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2010/11 Finalists

It affords the NSTF great pleasure to announce the finalists in alphabetical order across all categories for individuals and similarly the finalists in the Research leading to Innovation categories

Who's Who of SETI in South Africa (pdf format, 2 016 kb)


  • Category - Research and its Outputs (over the last 5 to 10 years)
    Professor Nigel Bennett
    Professor of Mammalogy, and SARChi Professor of Behavioural Ecology and Physiology, University of Pretoria

    Professor Nigel Bennett is nominated for his outstanding contribution to Mammalogy.
    Professor Bennett’s work on mole-rats is important both to our understanding of the physiological mechanisms regulating reproduction in mammals and to the evolution of mammalian societies more generally. Since mole-rats are a group of vertebrates whose breeding systems most closely resemble those of eusocial insects (such as bees and termites) they (and Prof Bennett’s work) are of great significance to many different realms of biology.
  • Category - Through Management and related Science, Engineering and Technology Activities over the last 5-10 years
    David Benjamin Botha
    Outreach, formerly Executive Director, SA Institution of Civil Engineering

    Dawie Botha, South Africa’s civil engineering ambassador locally and internationally
    Dawie Botha was instrumental in ‘putting’ civil engineering on the map in SA, as well as raising the SA Institution of Civil Engineering’s stature internationally. He was responsible for establishing the Africa Engineers Forum in 1995 with the resultant co-operation between the signatories regarding capacity building. He is sought after internationally by engineering institutions in matters regarding capacity building in the civil engineering industry.
  • Category - SAASTA Science Communicator for Outreach and Public Awareness over the last 5 years
    Professor Bruce Cairncross
    Head of Department of Geology, University of Johannesburg

    Bruce Cairncross is a renowned expert on southern Africa’s minerals and gemstones and has published and entertained audiences widely on this subject.
    Bruce Cairncross is an internationally acclaimed expert on Southern Africa’s geoheritage, notably, the minerals and gemstones of the region. He has published six books on the subject and many journal and magazine articles that are available to the general public. He is a regular invited speaker at local and international meetings where he is asked to speak to general (non-geological) audiences on the subject of southern Africa’s rich mineral heritage. Professor Cairncross is also an internationally recognised mineral and gemstone photographer and his photos have featured in print and electronic media in South Africa and abroad.
  • Categories - Through Research and its Outputs, and TW Kambule NRF  Senior Black Researcher, both over the last 5-10 years
    Professor Kelly Chibale
    SARChi Professor in Drug Discovery, Department of Chemistry UCT

    Significant contributions to research capacity and skills development in several key areas critical to the discovery of modern pharmaceutical medicines
    Professor Chibale has made significant contributions to the field of drug discovery against diseases that disproportionately affect Africans. He has set up various modern technology platforms for the discovery of potential medicines and established Africa’s first integrated modern drug discovery centre at UCT. He has contributed significantly to research capacity development in terms of building capacity and competency in several key areas, critical to the discovery of medicines. He has an impressive record of attracting and training postgraduate students as well as publishing papers in international peer-reviewed journals of high standing. He also has an impressive record of attracting research funds.
  • Category - Eskom Research Capacity Developer over the last 5 to 10 years
    Professor Lesley A Cornish
    School of Chemical and Mechanical Engineering, Wits; Director of African Materials Science and Engineering Network; Director of DST/NRF Centre of Excellence of Strong Materials

    Instigator of the African Materials Science and Engineering Network (AMSEN) funded by Carnegie-IAS, and supervisor of many black students
    Lesley Cornish was the prime instigator of the African Materials Science and Engineering Network (AMSEN) funded by Carnegie-IAS. AMSEN was one of the five networks chosen from 48 applications, and includes a university in each of SA, Namibia, Kenya, Nigeria and Botswana. The rationale is to develop the next generation of academics through collaborative research. There are 10 research teams, 29 academics and 19 students. Each student has at least two supervisors across the network, and students write reports and make presentations. Even before the advent of AMSEN, she supervised black students, including Scarce Skill students, to a total of over 20, and from various African countries.
  • Categories - Over a Lifetime, and Research and its Outputs over the last 5 to 10 years
    Professor Donald Arthur Cowan
    Professor of Microbiology and Director of Institute for Microbial Biotechnology and Metagenomics, University of the Western Cape

