THE SCIENCE BEHIND SUCCESS
Amanda Brand, 28, from Strand is a successful scientist who is a member of several scientific and associations. Her success has not come easily, coping with the loss of her father at 15 and supporting her mother whilst studying, Amanda shares with us her journey to success and what it took to get to where she is today.
‘From a young age I was aware of the fact that my family was not financially secure, but I was blessed with two amazing parents who taught me the importance of hard work and an education. My father was a clerk at a legal practice in Cape Town and my mother was a registered nurse working in old age homes, and later on, in a private hospital in the area.’
Amanda’s father became ill when Amanda was only 13, ‘he had the first of many strokes. I remembered one stroke in particularly, which left him unable to swallow. There were many times I thought he would leave us but he always managed to overcome them and carry on.’ This made life very stressful and unpredictable for the family, ‘I would often worry about my father and if he was ok. I felt helpless and wished that there was something I could do to make him well and healthy again. It was incredibly difficult to watch him waste away in front of our eyes.’
Then at the tender age of 15, Amanda’s father had a fall and this caused him to have a brain hemorrhage ‘he passed away after three days in intensive care. In a cruel and ironical twist, the blood-thinning medication he was taking to prevent further strokes caused him to bleed to death. ‘I was devastated. My heart was broken with the loss of my loving father and I also worried about how my family would survive. Every night I would make sure all the doors in our home were locked, as I took upon myself to try and keep my mom and sister safe.’
The death of Amanda’s father put further strain on the family finances, ‘While my mother did an incredible job keeping us afloat, she depended heavily on me to take on additional responsibilities and looking after my younger sister, as she was working 12-hour shifts at the hospital.’
‘I knew we were not in a financial position to pay for my tertiary education. After my father passed away, this reality became so much more apparent. At this point in my life, I decided to start working even harder at school and set the goal of becoming one of the top 10 in my grade academically.’ During exam times whilst assisting her mother running the house Amanda would study until midnight and wake up the next morning at 03h30 am to start studying again. ‘I managed to get into the top 10 at school and eventually passed matric with a 96% aggregate.’
Despite her achievements, Amanda’s teacher spoke to her mother about university. There were concerns about how she would be able to afford university given their situation. ‘I applied for a science degree at Stellenbosch University and also applied for every bursary we could find. I was accepted for my chosen degree and I also received two bursaries, which allowed me to graduate debt-free in 2007.’
Amanda maintained her work ethic, becoming one of the highest achievers in her year at university. This was the reason, she was invited to be part of the Golden Key International Honors Society, an invitation that is only extended to the top 15% students in each university around the world. ‘I felt elated and very proud to be selected for such an honor. When I had started my studies I had only hoped to pass well, and this accomplishment surpassed all my expectations. It helped me believe that I could achieve whatever I set my mind to. I was very fortunate to have people believing in me before I believed in myself.’
‘I have always believed in giving back to others, as I feel that without the opportunities granted to me, I would not be where I am today. For this reason during my university and professional years, I have volunteered during my free time. I have been a tutor and mentor to less privileged youth.
Amanda’s love for science has pushed her further in her studies she is currently doing a post-doctoral research at Stellenbosch University’s Division of Community Health. She is investigating the impact of low-cost housing design on the health of inhabitants, she says ‘I believe that the findings of this study will help to reduce the burden of disease for people, and help them to attain the dignity every human being deserves.’
Amanda finished by sharing her key piece of advise ‘Surround yourself with people who will support you and never let anybody make you believe that you cannot achieve what you set out to do.
Amanda is a former Leaders’ Quest Mentor, and intervention offered by Salesian Life Choices.