THE 2018 SA WOMEN IN SCIENCE AWARDS CELEBRATE THE LIFE OF MAMA ALBERTINA SISULU
The South African Women in Science Awards (SAWiSA), an annual countrywide celebration of women in science and technology led by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), will take place on 23 August in Limpopo. The DST has been hosting SAWiSA since 2003. 7KH DZDUGV SURÀOH ZRPHQ VFLHQWLVWV DQG researchers who serve as role models for younger women, and encourage and reward younger women who are starting their careers as researchers and scientists. The theme for the 2018 SAWiSA event is “100 Years of Mama Albertina Sisulu: Women United in Moving South Africa Forward”. Minister of Science and Technology Mmamoloko KubayiNgubane will host this year’s event which will once again showcase amazing ZRPHQ GRLQJ VLJQLÀFDQW ZRUN LQ VFLHQFH technology and innovation.
THE 2017 AWARDS
Last year’s winners included a number of amazing women who scooped top honours in the humanities and social sciences and the natural sciences categories.
PROFESSOR AZWIHANGWISI HELEN MAVHANDU-MUDZUSI
won the humanities and social sciences category. Prof Mavhandu-Mudzusi is currently a full professor in the Department of Health Studies at the University of South Africa (Unisa) and the Chairperson of the Research Ethics Committee of Unisa’s College of Human Sciences. Prof Mavhandu-Mudzusi holds a PhD in Public Administration from the University of Venda. Professor Mavhandu-Mudzusi’s main research objectives centre on the reduction of new HIV infections and improving the quality of life of people living with HIV in rural communities. Integral to these objectives is the work that Prof Mavhandu-Mudzusi does in advocating for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) students. This has led Prof Mavhandu-Mudzusi to develop an advocacy, care and support model for LGBTIQ students, and a management model for staff and students living with HIV. The implementation of these models has assisted in economically empowering both women living with HIV, and homosexual and gender non-conforming women in the changing world of the workplace. With an NRF C3 rating, Prof Mavhandu-Mudzusi is the author of 29 peer-reviewed publications, a book chapter and 23 peer-reviewed conference papers. She is involved in a multi-country and multi-university project entitled “Destabilising Heteronormativity in the Southern Africa
Development Community (SADC) Institutions of Higher Education”. Prof Mavhandu-Mudzusi is the principal investigator in a collaborative cross-national research project with the University of Liège and Alliant International University on the attitudes of heterosexual university students towards same-sex marriage and parenting.
Prof Mavhandu-Mudzusi has successfully supervised three PhD and 15 Master’s students, and is currently supervising 10 PhD and 10 Master’s students at Unisa, in addition to mentoring two doctoral students in the New Generation of Academics Programme (nGAP) at Sefako Makgatho and Limpopo universities.
A professional nurse registered with the South African Nursing Council, Prof Mavhandu-Mudzusi is a MAC AIDS Fund Leadership Initiative fellow of Columbia University; the University of California, Los Angeles and the Human Sciences Research Council. She is the guest editor for two journals, as well as a reviewer for several international and local journals and conferences.
PROFESSOR COLLEEN DOWNS won the natural sciences category. She is currently a full professor of Zoology in the School of Life Sciences and a fellow at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). Prof Downs holds a NRF
South African Research Chair in Ecosystem Health and Biodiversity in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. She holds a PhD in Zoology from UKZN.
Prof Downs is a terrestrial vertebrate biologist with broad and interdisciplinary research interests. These include conservation, ecology, physiology and behaviour of terrestrial vertebrates (herps, birds and mammals) in unpredictable environments and with changing land use. Her other interest is science education, particularly problems experienced by Biology students and strategies to address such problems. Her other contribution has been in the development of research capacity, particularly at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
Prof Downs is the author of over 264 international peerreviewed publications and six book chapters. Prof Downs has established a strong interdisciplinary research group at UKZN, and currently supervises 15 PhD and 16 MSc students, and mentors five postdoctoral fellows. She has successfully supervised 35 PhD and 46 MSc students. Prof Downs has also supervised exchange students from La Réunion, Konstanz, John Hopkins, Liverpool and Amsterdam universities.
