Dr Leah Matsinha holds a PhD in Chemistry awarded from the University of Cape Town. She has received several awards for her contribution in the field of Chemistry. The most recent award is that she is the recipient of the 2020 Royal Society funded Future Leaders: African Independent Researcher (FLAIR) £300 000 Grant. The FLAIR fellowship is a prestigious research grant awarded to young researchers to research in sub-Saharan Africa.
Dr Leah’s research project focuses on finding alternative fuels that are cheaper and cleaner energy sources for Africa. The project seeks to convert cheap readily available glycerol (obtained as a by-product during biodiesel production) and use biological and chemical transformations to produce fuels which can be used for cooking. She is very passionate about this research area because it affects a significant number of women in Africa who depend on firewood for cooking daily, particularly in rural areas. Using wood comes with several disadvantages that include deforestation and health effects such as eye irritation, lung diseases due to smoke inhalation, hypertension and even heart problems. The alternative is usually paraffin or LP gas; however, both are generally beyond the means for most of the underprivileged households.
In addition, this grant also provides much needed financial support to conduct research, mentorship and help young researchers establish international collaborations with renowned international researchers. The goal is to equip fellows to take up the mantle of Future African Leaders with an ability to bring about positive change and development in their respective communities. In line with this, Dr Leah currently works with young women in her lab and hopes to impart the knowledge she has acquired over the years to these students so that one day they too can be change-makers.
Dr Leah completed her postdoctoral research fellowship in 2019 at the University of Johannesburg and is currently a lecturer and researcher at the same university. Throughout her studies and career, she has published several journals, including a book chapter in internationally reputable peer-reviewed journals. Dr Leah has presented her research work at various international chemistry conferences in Portugal, Singapore, China, Italy, and the Netherlands. She is a member of the Catalysis Society of South Africa (CATSA), South African Chemical Institute (SACI) and South African Council of Natural Scientific Professionals (SACNASP.
When she is not mixing chemicals in the laboratory, she loves to spend time in the kitchen, making meals for her family. Next on her academic journey is a plan to enrol for law school, imagine that! I guess it is safe to say we have a Dr Advocate Matsinha in the making. She looks to the future with bright determination and her zeal for learning and development is one from which many of us can take valuable notes.
- Recipient of the 2020 Royal Society funded Future Leaders African Independent Researcher (FLAIR) £300 000 Grant – https://www.aasciences.africa/news/recipients-2020-flair-fellowships-announced
- Recipient of the 2018 Arthur E. Martell Early Career Researcher Prize: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00958972.2019.1595470?journalCode=gcoo20
- Winner of the 2015 Canon Collins Impact Award: https://www.canoncollins.org.uk/alumni/meet-our-alumni/leah-matsinha
- Winner of the South African Women in Science Award (2013): https://www.dst.gov.za/images/Women_in_Science_Awards_in_2013.pdf