    Over his career as a microbiologist, Professor Cowan has made major contributions to science in SA and abroad, particularly in the field of ‘extremophiles’ (organisms that thrive in and may even require physically or geochemically extreme conditions that are detrimental to most life on Earth).
    Over 30 years Professor Cowan has made major international contributions in the field of the microbiology of ‘extremophiles’. His studies on the diversity, adaptation and metagenomics of these organisms, particularly cold-adapted micro-organisms inhabiting Antarctic desert soils, have led to a growing realisation of the importance of extremophiles as a valuable genetic resource. His laboratory is now recognised as one of the leading international extremophile research centres and as one of the most productive laboratories in the biological sciences in the world. Professor Cowan joined UWC in 2001 and has built a research team of nearly 60 staff (now known as the UWC Institute for Microbial Biotechnology and Metagenomics).
  • Category - TW Kambule NRF Distinguished Young Black Researcher over the last 2 to 5 years
    Professor Savel Daniels
    Associate Professor of Zoology, Department of Plant and Animal Sciences, Stellenbosch University

    To document the biodiversity of SA’s rich invertebrate fauna and assist the development of conservation management plans for species and ecosystems.
    His research focuses on documenting the alpha (within-habitat), beta (between-habitat) and gamma (geographical) diversity of SA’s rich invertebrate fauna, focusing on genes and species relationships using both molecular and morphological data. Understanding the patterns of biodiversity is important for the conservation of species and eco-regions. Considering that SA is an exceptionally rich biodiversity country, this research is critical to aid both contemporary and future conservation management of the country’s biodiversity.
  • Category - Eskom Research Capacity Developer over the last 5 to 10 years
    Professor Jakobus Eloff
    Head of Phytomedicine Programme, University of Pretoria

    Since 2001 23 MSc and 14 black PhD students from SA (21) and the rest of Africa (14) graduated under his guidance and were co-authors of 101 publications in international scientific journals and 104 congress presentations.
    Professor Kobus Eloff was supervisor/co-supervisor, of 15 MSc and six PhD students from South Africa, as well as eight MSc and six PhD students from the rest of Africa. In addition, he has supervised five white female graduates since 2001; of these, 81% of the MSc students passed with distinction. Currently, seven MSc and 12 PhD students from South Africa are enrolled in the Phytomedicine Programme, as well as seven PhD students from the rest of Africa. Of the SA black students, 53% were female. Several students were registered at historically black universities and many staff members and students from the University of Limpopo Turfloop, Medunsa, Walter Sisulu University, the University of Venda, the Vaal University of Technology and Unitra did practical work in the Phytomedicine Programme.
  • Category - SAASTA Science Communicator for Outreach and Public Awareness over the last 5 years
    Dr Bridget Lindsay Farham
    Editor: Quest - Science for South Africa

    Quest - Science for South Africa is a quarterly popular science magazine, which stimulates interest in science by showcasing local scientific achievements and scientists.
    Quest - Science for South Africa is a popular, full-colour quarterly science magazine that is freely and widely distributed to South African high schools with science departments, education departments at tertiary institutions, science centres and the public.Dr Farham, as editor, is responsible for ensuring the inclusion of topical and interesting articles that aim to stimulate an interest in science and provide additional teaching and learning material to complement and enrich the school curriculum. The target market is learners from Grades 10 to 12 and their teachers. The magazine covers topical themes, in all the sciences. Dr Farham is also responsible for the web site, www.questinteractive.co.za, which is updated weekly with pertinent local and international science news and provides learners with an opportunity to ask questions and comment on articles.
  • Category - Research and its Outputs over the last 5 to 10 years
    Professor Jill Farrant
    Professor of Molecular Cell Biology, University of Cape Town