The awards also celebrate rising stars in science, technology and innovation like PROFESSOR TRICIA
NAICKER. She is UKZN’s youngest associate professor in the College of Health Sciences and Academic Leader (HOD) for the Discipline of Pharmaceutical Sciences.
Prof Naicker completed her PhD in an area (asymmetric organocatalysis) that was the first to be explored in Africa.
Prof Naicker’s fully published thesis and academic efforts won her the 2011 DST Women in Science doctoral fellowship. Her research outputs endorsed the prestigious Oppenheimer postdoctoral award, which she pursued at Aarhus University, Denmark under the guidance of worldrenowned leader Prof KA Jørgensen (H- index 90). Prof Naicker was the first candidate from the African continent to be accepted into this esteemed research facility.
She was appointed as a senior lecturer at UKZN in 2013. Based on her specialised expertise and as a pioneer in the field, the highly ranked Catalysis and Peptide Research
Unit at UKZN began collaborating with her as the first woman to join their team. After a short time, Prof Naicker became a principle investigator in the unit and took over the leadership of the synthetic division for drug discovery. She has thus far secured more than R5 million in funding as main/co-applicant and has graduated 10 MSc and four PhD students as main/co-supervisor. She is currently supervising five MSc and three PhD students and mentoring three postdoctoral fellows.
Prof Naicker has a remarkable 72 international peerreviewed publications. In addition, she serves as an editor for the South African Journal of Chemistry. She maintains the importance of active research through the
mentorship of younger academics/postgrads by initiating collaborations (local and international) with emerging researchers as well as school learners to further their studies. Her current research interests are focused toward method development in organic synthesis of biologically important intermediates/drugs within the field of antibacterials. This work has led to a patent of innovative new molecules targeting drug-resistant bacteria which is currently a severe global epidemic.
The DST is also committed to ensuring that the next generation of scientist and researchers are well-trained and supported. The annual awards include categories that reward outstanding student talent.
Last year, KENEILWE HLAHANE won the DST Fellowship in the Master’s category. She obtained her BSc Geology degree from UKZN. She went on to complete a BSc Honours degree in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and is currently enrolled as a Master’s student in GIS and Remote Sensing at the same university.
Miss Hlahane’s MSc research forms part of the Earth Observation National Eutrophication Monitoring Programme which is led by CyanoLakes and funded by the South African Water Research Commission (WRC).
Her Master’s project focuses on Monitoring Eutrophication using GIS and Satellite Remote Sensing in the Vaal River, Gauteng. Eutrophication is a water pollution problem that deteriorates water quality.
Miss Hlahane’s research is important because it aims to find new methods of studying the water quality in rivers and the study will present new methods of monitoring water quality using data obtained from remote sensing satellites. She has presented preliminary results of her MSc dissertation to Rand Water and WRC. She has also assisted as a GIS intern in a project assessing the acid mine drainage pollution at Tweelopiesspruit, Gauteng.
Miss Hlahane was awarded the Esri Young Scholar Award 2017 for South Africa. As the winning young scholar, Miss Hlahane presented her research at the Esri International User Conference in San Diego, United States of America in July 2017. She represented Esri South Africa at a special exhibition at the conference for leading students from around the world who have shown excellence in research associated with using GIS Esri software.
Miss Hlahane contributed a chapter to a book entitled Management and Mitigation of Acid Mine Drainage. Her work has also been published in Science Today magazine, in an article “Every Drop Counts: Watching Water from Space”. The article was selected as part of the best postgraduate science writing competition in 2016.
Miss Hlahane was also awarded with student conference scholarships to present her MSc work at the International Symposium on Remote Sensing of the Environment, Tshwane in May 2017. She was awarded with a scholarship to participate in a summer school by the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU) in 2016, together with scholars from various universities such as Copenhagen, Oxford and Cambridge. The course presented sustainable water management in Africa.