Nathasia Muwanigwa, A Scientist From Zimbabwe Is Helping Make African STEM More Visible

Nathasia Muwanigwa, a scientist from Zimbabwe is now allegedly helping scientists, engineers and mathematicians from across African continent in order to give them visibility and inspire future generations.

In an interview, Muwanigwa said, “After high school, I moved to Cyprus for a Bachelor’s in Science in Human Biology, with the idea that the degree would be a pre-med degree. But during my final year, when I got to do my own research project at a leukemia research institute, I discovered my love for being in the lab.”

Further she added, “The financial support came at the perfect time because the economic situation in Zimbabwe was getting pretty dire and it would have been challenging if my parents had to pay the tuition. I battled a lot of impostor syndrome during my Master’s because my colleagues were all incredibly bright and many of them knew the ins and outs of how research in academia work, and I was still rather clueless.”

Presently, she lives in Luxembourg, pursuing her PhD, where she studies the molecular mechanisms underlying Parkinson’s disease using human stem cell derived brain organoids (aka “minibrains”).

Muwanigwa says that Africans are one of the least represented people on the global STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) landscape, even when they make up 16% of the world population.

She further added that Africa needs more youth to take interest in STEM fields, as these fields are essential to the development of the continent. We need more people with the expertise in order to solve problems that are specific and relevant to the region.

Muwanigwa has helped in creating the site Visibility STEM Africa (VSA) and the Twitter handle @ViSTEM_Africa to improve the visibility of African researchers. She says that what they are trying to show is that representation and visibility matter.

She further said, “In recent years, we have been hearing about the importance of representation in mainstream media, in the fashion and beauty industry –STEM fields are no different. We are providing Africans in STEM across many different disciplines a platform where they can network with one another and create new connections.”

Muwanigwa said that the initiative will also show new opportunities for collaboration. She added, “The biggest opportunity I see is the potential for collaborations: In science, it has become increasingly apparent that collaborations are necessary for pushing the needle forward.”