    The study of plant desiccation tolerance on plants unique to SA to improve drought resistance and food security
    Jill Farrant is a recognised world leader in the field of plant desiccation tolerance (the ability to withstand or endure extreme dryness, or drought-like conditions). The research is novel in that it is conducted on unique plants (tolerant of loss of >95% water content) endemic to southern Africa, on multiple tissue types, using a multidisciplinary approach and has fundamental and applied outcomes. It is aimed at producing drought-tolerant crops for use in Africa that offers a solution to food shortage and mitigation against the potential effects of climate change.
  • Category - SAASTA Science Communicator for Outreach and Public Awareness over the last 5 years
    Mr Derek Fish
    Director: Unizul Science Centre, KwaZulu-Natal

    Derek Fish has exemplified science communication for outreach by offering excellence to the previously unreached for almost 20 years.
    Derek Fish has devoted himself to science communication for outreach for 18 years. He has been active in a broad range of fields, including science shows, talks, exhibits, games, print and graphic media and drama, and has received many awards. Most of this communication excellence has been in the form of outreach to over 200 000 pupils in severely disadvantaged rural schools. In addition to personal excellence, he has greatly enhanced the field through training, workshops and support provided through the Institute of Physics, the science centre network, science festivals and other avenues.
    This outreach works extends overseas - he has given presentations on every continent.
  • Category - SAASTA Science Communicator for Outreach and Public Awareness over the last 5 years
    Kevindran Govender
    Manager: SALT Collateral Benefits Programme Africa, Cape Town

    Kevindran Govender has demonstrated that astronomy is a powerful tool for science education, communication and development.
    Kevin Govender believes astronomy is a tool for development and has led several activities to realise this through astronomy education and communication, including the SALT Collateral Benefits Programme, which seeks to derive developmental benefit for underprivileged communities surrounding the observatory in Sutherland, and the International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009). The SA science communication community was rallied during IYA2009 to use astronomy as a tool to communicate SET. IYA2009 focused on developing countries; SA now hosts the Global Office of Astronomy for Development. Relevant resources to promote the SALT Collateral Benefits Programme and IYA2009 were also produced. 
  • Category - Over a Lifetime
    Professor Johan U Grobbelaar
    Senior Professor of Plant Sciences, University of the Free State

    For contributions to limnology, algal biotechnology, environmental science, teaching and social upliftment, spanning a career of 44 years.
    Professor Grobbelaar established the first commercial algal biotechnology production plant for social upliftment in SA (Musina Spirulina in Limpopo Province) in partnership with the Local Economic Development Network, and funded by government. He led the first two experimental biological expeditions to the sub-Antarctic Marion Island and completed the first PhD on research done on Marion Island. (The subject of his research was limnology, the study and management of inland waters). This research, although completed in 1974, is still the reference information on the limnology of Marion Island. He was involved in a US$70 million project in Arizona in the US to produce Jet-A fuel from algae. He established limnology and algal biotechnology as teaching and research subjects and initiated and established the Centre for Environmental Management at the UFS. He also organised milestone conferences such as the 1st International Congress on Applied Phycology in 1994, and the 31st Congress of the International Limnological Society in 2010.
  • Category - TW Kambule NRF Distinguished Young Black Researcher over the last 2 to 5 years
    Dr Mohamed Azeem Khan
    Senior Lecturer, Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Cape Town

