We catch up with Dami and Luyanda for #BlackInChem week

As part of #BlackInChem week 2021, we recently caught up with Dami Adebayo and Luyanda Mbongwa, to discuss their chemistry career to date and what can be done to attract more black people to a career in chemistry.

Read what Dami, a Formulated Materials Development Chemist at Scott Bader UK, and Luyanda, a Chemist at Scott Bader South Africa, said below:

How did you first encounter chemistry?

I first encountered chemistry before I knew what to call it! Growing up, food was a big part of family life, and I found the fundamental science behind cooking fascinating. From around 11 years old, I began to realise the impact chemistry had on the world around me, and it quickly became my favourite subject at secondary school.

From your experience, what more could the industry do to attract black chemists?

I believe diversity in academia is essential to achieve a diverse industry workplace. According to Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) UK figures, black students make up 4.8% of chemistry undergraduates, and less than a quarter of those students continue to postgraduate study. With the wider issue of talent retention in chemistry, this translates to an even weaker pipeline of black talent into chemical industry, with few black chemists then qualifying for progression into decision-making management positions – positions that help drive change.

More can be done by improving visibility and access to industry. One avenue may be implementing a more inclusive, relatable chemistry syllabus to spark interest at a younger age. More partnering towards success between academic and industry bodies will also help, such as placement/scholarship schemes for example.

How has Scott Bader helped you to realise your career aspirations so far?

Scott Bader has helped me to use my lab expertise in a practical, real-time environment. There is a wealth of experience within the research and development team, so there have always been fantastic opportunities to learn from colleagues about the adhesives, composites and coatings industries.

I have also been involved in a career progression course to build on my management skills, helping me to build relationships with other functions at the company, which has motivated me further to add to the wider team’s success to date.

How did you first encounter chemistry?

Initially I encountered chemistry in high school where I was not really interested in it but as I learned more about how chemistry influences our everyday lives, I then started to focus on it and that’s where I started to enjoy learning about chemistry.

From your experience, what more could the industry do to attract black chemists?

I think in black communities chemistry is viewed as a subject that only the “born to be a chemist” people are more suitable to study. This is largely due to the fact that in some educational systems, chemistry is only introduced to the black community (especially in South Africa) in senior years (High School). I believe if the industry can start to promote chemistry to kids in the junior phase, we might see an increase in the number of black chemists in the industry.

How has Scott Bader helped you to realise your career aspirations so far?

So far, I have learned that I’m more of a practical person who loves to be involved in the development of new products and fine tuning the existing products to make them perform better. I only realised this when I started working for Scott Bader in 2020 and I am still learning more about what other career aspirations I want to achieve.

Thank you to Dami and Luyanda for sharing their thoughts for #BlackInChem week.

Whilst we fully support #BlackInChem week, we recognise this is a continued effort for many years to come and one we wholeheartedly embrace. We look forward to updating you on our initiatives over the coming months.