Dr Lungile Sitole is currently a senior lecturer and researcher in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), where she also serves as the Director of the UJ Soweto Science Centre. She holds a Bachelors (magna cum laude) and a Masters (cum laude) degree in Organic Chemistry from Jackson State University (Mississippi, USA) as well as a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Pretoria.
Dr Sitole’s current research focus is on the application of metabolomic technologies in characterising HIV/AIDS and cervical cancer as an opportunistic infection. Her research makes use of bioanalytical and biophysical techniques in the detection and identification of dysregulated metabolites in HIV infection.
The potential output of this research is the discovery and development of novel markers that could be used as indicators of HIV disease progression, which could guide treatment response.
Dr Sitole, who describes herself as a ‘researcher, enthusiast, motivational speaker, educator, and catalyst for change,’ is a recognised scholar through publications in peer-reviewed journals. She is an alumnus of the Women in Science programme of the Department of Science and Innovation (previously Department of Science and Technology) and was featured in the Mail & Guardian Top 200 young South Africans in 2015. She is also a Golden Key International Honours Society member and an ambassador for South Africa’s 2017 National Development Plan (NDP 2030).
UJ Science Centre work
Dr Sitole’s passion for promoting science in society as well as assisting high school learners with improving their mathematics and science marks led to her role as the Director of the UJ Soweto Science Centre. She believes it is important to guide youngsters towards the appropriate marks to allow them to pursue STEM-related careers: ‘My work at the Science Centre affords me the opportunity to contribute towards responding to the STEM-related challenges facing both our society and the current educational system. We need to bridge the gap between scientist, communities and politicians, get better policies and improve society’s understanding of science without creating false hope.’
Among others, Dr Sitole’s work at the Science Centre includes promoting and developing projects on the scholarship of teaching and learning, fundraising for the Centre and its projects, networking with relevant stakeholders, organising science outreach and awareness programmes and being responsible for the general management of the Centre and the training of trainers, facilitators and teachers.
Her passion for promoting science and encouraging learners to become and remain interested in science and STEM-related careers is clear when one learns that even when she is not working in a formal setting Dr Sitole enjoys engaging with young people and help them find ways that will enable them to overcome all types of adversities and turbulent waves. She quotes Howard Thurman in this context: ‘Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who come alive.’
Asked about her future ambitions and working with NITheCS, Dr Sitole says: ‘In my association with NITheCS, I aspire to increase my network of collaborators across multiple disciplines because it goes without saying that interdisciplinary collaboration, both national and international, is the golden key to the advancement of science.’