Five Questions With Crop Scientist Anne Chisa

Name: Anne Chisa
Places Lived: Malawi and South Africa
Hobbies: Cooking and Reading
Favorite Movie: Romantic Comedies of the 2000s

Anne Chisa is a Malawian living and studying in South Africa. Anne is a Ph.D. Candidate in Crop Science at the University of KwaZulu Natal, where she also completed her Masters in Agricultural Sciences. Her research focuses on the use of human excreta as fertilizers for ecosystem restoration. In 2020, she founded The Root of the Science Podcasts, interviewing guests in various STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields. The purpose of the podcast is to highlight people in the STEM field and allow them to talk about their research. Ultimately, she hopes her podcasts inspire others to get into STEM, including encouraging those already in the field to persevere and strive for more after hearing about the prospects available from her guests. Anne is also part of an initiative called Visibility in STEM Africa, which shares the same mission, making Africans who are involved in STEM visible. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

On what she’s learned from her podcast:

“I’ve learned the value of being self-motivated and taking the path less traveled. When I first started, not many people (in South Africa, where I live) knew what podcasting was. They were perplexed as to why I chose this medium of communication over others, such as blogging or YouTube. But I persevered, and I am so proud of myself. My podcast has shown me how diverse the world of STEM is compared to what I previously knew. I also learned how to improve my public speaking skills in the process. I’ve spoken to many people, and the experience has improved my communication and networking skills.”

On how she prioritizes self-care:

“When I feel overwhelmed, I usually take myself out to a coffee shop. I sit there alone and read. It’s simple, but it has been crucial to my sanity these past few months during the Covid-19 pandemic. Those few hours allow me to take time for myself and find some balance in my life. Also, there are days of just watching Netflix or cooking, and that helps a lot.”

On her future goals:

“My long-term goal is to earn a Ph.D. in crop science and become Dr. Anne. I want to be an expert in using human waste nutrient recycling as an alternative to fertilizers, sustainable agriculture, and innovative sanitation technologies. I aspire to be on an international stage communicating with African scientists about their research and inspiring others to get into STEM.”

On what healthy aging means to her:

“I think healthy aging is firstly accepting that you are aging. Currently, I believe there is social pressure to use various creams, diet fads, etc. Once you’ve accepted that you’re growing older, you can look at healthy approaches because as you age, your body may not function the same way it used to when younger. It entails being more conscious of the foods you consume, attempting to incorporate exercise, and scheduling regular check-ups with your health care practitioner to be aware of any health changes. Also, I believe that being healthy is more than just being physically fit. It has a mental aspect too. I’ve noticed that as people get older, they almost become free in how they experience life; they don’t worry about what other people think. They do more things on their bucket list, which is a healthy way to grow older and live life.”

On the importance of science communication:

“I believe science communication is critical because science is for everyone and not only for scientists. From how we sleep to what happens when we eat, science affects us all. So it must be communicated in a way that anyone can understand it without diluting the facts. During the pandemic, we have seen the importance of proper scientific communication. Since there was a surge of fake news and misinformation about the coronavirus and vaccines, it took a while for people to accept science news. We need more scientists and science communicators in mainstream media because it helps build rapport and trust through familiarity. In a small way, I believe this is why my podcast is so important: having interviews with scientists to bridge the gap between scientists and the public.”

I believe science communication is critical because science is for everyone and not only for scientists.

Anne Chisa, MSc, PhD Candidate

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