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National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)

Stephan Louw

Stephan is from Mpumalanga and is currently studying BSc (Mathematical Science) at Stellenbosch University.

“I hope to one day work in an environment that allows me to use the mathematical skills I have acquired to make a difference to the environment (think nature conservation etc.)”

When/how did you realise you enjoyed science and mathematics more than your other school subjects? Did anyone play an important part in this, such as a teacher, parent or other role model?

Since I can remember I have always been inquisitive and wanted to find out about the world around me. I would page through my dad’s old university science textbooks and encyclopaedias before I was old enough to understand anything they contained. So science subjects were something to look forward to since primary school, and that never changed.

Tell us a bit about your school.

I finished matric at Hoërskool Nelspruit in the city of Mbombela, Mpumalanga. NHS is a public school with about 1 300 enrolled students. I was very blessed to be able to attend this school as it has great teachers that always went the extra mile to ensure that the learners did the best that they could. (think extra classes until at 8pm in the evening, etc.)

Did you encounter any challenges at school that made it difficult for you to achieve good marks in maths and science?

Mathematics and physics require a lot of “TLC”, meaning they need time and effort and discipline to do well in. It was challenging to decide how to balance my priorities and to make time for everything that is important to me. One thing that helped was to purposefully decide not to spend time on ‘useless’ things like Facebook and video games and the like. Relationships with my Lord Jesus Christ, my parents and other people enjoyed priority and then my academics and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. If you don’t waste time on unnecessary things, you will have ample time to do what you must. (I suppose it’s impossible to never waste time, but one must try!)

What advice do you have for matriculants who have to apply for places at higher education institutions?

Don’t wait until the last minute before applying, because one tends to make bad decisions when feeling pressured or in a hurry. And also, pray a lot!

Why did you choose the course you are studying now?

I really love nature and ecology, but also mathematics and problem solving. I decided to go into a field that combines these two, namely Biomathematics. I hope to one day work in an environment that allows me to use the mathematical skills I have acquired to make a difference to the environment (think nature conservation, etc.)

Where do you see yourself five years from now, in terms of your studies/career?

If my life stays on its current course, I will hopefully be doing postgraduate or doctoral research/studies.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by the break of day. What I mean by that is I wake up and see that God has made another day with new challenges and I have only this chance to make the day count and accomplish things I didn’t do yesterday. It’s really quite exciting to think of it that way.

Anything else you would like to share that would be helpful to learners in Grades 11 and 12?

It is good to do something that you like, but one must always keep in mind that you must be employable one day. So you must do a lot of research and think soberly when choosing a course of study. Being happy in your work place one day is not so much determined by how close your work is to what you consider to be your passions, but rather by your attitude towards work and life in general.

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