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Wits women scientists honoured at awards

- By Schalk Mouton

Three Wits Researchers have been honoured in the 2015 Women in Science Awards, hosted by the Department of Science and Technology.

Professor Maureen Coetzee, co-director of the Wits Research Institute for Malaria and DST/NRF research chair in medical entomology and vector control won the Life Sciences award in the Distinguished Women Researchers category, while Dr. Lisa du Toit of the Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology was second runner-up in the Life Sciences award in the Distinguished Young Women Researchers category.

Professor Shireen Abdool Aziz Hassim from the Department of Political Studies was nominated for the Humanities and Social Sciences award in the Distinguished Women Researchers Category.

The Women in Sciences awards are held annually with the aim to both reward and celebrate outstanding research work in areas aligned to the attainment of the country’s Millennium Development Goals.

The theme for the 2015 awards was Science for a Sustainable Future, and Coetzee won her category for her work on attempts to eradicate Malaria.

Coetzee started working in medical entomology in 1975 for the National Malaria Control Programme.

Her research involves insecticide resistance in the major African malaria vector mosquitoes, biodiversity within the genus Anopheles, novel methods for controlling malaria vectors and vector-parasite interactions.

She has played a pivotal role in guiding malaria vector control policy in SA, Zimbabwe and Zambia and assist control agencies, such as the US President’s Malaria Initiative.

Du Toit is a full-time lecturer at the Wits Medical School. She completed her PhD in 2013 under supervision of Professor Viness Pillay, director of the Wits Advanced Drug Delivery Platform, focussing on drug delivery system design.

Du Toit has published 102 publications in high-impact ISI-recognised journals. She was also shortlisted as a finalist for the 2014-15 NSTF Awards in the TW Kambule Emerging Researcher category.