Mak­ing sci­ence fun for all pays off

UCT Pro­fes­sor wins pres­ti­gious award

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - KOWTHAR SOLOMONS

SCI­ENCE may not al­ways be the most pop­u­lar sub­ject for many chil­dren, but UCT pro­fes­sor Anusuya Chin­samy-Tu­ran has made it her mis­sion to pro­mote the field and was re­cently hon­oured by the World Academy of Sci­ence for her ef­forts.

Chin­samy-Tu­ran, a palaeo­bi­ol­o­gist and head of the univer­sity’s depart­ment of bi­o­log­i­cal sci­ence, was hon­oured by The World Academy of Sci­ence with the Sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa prize for pub­lic un­der­stand­ing and pop­u­lar­i­sa­tion of sci­ence.

The cer­e­mony was held in Nairobi ear­lier this month and was hosted by the African Academy of Sci­ence.

The pro­fes­sor said she was ec­static about the award.

“I re­ally feel we have a chal­lenge to pro­mote sci­ence in South Africa. Sci­en­tists pub­lish their work in jour­nals, but the pub­lic doesn’t un­der­stand it and it’s our job to make it rel­e­vant to the pub­lic, es­pe­cially the younger gen­er­a­tion.”

Chin­samy- Tu­ran has notched up nu­mer­ous achieve­ments in pro­mot­ing sci­ence, in­clud­ing writ­ing the pop­u­lar chil­dren’s book, Fa­mous Di­nosaurs of Africa.

Speak­ing at the awards cer­e­mony, African Academy of Sci­ence ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Pro­fes­sor Ber­hanu Abegaz said the award was proof that Africa could pro­duce world-class sci­en­tists and served as an in­spi­ra­tion for young sci­en­tists.

Chin­samy-Tu­ran said chil­dren should un­der­stand sci­ence and not just learn from text­books.

“Africa as a whole has so much her­itage and his­tory, but peo­ple are rarely ex­posed to it. In­for­ma­tion about the world dat­ing back from 3.8 bil­lion years ago to the mod­ern era can all be found here, on the con­ti­nent of Africa. The en­tire spec­trum of time is en­cap­su­lated in the rocks of Africa.”

She said ex­pos­ing young peo­ple to sci­ence had a few prob­lems.

“The prob­lem is twofold. There are not enough pa­le­on­tol­o­gists from Africa work­ing in Africa and the books writ­ten on work in Africa are writ­ten by Euro­pean re­searchers.”

Chin­samy-Tu­ran plans to re­lease another book on di­nosaurs in Africa next year.

She has also been in­volved in run­ning a sum­mer school course on evo­lu­tion­ary biology start­ing in Jan­uary, and has helped plan an in­ter­na­tional bio­di­ver­sity con­fer­ence be­gin­ning next month.

“We’ve planned five lec­tures as well as two pub­lic lec­tures so peo­ple can feel free to join us.”

Lec­tur­ers in­clude Steve Good­man, de­scribed as the “Michael Jor­dan” of biology and Wits Univer­sity pro­fes­sor Mar­cus Byrne who, with three other re­searchers won the Ig No­bel Prize for his work show­ing dung bee­tles use the light of the Milky Way for ori­en­ta­tion.

kowthar.solomon@inl.co.za

UP AND UP: Other places have roads, St James has flights of stairs. This is Ja­cob’s Lad­der, which runs up the moun­tain all the way from Main Road to Boyes Drive. It is not clear when the ‘then’ pic­ture was taken, but it was pub­lished as a post­card. The view has changed lit­tle over the years – the

HON­OURED: Pro­fes­sor Anuyasa Chin­samy-Tu­ran

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