What do you think of when you hear the word scientist or astronomer? For most people science is reserved for Albert Einstein type personalities.
Many believe it is only available to an elite group of people who fit the criteria of genius, and already posses an almost supernatural understanding of the universe.
However this stereotype is being shattered as more 'ordinary' people from a variety of backgrounds and cultures take the risk of pursuing their love of science.
Astronomy in particular can seem like a dream that is out of reach to many. Concerns over job opportunities and pressures to acquire 'practical skills' can prevent young people from exploring their passion.
In this insightful video various astronomy students at UCT share their journey and talk about what its takes to study further in this field.
“If a young person wanted to pursue the career that I’m in, its now extremely easy in South Africa”,says Mpati Ramatsoku, PhD. UCT astronomy student.
As with any career the qualities for success begin with passion, drive, curiosity and hard work.
Through government's investment in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) and the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) more opportunities have been made available to interested learners.
The Square Kilometre Array will be the world's largest and most sensitive radio telescope, about 50 times more sensitive, and up to 10 000 faster than the best radio telescopes of today.
The construction and operation of the SKA will create exciting new job opportunities in the science, engineering and technology fields.
Its is also expected to lead to new innovations in manufacturing and construction which will equip students with the skills needed for the global knowledge economy of the future.
According to Professor Patrick Woudt, Head of Astronomy Department, “The SKA project is not just about studying the universe its also about empowering African scientists...”
He says that astronomy students are making a career for themselves by doing their PhD, and often find opportunities to study and work overseas.
The minimum requirements to study astronomy include a Matric exemption with physical science and mathematics on the higher grade. Computer science and additional mathematics are useful extras.
An Astronomer's scientific approach to problem solving is valued in almost all fields, ranging from aerospace, information technologies, telecommunications to financial services.
“Anybody can do it, you don't have to be a special breed to be able to do astronomy”, says Ramatsoku.