Wom(ENG)’s Month: Meet inspirational PhD student, Evelyn Manjengwa

Not too long ago, thirteen-year-old Evelyn Manjengwa knew that she wanted to become a chemical engineer the day she saw a photo of a petrochemical plant on the cover of one of her father’s engineering magazines. “I was enamoured by it,” she recalls. Her DNA, as she likes to put it, is a mixture from her chemical engineering dad and biochemist mum. Although she also thought of becoming an Olympic swimmer, neurosurgeon then heart surgeon growing up, that picture of a petrochemical plant did the trick.

Today, Evelyn is a multi-disciplinary PhD candidate within the Department of Process Engineering. She has an undergraduate degree and two master’s degrees. Under the supervision of Dr Margreth Tadie and Prof Christie Dorfling, Evelyn’s PhD research topic is: Incorporating Sustainable Practise principles into development of solutions for mitigation of mine waste. “Simply put, the research considers a consolidated approach to addressing mine waste management from economic, social and environmental perspectives,” Evelyn explains. She adds that the research marries various academic disciplines to spearhead pragmatic discourse on topical issues applicable to the mining industry. “[These include] issues tied to national development agendas, issues of legitimacy of mining houses, equitable resource distribution, efficient value creation, and the role of mining in the broader world economy.” Passionate about her research, Evelyn also adds that the work she is conducting is applicable to different mining projects, not just mining waste.  Although there are difficulties associated with her research, Evelyn appreciates these challenges as an opportunity for character growth. “What you learn about yourself is more important [than these difficulties]. It has been the refining ground for my strengths.”

Evelyn shares that she has always enjoyed reading and learning new things, which is where her love and drive for education originated. As a child, family time was spent watching educational programs, and whenever she wanted to understand a topic, she would go and read about it in the library. “With so much exposure [to information], you will come across an area that reals you in, which was the case for me.” Outside of work, Evelyn enjoys anything where she can work productively with her hands. She is also fond of birdwatching, learning new languages, and watching classical ballet. “When the opportunity presents itself, learning how to play the piano is on my to-do list of new hobbies,” she adds.


In honour of Women’s Month, Evelyn mentions the women who inspire her: her high school history teacher, Ms E. Mambara; former Anglo Executive, Cynthia (Blum) Carroll; and another executive leader, Thasunda Brown Duckett. To young girls dreaming of one day becoming chemical engineers, Evelyn advises to “be focused and sincere.” And if she could go back and give her younger self advice? “You reap what you sow, good and bad, whether today, next week, next month, after a generation…you will still reap what you sow.”

Complete the sentence:

I am… a result-oriented individual. I am an engineer.