Thandeka Mhlanga

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Thandeka Mhlanga
Thandeka Mhlanga.jpeg
Thandeka Mhlanga. Image retrieved from Nka'Thuto Edupropeller Website on 18 June, 2021.
South Africa
NationalitySouth African
Alma materUniversity of Witwatersrand
Known forCo-Founding and being the Co-Executive Director of Nka'Thuto EduPropeller

Editor: Charissa Cassels

Thandeka Mhlanga is the Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of the Nka'Thuto EduPropeller programme[1] and has occupied this position since January 2017[2] alongside Thulile Khanyile, who is also the Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of the non-profit organisation.

Mhlanga is the Director of ScienceGap Productions Pty (Ltd) where she creates content for science educational shows.[3]


She matriculated from Parkland’s High School[4] and pursued a degree in Physics and Applied Mathematics from the University of Johannesburg.[5]

In 2012, she obtained her Bachelor of Science degree with Honours in Physics from Stellenbosch University, South Africa, and later received her MSc in Physics (cum laude) from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research from January 2013 to January 2015 in Pretoria, South Africa.[6]

She holds a Master’s of Science degree in Physics (cum laude) from the University of KwaZulu Natal and focused on Freespace Optical Communication and completed this degree from 2013 to 2015. She also holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Business Administration from Wits Business School.

Mhlanga focused on Business Administration and Management and completed this degree from 2016 to 2017 as well as completing her second Master’s degree in Innovation Studies at Wits Business School from 2018 to 2019.


She has been the President of SPIE and OSA since August 2014. SPIE is an international society for optics and photonics to advance light-based technologies.[7] OSA is an optical society that promotes and delivers scientific and technical information on optics and photonics worldwide that is authoritative, accessible and archived.[8]

She taught Physics and Mathematics at the Academy of Sound Engineering from January 2015 to May 2019 in Johannesburg and was a Researcher for the HESTIL Ministerial Committee from March 2020 to October 2020 for the National Science and Technology Forum.[9]

She was a judge in 2020 for Eskom Expo for young adults, a national event that aims to encourage young people in Africa to participate in science, technology, engineering and maths activities.[10]

Awards and Achievements

She produced numerous scientific outputs in the highest-ranked physics and optic journals including Optics Express and Nature Communications.[11]

Optics Press published her paper on Efficient Sorting of Bessel Beams in 2013 and in that same year, her paper on Generating and analyzing non-diffracting vector vortex beams was published by SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering. Her paper on Techniques to sort Bessel beams and Generating and measuring non-diffracting vector Bessel beams was published by SPIE[12] in 2013 as well.

Her paper on self-healing of quantum entanglement after an obstruction was published by Nature Communications and Optics Press also published her paper on Detection of Bessel Beams with digital axicons while her paper on Digital holograms for laser mode multiplexing was published by SPIE in 2014. Additionally, SPIE published her paper on Laguerre Gaussian beam multiplexing through turbulence that same year.

Her paper on the Digital generation of shape-invariant Bessel-like beams was published by Optics Press in March 2015.[13]

On 27 August, 2019, Mhlanga and Khanyile were awarded the Astounding in STEM award, at the "Bring Her Up: Women of Firsts Awards" hosted by Unisa, in collaboration with the Charlotte Mannya-Maxeke Institute.[14]

She was listed as a national finalist for the Southern Africa Startup Awards 2019, under the category of Female Role Model of the Year.[15]

Mhlanga was a speaker at the South African Women in Science Awards Webinar Series on 25 November, 2020.[16]