A school assignment on future career choices triggered Ms Terricia Govender’s interest to enroll at the University of KwaZulu-Natal towards a Bachelor of Science (BSc).
Govender, formerly from King Williams Town, in the Eastern Cape, matriculated at Kingsway High School, in KwaZulu-Natal. During her Grade 11 year, she conducted an assignment on possible future career choices called “work week”. With the help of her mother, Linda, they researched suitable science career paths online and came across the Astrophysics and Cosmology Research Unit (ACRU) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).
Under the guidance of Professor Kavilan Moodley, Govender gained more insight into astrophysics, completed a report on exoplanets and became the first ACRU representative at Kingsway High to initiate the school’s first astronomy club. This experience led to her enrolling at the university.
‘I was passionate about understanding where everything came from and how it exists and works from a scientific view. I was able to attend various public talks associated with ACRU which expanded my knowledge of the vast amount of research that was being done locally and internationally,’ said Govender.
In 2016, she graduated with her undergraduate BSc with a triple major in Mathematics, Physics and Astronomy, the first to have done so through UKZN, as the Astronomy major was newly introduced.
Govender’s results allowed her to undertake her honours degree with the National Astrophysics and Space Science Program (NASSP). During her honours year she had the opportunity to travel to Cape Town and Sutherland, thanks to the programme and funding of NASSP. This trip involved many aspects such as talks and lectures at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and star gazing, as well as a tour of the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT). Govender said, ‘It was an amazing experience to visit SALT and star gaze using telescopes that allowed us to see not only the moon very clearly but also objects deep in space.’
Her honours project on Inhomogeneous Spherical Dust Collapse in General Relativity, for which she obtained a certificate of merit, was supervised by Dr Rituparno Goswami.
Govender balances her academic life with her love for yoga, Zumba, cooking and hiking. She thrives on a good challenge and described her honours degree, which she completed last year as, ‘challenging, but with dedication, determination and hard work, success will always follow.’
Goswami, who has interacted with Govender since her third year, said Govender has a deep interest in relativistic astrophysics, and therefore chose to do her honours project with him on gravitational collapse of dustlike matter. ‘Terricia is one of those students who tries to understand deeply what she is working on, and would not let go until she is satisfied with her understanding. She dug out various reference materials by herself, went through them and asked me questions, proving how serious she was with her project.’
Govender is currently doing her Master of Science (MSc). Her topic is The Gravitational Collapse of Spherically Symmetric Stars, in relation to general relativity. She plans to do a PhD and contribute to the scientific community.
Govender is grateful for the support she received from her family, ACRU and NASSP in pursing her studies.
Her mother said she was proud and privileged to pay honour to her daughter. ‘Terricia is a very independent student who is highly dedicated in her studies and works with minimal supervision or need of assistance. She dedicates long hours to her studies. She leads a very balanced life. She has embraced religion and health without being fanatical. She is also socially responsible, demonstrated by her participation in a fundraising drive for Autism Awareness. I am undoubtedly a proud mother of an amazing daughter!’
Words: Leena Rajpal