Food scientist strives to improve people’s lives

Posted on November 17, 2020

My parents taught me that the most significant achievement in life is not just attaining education or science, but rather making that education or science contribute towards improving lives.” These are the wise words of Dr Clarity Ropafadzo Mapengo, who recently graduated with a PhD in Food Science at the University of Pretoria.

“Living in communities threatened by a diet-related non-communicable disease like obesity and type II diabetes, we are often compelled to shy away from our staple meals (pap) in the attempt to stay healthy. In the process of attaining my PhD in Food Science, I managed to show the potential of green technology in improving the nutritional quality of starchy foods such as maize meal, so that its consumption does not promote diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes,” Dr Mapengo explains her research topic.

Her PhD research study, titled ‘Nutritional, structural and functional properties of infrared heat-moisture treated maize starch and maize meal with added stearic acid’, proved that infrared energy could be used to make starch less digestible and promote satiety.

Being raised by educated and supportive parents, Dr Mapengo admits: “I have always been overambitious and explored my bounds. Two and a half years ago, I chose to start my PhD in Food Science, and this journey has been more than fulfilling. I am proud to have dreamt, I am pleased to have persevered, and I am proud to have been tenacious,” she explains.

“The moment of Clarity that my parents had almost three decades ago when they brought me into this world has been affirmed. I am proud to have lived up to their expectations. This journey has been rewarding on both an academic and a personal level,” Dr Mapengo shared her inspiration for her success.

“I am here today; as an inspiration to the young generation, to prove that destiny is simply a dream that one commits to. I am grateful to my academic mentors Prof Naushad Emmambux and Prof Sinha Ray from UP’s Department of Consumer and Food Sciences and CSIR’s National Centre for Nano-Structured Materials, respectively, “she concludes.

Dr Mapengo continues her journey as a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Consumer and Food Sciences at UP, working on developing functional foods and food ingredients using indigenous grains.

- Author NAS
Published by Hlengiwe Mnguni

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