Limpopo high schooler showcases science experiment in US

Makgotso Pearl Mayilule's project explores cancer-causing agents which are found in the environment.

An intelligent and inspiring young lady, Makgotso Pearl Mayilule, represented South Africa through her hard-earned work in science in the United States from May 15 until May 20.

Pearl was selected after she won a gold medal at the Eskom Expo International Science Fair (EskomExpoISF) project and represented South Africa at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) in the US, reports Letaba Herald.

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The 15-year-old from Maphokwane Secondary School represented South Africa with her science project titled, “The effect of time on the generation of Benzo(a)pyrene [B(a)P] in grilled meat using different fuels”.

The project is about cancer-causing agents which are found in the environment. She also mentioned that Benzo(a)pyrene has been investigated and found to be causing scrotum cancer, pancreatic cancer, lung cancer and other types of cancers.

“I investigated how time affected the generation or deposition of B(a)P in grilled beef with wood, charcoal, and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG). The grilling time was a variation of 10, 15, 20 and 25 minutes. The maximum concentrations of carcinogenic B(a)P was found to be 1.46 ng/kg in beef, steak grilled with wood in 30g of beef,” she explained.

The intelligent youngster also discovered that the concentration was harmless but when consumed often, it could cause harm to a person’s health.

Pearl mentioned that she had been reading articles about the safety of meat and she came across an article which illustrated the dangers of meat.

She further continued reading other articles which explained how grilling would cause Benzo-(a)-pyrene.

“I wanted to know if it can be found in different species of meat as it was reported that grilling with charcoal is more dangerous than grilling with LP Gas. I wanted to investigate if the fuels such as charcoal, wood, and LP Gas have an impact.”

She further explained that her teacher, Cynthia Lebethe, was the one who helped her through the project.

“I was starting a new project from an old idea,” she stated.

The 15-year-old had been winning gold medals from the regional competitions, to the district, until she was selected to represent Mopani region at the EskomExpoISF, then she went to the United States.

“My hypothesis was proven wrong. Most articles I have read, the authors declared that there is Benzo(a)pyrene in fish but it is not the case. I would say my findings are valuable and I also believe that I would be capable to improve my projects. I can also improve the way we use things in South Africa,” said Pearl.

“I feel that representing South Africa with my work is an honour, as many youngsters do not get this opportunity. It felt so different being in the US as I got exposed to different people with different thoughts, who motivated me to delve deeper in what I am doing. I met people who would not stop learning, people who are scientists at heart and living what they are doing.”

Pearl advised everyone out there to put God first in everything they do, as she realised that putting God first had also made her find herself and know her worth.

She also advised everyone to follow their passion and to be humble.

“I am glad that my daughter is doing the best she is able to. I am not surprised that she went this far, as she is obedient. I am more than proud to call her my daughter. This is my child everyone!” said Lorraine Mawasha, the proud mother of Pearl.

The principal of Maphokwane, Hendrick Malatji, was also proud to announce that she was the star of their school.

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