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Wits profs shine at NSTF awards

- By Wits University

Three academics from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, won accolades at the 17th National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) Awards Gala Dinner on Thursday night, 9 July 2015. 

In the category for a Contribution Over a Lifetime by an Individual, Professors Helen Rees and Robert Scholes were honoured for their work in their respective fields.

Rees is the Executive Director for the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute at Wits and UNAIDS Collaborating Centre, as well as Personal Professor in the Wits Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. She is an Honorary Professor in the Department of Clinical Research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

The NSTF awarded her for contributions in the field of HIV prevention, reproductive health and vaccines where she enjoys global recognition, and as a public health strategist with a unique ability to translate research into policy and practice.

Scholes was a research group leader at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) until December 2014. In 2015 he became a Distinguished Professor of System Ecology at Wits. He received this award for his enormous contribution to the environmental science, systems ecology, savannah ecology and global change.

Professor Andrew Forbes received the Special Photonics Award by an individual in celebration of UNESCO’s “International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies”. Forbes started his new position as a Professor in the School of Physics at Wits in March 2015 and was previously the Chief Researcher at the CSIR National Laser Centre.  He won this category for his significant contributions to photonics in South Africa through basic research and innovations that have led to commercialisation.

Research excellence 

The awards were presented by the patron of the event, Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor.

“Wits is a remarkable university that is internationally distinguished for its excellent research, high academic standards and commitment to social justice. Our winners and the finalists in the NSTF Awards, the quality of their research and their contribution to the world pays testament to this fact.

“But it is much more than that. It is an initiator, a change agent, a place that is itself continuously transforming, with a single aim – to make our world a better place for all,” said Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Adam Habib.

Wits has an extensive footprint across the continent and more than 85% of research conducted at Wits is published in international journals, including top-tier publications such as Nature and Science. The University has increased its research output by 32% over two years. The University has also recruited 14 new Distinguished Professors in recent months.

 “Through our networks, including the African Research Universities Alliance, we are leading public health programmes that are saving lives, uncovering Africa’s mineral resources, and serving as a hub to facilitate research and postgraduate training with leading local and international institutions,” said Habib.