Introducing the Student Ambassador for Namibia

Namibian Student Ambassador, Ms Hatago Aibate Stuurmann

Dear Fellow Science Enthusiasts,

I am greatly honoured, as others before me, to be appointed as the Southern Africa Network for Biosciences (SANBio) Student Ambassador for Namibia.

I am Hatago Aibate Stuurmann from Berseba, a small village in the southern part of Namibia. Starting from high school, I’ve become increasingly interested in natural product pharmacology and the huge underlying potential in plants for improving human health. I completed my BSc (Honours) in Microbiology and Chemistry at the University of Namibia (UNAM) in 2014. My bachelor’s research project was an investigation of the in vitro anticancer activity of the baobab and marula trees, Adansonia digitata, and Scierocarya birrea. I am currently studying towards my MSc degree under funding from the Science Initiative Group - Regional Initiative in Science and Education (SIG-RISE, SABINA) with a research focus on drug discovery and development from natural products, with cancer being the disease model. It is worth noting that cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, with about 14 million new cases and 8.2 million cancer related deaths reported annually.

I believe that in Africa as a continent, and Southern Africa as a region, we need to realise the importance of moving towards becoming self-sufficient and self-reliant, through the implementation of efforts to improve and build on the extant scientific community, with an added emphasis on biosciences and research focusing on health and nutrition – two very prominent issues in Africa. Science, technology and innovation has proven to be an excellent compass for the development of many nations worldwide. We should also incorporate strategies to attain a society with good quality education and training which are fundamental for the benefit of our nation. So let us rise up as children of the African continent and carry out the duty of steering it to greater revolutionary heights, employing our knowledge, skills and resources to the advancement of science and technology.

As a young Namibian female scientist I am grateful that SANBio provides a platform where scientists from various sectors across many countries and all age groups can communicate on matters of concern as well as opportunities in their countries.  This platform highlights the pressing need for increased partnerships and collaboration at various levels for development and growth. Networking with industry, local schools and universities to raise awareness and promote of science and technology, especially biosciences, will be of high on my list of priorities in my new role. Students need to be able to gain hands-on, work-related experience, and companies and organisations must have access to recent and skilled graduates. We need to demonstrate the how biosciences can significantly contribute towards solving current and future challenges and how university degrees in biosciences can lead to rewarding careers, create entrepreneurial opportunities and contribute to development in Namibia, the SADC region and the entire continent.

As the SANBio Student Ambassador for Namibia I will strive to foster and share the agendas contributing to Africa’s growth and development via the goals of SANBio at various platform, seminars, career fairs, conferences and workshops. Clearly our continent and region needs to maintain a pipeline of qualified scientists both for the advancement of the discipline, also for the benefit of the economies of our counties and the welfare of our communities. Therefore we need to engage with students of all ages for them to develop a taste for science – and especially biosciences.

There is a need to encourage various funding bodies to fund postgraduates across the field, but without a supply of undergraduates their task will be harder. This presents a need to further promote biosciences at all levels and sectors, starting from school children. Therefore as a SANBio Student Ambassador this will be also one of my focal roles; to answer the demand for bioscience skills in Namibia and Africa we need to nearly double the number of graduates.

I am excited to work with all the members of the scientific community and contribute to the already begun scientific revolution in Africa.

It is strange that only extraordinary men make the discoveries, which later appear so easy and simple. - Georg C. Lichtenberg

Yours sincerely

Hatago Aibate Stuurmann