    Dr Khan has contributed towards the understanding of industrial motor efficiency and the design of small wind-energy capture and storage systems.
    Dr Khan has contributed to the advancement of industrial energy efficiency and renewable energy systems. In particular, his work on industrial energy efficiency provided a detailed understanding of the effects of certain power quality issues on the performance of industrial energy-efficient induction motors. Further work provided an understanding of the impact of repairs on the efficiency of induction motors in SA. His work on renewable energy systems provided new topologies and design methodologies for small wind generators. Further work on renewables included energy storage by means of rotating flywheel energy storage systems. His recent work on renewables relates to the sustainable capture and storage of wind energy by using redundant computer and automotive parts.
  • Category - TW Kambule NRF Senior Black Researcher over the last 5 to 10 years
    Professor  Nonhlanhla P Khumalo
    Associate Professor, Consultant Dermatologist, University of Cape Town
    Dr Khumalo uses the best available science to study common types of hair loss.
    Specific types of hair loss are most common in African hair and have until recently not been scientifically investigated.  Dr Khumalo conducted the world’s first population studies of hair and scalp disease in Africans. Using various basic science and clinical methods, she and her collaborators have unravelled the enigma of African hair length as well as the complex relationship between hairstyles and hair loss. Results of hair studies are beginning to influence hair care choices and will hopefully lead to new, healthier ways of hair care. Current studies aim to develop a non-racial clinical hair classification system for more scientific and objective product development.
  • Categories - Through Research and its Outputs, and TW Kambule NRF Senior Black Researcher, both over the last 5 to 10 years
    Professor Thokozani  Majozi
    Professor: Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Pretoria

    Research has led to the development and application of novel techniques in batch and continuous chemical process integration.
    Professor Majozi has made significant contributions in the area of process integration. He developed a mathematical technique for wastewater minimization and heat integration in multipurpose batch chemical plants that are characterised by complex recipes and a robust framework for the synthesis cooling water systems and steam system networks. The technique for batch plants is based on a state-sequence-network recipe representation that has proven to yield structurally efficient mathematical models, whilst the synthesis methods rely on an insight-driven graphical platform. Typically, the techniques have been successfully applied in multinational industries with more than 20% savings in freshwater use and wastewater generation.
  • Category - TW Kambule NRF Distinguished Young Black Researcher over the last 2 to 5 years
    Dr Nokwanda P Makunga
    Senior Lecturer, Department of Botany and Zoology, University of Stellenbosch
    Medicinal plant biotechnology meets aims of commercialisation and sustainable resource use.
    Medicinal plant biotechnology is a new paradigm for the SA and the African context, as agricultural crops were the main targets for high-end technological applications. Using a conservation-through-cultivation strategy, she has demonstrated that sustainable use of biodiversity resources can be assured whilst adding value to an ancient knowledge system of medicinal plant use, so that it remains highly revered and relevant in contemporary society. Reliance on materia medica (the body of collected knowledge about the therapeutic properties of any substance used for healing, also known as pharmacology) for livelihood and health security poses biodiversity constraints, as nature remains the primary source for these plants that are extracted indiscriminately from the wild.  The work has culminated in unique transgenic plant lines which act as biofactories providing sustainable alternatives for sought-after metabolites which are vital for human health.
  • Category - Research Capacity Developer over the last 5 to 10 years
    Professor Tshilidzi Marwala
    Executive Dean, Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment, University of Johannesburg

    Tshilidzi Marwala has been an enthusiastic research capacity developer, particularly of African students.
    Professor Tshilidzi Marwala has been the driving force behind many technological artefacts that are underpinned by the application of computational intelligence techniques in various domains, including computer science, engineering, medicine, finance, social science, and computational biology. As a genuine capacity developer, he has supervised over 50 students (mostly African) to completion, from undergraduate to postdoctoral levels. Together with his students, Marwala has published over 230 high-quality papers in books, refereed journals, and conference proceedings. Many of his graduates have continued to prove themselves in renowned institutions such as Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, Purdue, Rutgers, and Concordia Universities.
  • Category - TW Kambule NRF Distinguished Young Black Researcher over the last 2 to 5 years
    Professor Tshimangadzo Lucky Nedambale
    Programme Manager and Senior Research Scientist, Agricultural Research Council

    A dynamic young professor in the field of animal reproductive biotechnologies, and capacity builder in SA agriculture
    Professor Nedambale developed a programme called Germplasm Conservation and Reproductive Biotechnologies at the Agricultural Research Council’s Animal Production Institute. He has played a major role in developing capacity in animal reproductive biotechnology in SA.  Through this programme he trained hundreds of emerging farmers in basic artificial insemination and reproduction in farm animals.  His research programme collaborates with local and international scientists and he serves on a number of technical boards. He publishes frequently in international and local journals. He is a supervisor or co-supervisor for master’s and PhD students in several local and international universities and external examiner for local universities. He has published many papers and two chapters in books.
  • Category - Over a Lifetime
    Professor Lionel Opie
    Emeritus Professor of Medicine (Cardiology), University of Cape Town

