Past Women in Science Award win­ners

Vuk'uzenzele - - Women's Month - Su­laiman Philip 2014 win­ner Dis­tin­guished Woman Sci­en­tist (Nat­u­ral Sci­ences and En­gi­neer­ing) Award: Pro­fes­sor Priscilla Baker. 2016 run­ner up Dis­tin­guished Young Women Re­searchers cat­e­gory for hu­man­i­ties and so­cial sci­ences: Pro­fes­sor Mar­i­anne Matthee. 20

As Min­is­ter of Science and Tech­nol­ogy Naledi Pan­dor pointed out at the 2016 Women in Science Awards: “The awards are a cel­e­bra­tion of the achieve­ments of women in science and a re­minder that we will not re­alise the full sci­en­tific po­ten­tial of our coun­try un­til all our young sci­en­tists are able to en­joy ac­cess to the best fa­cil­i­ties in ed­u­ca­tion.”

Through the awards, the Depart­ment of Science and Tech­nol­ogy cre­ates role-mod­els for young women to look up to and fol­low into a ca­reer in sci­ences.

Meet four women who have been hon­oured. Pro­fes­sor Baker teaches chem­istry at the Univer­sity of the Western Cape and is co-leader of the elec­tro­chem­istry re­search group, Sen­sorLab. She has pub­lished in in­ter­na­tional jour­nals and co-au­thored books but, as she pointed out af­ter win­ning her award, the favourite part of her ca­reer is teach­ing.

“De­vel­op­ing hu­man po­ten­tial - see­ing stu­dents grow from not be­liev­ing they can do it to se­ri­ously achiev­ing, see­ing them mas­ter new skills and en­dure the dis­ci­pline of post-grad­u­ate train­ing, that's what re­ally gets me ex­cited. Every year of teach­ing is dif­fer­ent, and so is every stu­dent.” Pro­fes­sor Matthee is recog­nised for her work to im­prove the In­ter­na­tional Trade Pro­gramme cur­ricu­lum at North West Univer­sity. Thanks, in part to her work, the num­ber of stu­dents choos­ing to study in­ter­na­tional trade re­la­tions and in­ter­na­tional trade fi­nance has grown.

“My re­search fo­cus in­cludes firm-level ex­ports and I was also re­cently the only fe­male team leader in the ini­tial round of re­search projects in­ves­ti­gat­ing new data from firms by the United Na­tions Univer­sity, along with the Na­tional Trea­sury and South African Rev­enue Ser­vice.” Raised by a sin­gle mother in ru­ral Ga-Mashashane, Lim­popo, Dr Thobak­gale was the first of eight chil­dren to study at a ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tion. She was hon­oured for her re­search in HIV-in­fec­tion and the cel­lu­lar and vi­ral fac­tors that in­flu­ence how the dis­ease pro­gresses.

Thobak­gale is in­volved in help­ing to de­velop the next gen­er­a­tion of sci­en­tists and has su­per­vised and men­tored lab­o­ra­tory tech­ni­cians and post-grad­u­ate stu­dents. At the 6th South African Aids Con­fer­ence in 2013, she chaired the Ba­sic Sci­ences Track meet­ing.

the WomeN in Science Awards aim to in­spire other women (and men) to sci­en­tific cu­rios­ity and re­search ex­cel­lence.

When she re­ceived the Fel­low­ship in 2012, Nond­aba was a Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria MSc stu­dent study­ing biotech­nol­ogy and specialising in bio­chem­istry.

As a first-year post­grad­u­ate stu­dent, recog­ni­tion came early, but she had gone a long way to achiev­ing the ob­jec­tives of her study. Us­ing mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary col­lab­o­ra­tions, she wanted to cre­ate a data set that could be more eas­ily re­pro­duced.

At the 2012 awards she said she in­tended to go on to pur­sue a doc­tor­ate in biotech­nol­ogy and “be­come one of the top fe­male sci­en­tists in this coun­try”.

Dr Christina Thobak­gale (on left) was part of UKZN's pi­o­neer­ing HIV re­search team.

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