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At 19, Connor Dalen is the youngest of the 5 winners. He describes himself as an only child with significant life aspirations. “I am young but a touch too ambitious. Still, I believe that I must aim high and that, with sufficient commitment, I can accomplish my goals,” he says.
For his primary education, Dalen went to Radford House – where he skipped a grade. Although he wasn’t particularly strong at sports, he did well in general knowledge, history and the natural sciences.
He proceeded to Lonehill Academy for his secondary education partly because it offered the Cambridge curriculum, allowing him to study abroad if necessary.
“As part of my study, I learnt about nuclear energy – advantages and perils. It’s at this time that I realised I wanted to work in the nuclear sector,” he says.
But it was at Pretoria University Mamelodi Campus that Dalen actually turned into a pro-nuclear energy champion.
“The socio-economic status of Mamelodi is a tad too low. Many residents do not have access to safe electricity for heating and cooking,” Dalen says.
“Instead, they use illegal electricity connections, burn items and use unsafe paraffin lights and stoves. This, coupled with poor technology, causes extremely poor air quality and increases the risk of house fires,” he says, adding that South Africa today faces an energy shortage due to the breakdown of our outdated coal-fired power plants.
“In order to contribute to the solution of these, I paid a keen interest in nuclear energy,” he says.
Word to leaders
“I challenge all leaders to listen to science regardless of whether it is popular or not,” Dalen says.
“If everything wasn’t so politicised as a lot of things are now, this would make everyone’s lives so much easier and better.”
An enthusiast of history, Dalen enjoys researching odd facts. Outside of academia, he loves horse riding and classical music performances.