Medicinal plants and organic chemistry: My career

Lucia Kabanga has found her niche! The question she tries to answer everyday is ‘What medicinal properties can we harvest from traditional plant species?’ She also inspires young minds as an instructor at Chancellor College, Malawi. 

Tell us about how you ended up with a career in chemistry. I already had a passion for science in secondary school. I understood science concepts easily but my interest in chemistry started because of one of my secondary school teacher who taught chemistry. On joining the college, I just felt a warm welcome from the Chemistry department. I liked the experiments the most.

What is your research about and why did you decide to work on this topic? My research is on the composition and biological activities of some medicinal plants found in Malawi. My goal is to establish and confirm what these plants can possibly treat as well as identify the compounds responsible for their medicinal applications. The research captures the use of nature in order to improve the livelihood of communities.

What do you love most about your career? I love my career in that it can bring about innovative solutions to the challenges we face in areas like human health, environment and so on. It does not even have to be through my research but even through the skills that I am sharing. I like the manipulation of natural things for people’s use.

Have you had any role models/mentor and in what way have they encouraged you? Yes. There have been role models and mentors in my path. The main one was mother who cared and believed I could do anything I want to pursue. Knowing that some people believed in my capabilities really encouraged me.

As we approach the International Women’s Day, what have you noticed as the main challenge for women in science, and how can we deal with these issues? Apart from the gender gap in the leading roles in science fields, the main challenge I see is that women withdraw after encountering challenges in their career. I believe as a young woman that it is very important that women stay in science fields, not only for equality but for ourselves and the future. I am always encouraging my female students on pursuing higher studies.

What is your favorite quote? When you stumble, make it part of the dance.

What you do to relax? I love travelling, reading and watching TV. I read both fictional and nonfictional books.

Parting shot? You don’t have to be a superwoman to pursue a career in Organic Chemistry, you just have to be confident about your scientific ability and work hard. Don’t let anyone explain away your potential or accomplishments by your gender.

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