National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)

Margaret Jane Mouton (studying BEng Mechanical)

Margaret Jane Mouton is from Gauteng. She is studying BEng Mechanical at the University of Pretoria.

“An achiever is someone who not only works hard but works smartly and is able to find balance in their lives.” 

Tell us a bit about your school.

I was privileged to attended Pretoria High School for Girls. It’s a very old school with a rich cultural background and strong traditions. I loved my time at school because I was able to take part in a variety of sporting activities, as well as leadership roles. In high school I played hockey, water polo, and did athletics. It was challenging to balance this with my 8 subjects. In matric I was given extra duties because I was a prefect, so I had to make the choice between academics and sports. I chose to focus on academics and hockey. Although this decision was difficult at the time I realise now that it was necessary.

Why did you enjoy science and mathematics?


I realised in grade 8 that I loved maths. However, it was only in grade 12 that I truly began to appreciate physics and chemistry. I love understanding how things work. Science and maths include so many principles and theories that can be used to explain things that we see in everyday life and I find this extremely interesting. Also, my parents have always encouraged me to be inquisitive and pursue my love for knowledge and the sciences.

Any tips for learners in grades 11 and 12?


I always knew that grade 11 marks were important to get into university; however, they are 10 times more important than you think. I would tell any grade 11 or 12 to work as hard as they can because the marks you get in these two years open or close many doors that will influence the rest of your life. Working hard for two years in high school can make your years at varsity financially easier.

What inspires you?

My parents inspire me to do as well as I can because they’ve done everything in their power to give me every opportunity to succeed in my life. So not using what I’ve been blessed with would be an insult to the lives they have built for my siblings and me.

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

Work hard and get the best possible marks because this will set you apart from the thousands of students applying to the same university or bursar as you. Choose subjects that you enjoy but that also keep a variety of tertiary study options open.

Why did you choose the course you are studying now?

I’ve always been interested in how things work, and engineering is an extremely application- and understanding-based degree. Various geography case studies, that I did high school, inspired me to study mechanical engineering so that I can be a part of a technological development that will hopefully help communities in Africa.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

I hope to be completing my doctorate in a field of mechanical engineering or I would like to have my PrEng and be working at an engineering company.

Understanding excellence  

An achiever is someone who not only works hard but works smartly and is able to find balance in their lives. I believe that it’s easy to immerse yourself in your work. However, this quickly leads to a burnout and eventually you not achieving the marks you wanted. Therefore, I believe that balance between work, social life and exercise is the key to success.

A message to South African youth?

Work hard and take every opportunity you get to make a name for yourself because the harder you work in school the more doors will open for you at the beginning of your tertiary studies.

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