Cape Town – Cape Town teenager Phoebe Mgxaji has put young female scientists on the map after securing major honours in a Beijing competition, including a silver medal in the Biomedical Science category.
She also received a cash reward of ¥2000 (R4 250) and the Youth Science and Technology Innovation special award.
The 16-year-old from Curro Sitari Somerset West took part in the 39th Beijing Youth Science Creation Competition and was one of only four girl scientists from South Africa selected to exhibit at the event in China, sponsored by the Beijing district government.
Mgxaji said her project was about more than doing well at an international science competition, and she hoped it would bring real change to society when it came to food labelling.
She believed food labels were filled with too much jargon, with too little nutritional information that was actually comprehensible.
“People aren’t aware of what they’re eating, because the information is too scientific, or filled with numbers that regular people don’t understand,” she said.
The motivation behind her project was the high obesity rate, which she said was a major problem in South Africa.
She aimed to meet with the large food manufacturing companies to discuss the implementation of “a clear and logical labelling programme”.
“The path to the Beijing science competition wasn’t an easy one. First, the project had to make it through a regional round, then it had get the thumbs up at Eskom’s Expo for Young Scientists events in Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth.”
After high school, Mgxaji plans to study cardiology, noting how in a way this ties in with her recent project.
“What you eat affects your health, and your health affects your heart,” she said.
While showcasing her project, the Curro pupil enjoyed her first overseas trip and managed to travel through Beijing, eat some of the local cuisine and meet fellow pupils from around the globe.
The 16-year-old is also a candidate for Curro’s recent #Learners2Leaders campaign.
Curro Holdings chief executive officer Andries Greyling said: “We’ve launched our #Learners2Leaders campaign to celebrate our mission of developing well-rounded youth with a bright future, through quality independent education.
“Seeing Phoebe flourish leaves us immensely proud.”