A young scientist from Bryanston High School in Johannesburg has made waves in the world of science and technology through her remarkable achievements at the Eskom Expo International Science Fair (ISF) with her research project that aims to help farmers produce major crops within shorter time frames.
Likitha Chundru, 17, was crowned the 2023 Top Senior Scientist at the ISF on 6 October, winning a R75,000 cash prize, along with various other prizes, including Best senior soil-related project; a gold medal (awarded R750 cash); a University of Pretoria partial bursary worth R35,000; the Meiring Naudé Award for the most inspiring project (awarded a medal and R5,000 cash); the Eskom Best Female (awarded a laptop) along with the top Agricultural Sciences category project (awarded a trophy and R2,250 cash).
Chundru used a novel method to increase the germination and growth of non-legume plants using Rhizobium spp. Bacteria. “I tested the effects of soaking and injecting rhizobium bacteria in non-legume seeds such as maize and pumpkin to increase production in a short time. I also tested the effects of dried bacteria in my third experiment,” said Chundru.
“I am a farmer myself and for the Eskom Expo I was struggling to find a topic, hence I wanted to take my hobby to a scientific level. Since primary school, my parents encouraged me to take part in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and innovation (STEMI), and therefore I have a very big passion for it,” she said.
As the Captain of Chess at her school, Chundru also enjoys cycling, badminton and cooking. Of her future prospects, she said: “I am thinking of pursuing engineering, but I really don’t know what I want to become one day. I feel like I will discover myself very soon”.
Eskom Acting Group Executive for Government & Regulatory Affairs, Natasha Sithole, said: “Being the steadfast supporter of the Eskom Expo, we were overjoyed to witness how it has evolved into a fertile ground for nurturing the aspirations of young scientists. Eskom firmly believes that investments in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Innovation (STEMI) act as the catalyst for uncovering enduring solutions to our nation’s pressing challenges. The ISF showcased youthful ingenuity, as learners explored diverse topics, from behavioural studies to pioneering experiments, IT, machine learning, artificial intelligence applications, and the application of physics and mathematics”.
Eskom Expo Executive Director, Parthy Chetty said: “Likitha’s research project used a novel approach to enhance existing practices. This is only possible when self-motivated learners engage in innovative thinking to contribute to the scientific knowledge base of our country. The Eskom Expo has been tasked by the Department of Basic Education and the Department of Science and Innovation to create future scientists that will help our country and the world solve problems like food security, which is Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG2).”