    Africa’s best-known heart-focused scientist
    Lionel Opie is considered Africa’s best-known heart-focused scientist and the best known internationally, following Chris Barnard. His work has led to an improved understanding of the causes of heart attacks and the better use of medication for heart disease. His scientific work focuses on the cellular molecular mechanisms of fatal heart attacks (coronary heart disease). His fundamental hypothesis involved an understanding of the interaction between free fatty acids in the blood, the release of adrenaline, administration of insulin and the use of glucose by the heart.  Opie’s life-long research and dissemination of heart drug therapy through Drugs for the Heart (now in its 8th edition) have “benefited millions of people across the world”.
  • Category - TW Kambule NRF Senior Black Researcher over the last 5 to 10 years
    Professor Mamokgethi Setati
    Professor of Mathematics Education, and Executive Dean: College of SET, UNISA

    Professor Setati is highly respected nationally and internationally for her innovative, quality research on multilingualism in mathematics education.
    Professor Setati has developed an innovative strategy for teaching and learning mathematics in multilingual mathematics classrooms. Her monograph entitled “African Mathematics: from Bones to Computers” has just been released. Her publications have received more than 400 citations. Her strategy for teaching in multilingual classrooms has received much attention and she has been invited as a speaker and visiting professor at several international conferences and universities in sixteen different countries across the world.
  • Category - Through Management and related Science, Engineering and Technology Activities over the last 5 to 10 years
    Professor Gerald Swan
    Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria

    The rescue of the Asian vulture from certain extinction and the protection of the endangered Cape Griffon by the collaborative research effort of an international team.
    An international team of researchers from India, SA and the UK investigated the deaths of three species of vultures which threatened their extinction across the Indian sub-continent. The major factor responsible was identified as an anti-inflammatory drug, used by Indian farmers in cattle, which is highly toxic for vultures consuming carcasses containing the drug. The SA group, led by Prof Swan, discovered that the African white-backed vulture is equally sensitive to the drug and could be used as surrogate species in the research programme carried out in SA. An alternative non-toxic drug was identified, resulting in the potential rescue of vulture populations world-wide from extinction.
  • Category - Through Management and related Science, Engineering and Technology Activities and Category G - Research Capacity Developer, both over the last 5 to 10 years
    Dr Elma van der Lingen
    Manager, Advanced Materials Division, Mintek, Randburg

    Dr Elma van der Lingen has distinguished herself in capacity building in the field of gold and platinum group metal industrial research and development.
    Dr Elma van der Lingen was instrumental in the initiation and expansion of industrial gold research and development (R&D) in SA. An expertise base for gold in catalysis, nanotechnology and biomedical applications has been established at 10 local higher education institutions, and various international collaborators. More than 60 postgraduate students have been involved in gold R&D, and graduates have found employment in fields related to their studies. The solid foundation laid by industrial gold R&D, Project AuTEK, has also enabled Mintek to host large initiatives by the Department of Science and Technology, such as the Nanotechnology Innovation Centre, the Hydrogen Catalysis Centre of Competence, and the Advanced Metals Initiatives’ Precious and Ferrous Metals Development Networks, with a large human capacity development component.

Categories: Research for Innovation by an individual or a team through an Organisation/ Institution

  • Arthrosis Research Team
    Faculty of Veterinary Science, Onderstepoort, University of Pretoria

    Clarification of the cause of an economically important disease of cattle in the north-western part of the country and developing a cure to effectively prevent the condition.
    In the 1980s a new disease was diagnosed in cattle in the Vryburg and Reivilo areas of the North West Province. Considerable economic losses for the farmers prompted the formation of a consortium led by Prof Leon Prozesky of the Veterinary Faculty at UP in 2003 to investigate the cause of the condition and to devise a solution. The cause was identified as a mineral deficiency which could be corrected by feeding a specially formulated supplement. This product, produced by the commercial partners in the project, proved to be effective and commercially viable and thus a major contribution to solving an economically important animal health problem.
  • The Autek Biomed Team
    Mintek, Johannesburg

