluates and disseminates learning of Public Engagement activities programmes undertaken by AIMS students, researchers, academics and alumni.
“Public engagement with mathematical sciences has always been integral to the vision and mission of AIMS. the House of Science framework at AIMS South Africa has a pivotal role to play not only in the promotion of the mathematical sciences within the broader community but also with the implementation of South Africa’s Department of Science, Technology and Innovation’s Science Engagement Strategy”, she said.