Francisca Maepa


How did you decide on pursuing a degree in geoscience? Did you know about geoscience before you entered university?

In high school I enjoyed in physics, biology, and maths and knew I wanted to pursue a science related career. I did some research on potential careers to follow, and geology seemed to be a good fit for me. I come from a place with a lot of mines and mineral wealth and when I heard about how much physics and chemistry goes into studying rocks and minerals, I thought its something I would enjoy.

Can you briefly describe your career progression?

After my graduating with my bachelor’s degree in South Africa, I went on to work as a remote sensing geoscientist at Southern Mapping Company, where I learnt to integrate geological data with multispectral and hyperspectral satellite remote sensing datasets for mineral exploration.


After my work at Southern Mapping, I was awarded a scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in mineral exploration at Laurentian University. I have since enrolled in a PhD program focusing on exploration targeting using machine learning.

Why did you decide to go to grad school?

I have always wanted to study further and obtain a masters and eventually a Ph.D. I personally never thought I would start a Ph.D. program so soon in my life but when the opportunity presented itself, I could not say no.

I knew I wanted to do a PhD in something I love and was passionate about. Exploration targeting using machine learning has been one of the most fulfilling and exciting research projects I have ever been involved in.

If you could start over again in first year university, would you choose the same path?

Yes, I would. I am happy with where I am in life. Not only have I established a career that I enjoy but I have met wonderful people along the way. I genuinely believe that this is the road I was meant to travel on, and my life and experiences would probably be a whole lot different if I had done something else.

If you could change anything in your career so far, what would it be?

I would have tried to learn programming a bit earlier in my career because It would have helped advance my skillsets as a geoscientist using data science tools for exploration. So far, I focus on challenging myself and learning as much as possible.

What are the three best things about your job/career? What are the three worst things?

I am in a Ph.D. program and I believe the best things about doing a Ph.D. is that I am free to do research on a study I am passionate about. During the course of a doctorate study, you learn and develop skillsets that you otherwise might not be expose to, and my Ph.D. has awarded me the opportunity to network and collaborate with people in my community.

Graduate school can be stressful, the workload can become overwhelming because it requires a lot of independence which I think can be hard if you require constant supervision.

Do you see, in either your workspace or the industry in general, the place of women becoming more mainstream, about the same as when you started, or worse?

There is more than enough room in the geosciences for women to occupy space. There is a need for more women representation in the geoscience workspace, and fortunately I am seeing an increasing number of women entering geophysics and geology careers in my community.

What advice would you give fellow young women starting a career in geoscience?

My advice is to trust themselves and be enthusiastic about the geosciences. Geoscience careers are also remarkably diverse, there is so many different things you can do, so be open-minded about where a geoscience career can take you. I have survived with the help of mentors throughout my career, I would advise young people to find such mentors.

Why/How is diversity important to you? Thoughts on what should be focused on or how to improve diversity within geoscience?

I grew up in an environment where there were not many engineers, I did not know any geologist and hence, there was no one to relate with. Geology is a dominantly male field and unfortunately, this might discourage young women to pursue it and employers might be more inclined to hire men. As a young woman, it is important that I see other women thrive in executive positions in geosciences.

Diverse work environments are a magnet for creativity and growth. A diverse industry can inspire and attract talent from a multitude of races and cultures. Working in diverse communities helps to eradicate ignorance and racial stigmas.



© 2020 by WGC

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