This page includes just a few messages from NASSP graduates, describing their experience with NASSP. Parts of them are quoted in an article from The Conversation to be published in January 2024 entitled : “South Africa’s National Astrophysics and Space Science Programme turns 20 – what it has contributed”. Many more will be published later in 2024, in the book celebrating NASSP’s 20th anniversary.

“The astronomy community in SA was still very small in 2008 and NASSP played a pivotal role in bringing us together, and giving us exposure to the leading astronomers in the country through lectures and social occasions. This was extremely helpful in assessing astronomy as a career as well as the possible paths forward as a PhD and postdoc. My NASSP contemporaries that are still in astronomy remain close and I am thrilled to continue to bump into them in various places in the world, as well as a network of astronomers throughout South Africa.”

Roger Deane (NASSP 2007)

The journey to SALT was a truly transformative experience for me. Witnessing a real telescope for the first time was nothing short of awe-inspiring; it marked a pivotal moment that redefined my perspective on what was achievable in life. As a child growing up in a small town, the notion of pursuing a career in astronomy seemed like an unattainable dream, especially as a female of color. The prevailing media narratives portrayed it as a domain reserved for foreign, old, white males.

However, that visit shattered those limiting beliefs. Gazing at and reaching out to touch those magnificent telescopes ignited a fire of possibility within me. Interacting with the passionate astronomers on site amplified my confidence in envisioning myself as an active participant in the world of astrophysics. It opened my eyes to the boundless opportunities this field presented, ones that I once thought were beyond my reach.

In that transformative moment at SALT, I found not only inspiration but also a sense of belonging. I realized that the cosmos knew no barriers of race or gender; its mysteries were there for anyone with a passion for exploration and a desire to understand the universe’s secrets. The experience emboldened me to embrace my unique identity, breaking free from the constraints imposed by societal norms.

Looking back, I see that the trip to SALT not only sparked my interest in astrophysics but also set me on a profound journey of self-discovery. It illuminated the path towards a future I had scarcely dared to imagine before. Now, as I stand on the precipice of pursuing my dreams, I owe a debt of gratitude to that extraordinary moment that expanded my horizons and showed me that I, too, could reach for the stars in the truest sense.”

Pfesesani van Zyl (NASSP 2011)

“NASSP was a great program because it helped me network with other students and embrace multiculturalism. The bursary offered through the program helped alleviate the financial burden during the postgraduate studies at both Honours level and Master’s level. Collaboration with international researchers through the program enabled me to do world-class research, attend international conferences, and give talks on my work. NASSP also opened up an entire new world of possible careers.”

Miriam Nyamai (NASSP 2014)

During my undergraduate years, I often felt stressed about my future because I initially enrolled in the BSc program simply to avoid sitting at home. At that point, I had no idea about the opportunities that studying this course could bring me. During my time at the University of Limpopo, something important occurred – representatives from NASSP (National Astrophysics and Space Science Programme) visited our campus. They introduced us to NASSP and its remarkable opportunities. Encouraged by this, I applied for their winter school, and much to my delight, I was accepted. Participating in the winter school proved transformative, as it ignited a deep interest in astrophysics within me. Coming from a rural school in Limpopo, I had been unaware of fields like astrophysics. With this newfound enthusiasm, I took a step further and applied for the honours program – an opportunity I was fortunate to secure. Through this program, I gained crucial knowledge and skills that I might never have acquired otherwise. It became clear that this program opened up many paths I hadn’t imagined before. Initially, I hadn’t seen myself pursuing an honours degree after completing my BSc, as I was inclined towards more financially rewarding options. However, NASSP’s influence made me to reconsider my path. This shift in perspective led me to where I am now – a PhD candidate in astrophysics at the University of Johannesburg. NASSP’s involvement has significantly shaped my path and provided an unforeseen promising future.

Thando Mothogoane (NASSP 2018)