The Zimbabwean born science student who is saving the earth with her green chemistry initiative

Updated: Aug 25, 2020

A chemistry PhD student has put Zimbabwe on the map with her green initiative, aimed at reducing the carbon footprint by making industrial processes more efficient.

Emmie Chiyindiko, 26, is currently a student at South Africa's University of Free State. She says that her studies catalysts (materials that speed up chemical reactions) in order to find better, cheaper and less toxic versions.

Chiyindiko grew up in Zimbabwe dreaming of superheroes and watching Captain Planet and the Planeteers.

She said by understanding their structure and reactivity, this helps in the design of chemical processes to maximise the sustainability of industrial activity.

"The objective of my research is to reduce pollution at its source by minimizing time and material required to produce energy," she told Forbes.

South Africa is the world’s 14th largest emitter of greenhouse gases and has pledged to peak its emissions between 2020 and 2025.

In addition to her scientific efforts, Chiyindiko has adapted a science-themed comic book.

"There’s a new superhero in town, and she’s a scientist!" Chiyindiko said.

"The genesis of this project was supported by a Zimbabwean based graphic designer and illustrator, Allen Zvidzai," she said.

Chiyindiko spoke about black women in STEM and added that highlighting women in the sector ensures the younger generations of women have role models to inspire them.

"Women are highly underrepresented in positions of authority, such as tenured faculty positions, but you will also see this reflected in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) cohorts and organisation.

"Racial and sexist microaggressions are also rampant in the sciences, and these microaggressions, whether intentional or unintentional, expose hidden biases and prejudices that generally make women of colour feel undermined."