It is always inspiring to witness black women excel in the sciences on a global scale. South African geologist, Tshiamo Legoale, has shaken up her field before hitting the age of 30. Legoale, 27 and full of charisma, received one of the highest international awards, 2017 FameLab International Champion, for her metallurgical research last year.
At the Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK, where brilliant young competitors from 31 countries aim to break down science in an engaging way both to the public and with each other, Legoale’s three-minute presentation shed light on how wheat could be used to harvest leftover gold from mine dumps. The twist? Legoale and her peers could not use Powerpoint, audio recording or other electronic presentation formats. Just personality, solid knowledge and the gift of gab were allowed on the presenting floor. To bring energy to the stage, the Johannesburg native sang snippets of songs from Kanye West (“Gold Digger”, Rihanna (“Work”) and Adele (“Hello”). She proved to be magnetic. Both judges and the audience voted for Legoale—representing one of only three African countries to make it to the finals—to take home the coveted award.
The young researcher, who received degrees and certificates from University of the Free State, University of South Africa and University of Witwatersrand, currently works at Mintek Mobile Data Solutions, South Africa’s national mineral research organization. There, she assists local communities in legally mining dumps. Legoale’s wheat-to-gold method could mean a safer alternative to illegal mining, and one that actually provides socioeconomic benefits for poorer communities living near the dumps. Her big idea is only in the pilot stage, but she and Mintek hope to have developed it further and implemented it within the next five years. Legoale may very well have struck gold.