    Research leading to the development and commercialisation of an HIV-1 integrase assay kit and screening service.
    Extensive research into HIV-1 integrase (an HIV enzyme that allows for HIV to insert itself into a host cell DNA) has led AuTEK Biomed to the development of a biological assay for the identification of HIV-1 integrase inhibitors, the first group in SA to successfully develop a functional assay for this purpose. This assay is particularly novel as it can be used to identify inhibitors of wild-type subtype B, several mutants and subtype C HIV-1 integrase activity. Within a short period of time, the group has adapted the assay into a commercial assay kit (marketed as the AuroPureTM Integrase Assay) and a commercial screening service in order to meet demand from local researchers.
  • The Biolabels Team
    Nanotechnology Innovation Centre, AuTEK, Mintek, Johannesburg
    Development of nanotechnology-based tuberculosis and malaria point-of-care diagnostics kits.
    In an effort to address issues of national importance, the Biolabels team of the DST/Mintek Nanotechnology Innovation Centre, led by Dr Robert Tshikhudo, has developed low-cost, fast, stable and accurate point-of-care (POC) diagnostic test kits for tuberculosis (TB) and malaria. These gold nanoparticles-based POC prototypes were tested using serum and blood samples. They are simple and robust devices that can be used by individuals at home without the need for trained professionals to diagnose diseases of interest. It is envisaged that after clinical evaluation the prototypes would be available to the majority of South Africans to diagnose relevant diseases and hence improve their quality of life.
  • CAPRISA 004
    Tenofovir Gel Trial Leadership Team, University of KwaZulu-Natal

    For contributions to AIDS prevention and the discovery that antiretrovirals prevent HIV acquisition.
    Professors Salim Abdool Karim and Quarraisha Abdool Karim, SA clinical epidemiologists, have had a profound impact on HIV prevention globally, especially in developing countries. They led the landmark CAPRISA 004 study, which demonstrated that tenofovir gel prevents both HIV infection and genital herpes. This finding, published in Science while being presented at the 2010 Vienna International AIDS Conference to multiple standing ovations, has been hailed as one of the greatest scientific contributions to HIV prevention and is among the top 10 scientific breakthroughs of 2010. This discovery has the potential to alter the course of the global HIV epidemic.
  • UCT - SASOL Study Team on Cobalt Fischer-Tropsch
    Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Cape Town

    The UCT – SASOL Study Team has led the development of an entirely novel research instrument, a magnetometer, to study nano-materials at industrial conditions.
    The UCT – SASOL Study Team on Cobalt Fisher - Tropsch has led the development of an entirely novel research instrument, an in-situ magnetometer (an instrument used to measure the strength or direction of the magnetic field) in collaboration with an industrial partner (SASOL). This patented device has been in successful operation for several years now and groundbreaking results could be generated for SASOL’s proprietary research and development programme in cobalt metal-based Fischer-Tropsch catalysis. It is a truly SA instrument which possesses the capabilities to track crystallite size and distribution of nano-material in real time. It has the potential to become an indispensable tool for nano-materials characterisation at high temperature and pressure, for a large variety of users from different disciplines.
  • WeldCore team
    Automotive Components Technology Station, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University

    Innovative friction-processing solutions for reducing the risk of engineering structure failure and reducing plant downtime.
    The WeldCore team has developed a patented process and novel equipment based on friction processing, which will assist with decision-making for life extension of engineering structures, particularly those operating at high temperature and pressures. The process reduces the risk of unexpected catastrophic failure and reduces plant downtime, which contributes to substantial cost savings as well as increased safety. The technology has been developed under the guidance of Prof Danie Hattingh and other members of the eNtsa team based at NMMU.

The finalists selected indicate that there is recognition for researchers and their research within the communities of the SETI fraternity across all sectors, levels, gender and race in South Africa.

Last updated: 19 April 2011