My name is Bronwynne Petersen, and I was born in the Western Cape, currently residing in Pretoria. I am the youngest of two, with an older brother. I love nature, walks, hikes, animals and exploring and trying new things.

I love going on adventures

I was in the top 10 in high school, first place physics and a distinction in Biology in matric. I applied for a BSc in Biodiversity and Conservation Biology at the University of the Western Cape, thinking my science knowledge would help me breeze through university. Unfortunately, in my first year I failed Life Sciences. Despondent, I didn’t know what career path I wanted to take.

I excelled in subjects like Biotechnology and grew a love for zoology and DNA, a career I wanted to pursue. I failed every plant subject, in fact I disliked plants, and anything related to them, hence I was told to change my degree choice. I didn’t let it get me down. It took me 3.5 years to complete my degree and I proudly stood on that stage with my graduation gown.

UWC 2007

My friends were accepted for an internship at SANBI in my third year. As I wasn’t interested in plants, I never applied. Then in the December varsity holidays of that year, I reluctantly decided to volunteer at SANBI Kirstenbosch and to my amazement a volcano erupted in me, and instantly I fell in love with plants and wanted to know everything about them. After varsity and bouncing careers in 2010, I started at SANBI Kirstenbosch as a data capturer with Dr Matt Buys who taught me everything about Brahms, and my love for data grew. I was keen to learn more and then volunteered in my lunch times to help almost every scientist with work, and this boosted my experience and I ended up being employed by each of them.

In 2013, I moved with my husband and daughter to Pretoria for a better position (Chief Auxilliary Services officer) and things got difficult from there. 1 month old baby, no family, no help, and new surroundings. In 2016, I graduated with my honours (did my honours in one year) in plant taxonomy while working full time, pregnant with my son and running a household while achieving top marks. I resigned from SANBI when I had my son.

In 2017, everything turned around for the worst. An incident occurred where we lost everything, all our cars and houses. We were homeless for 6 months, hopping from place to place. With a toddler and a baby, my husband and I fought alone with no help, trying to make it through, being laughed at by people.

I used to write assignments for overseas university students to make a buck. I was very good at it. This included me not sleeping for 2 days straight at a time, because of the different time zones. I would knock on people’s doors looking for jobs and applied everywhere online. The only rock I had was my supportive husband and my kids.

My husband got us a place and I remember praying to God for this current job I’m in, as a Data Quality Specialist for the NSCF. Not having a job in my field for two years, I cried when I got the call that I was successful for the job.

I love being a data quality specialist. I love working with plant data, cleaning it, and working with everyone in the herbaria. My main focus is to build solid relationships with institutions, assist with documenting their workflows, look for gaps where I can assist and manage the awesome biodiversity data technicians who give me the greatest support.

Remember that no matter what, you can start over. My advice to you is to not measure yourself against others as we are all running our own race. No matter how tough life gets, press on even when you don’t see the desired results. Everything in life has a season, you will see the harvest of the seeds you have sown when the winter months have passed, and spring arrives.

You too can share your #TheScienceStruggleIsReal story

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