Making science fun for all pays off
UCT Professor wins prestigious award
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.
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HONOURED: Professor Anuyasa Chinsamy-Turan