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Witsie newsmakers

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Wits alumni achievements, appointments and news

Science, engineering and medicine 

  • Systems ecologist Professor Bob Scholes (BSc 1978, BSc Hons 1979, PhD 1988) led a strategic environmental impact assessment on fracking, which was completed last year. According to Business Day, he said that “development of commercially viable shale gas in the Karoo would generate far fewer new energy jobs than the 100,000 people currently engaged in farming, or the 5,000-10,000 in tourism in the region.”
  • HIV vaccine scientist Professor Maria Papathanasopoulos (BSc 1990, BSc Hons 1991,PhD 1998) has been appointed Assistant Dean: Research and Postgraduate Affairs in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Wits.
  • Outstanding medical educator Dr Alan Richards (MBBCh 1966) received the Valor in Educational Service Award for service to learners at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. In an interview about his teaching philosophy, he quoted Wits surgery professors Bert Myburgh – “the person who says he/she knows everything is unteachable” – and Sonny du Plessis – “there are no mysteries in surgery; only mysterious surgeons”.
  • Portia (Molefe) Derby (MBA 2002) has been appointed Senior Regional Director for Gauteng at consulting engineering company Aurecon.
  • Physics PhD student Irenge Bienvenue Ndagano (BSc 2014, BSc Hons 2015, MSc 2016) is the lead author on a paper on quantum communications which has exciting implications for fast and secure data transfer.
  • Themba Mosai (BSc Eng 1999) has been appointed CEO of Group Five.  
  • Chemistry PhD student Funeka Nkosi (BSc 2012 BSc Hons 2013) is one of 400 young scientists from 76 countries selected to participate in this year’s 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau, Germany
  • Bioengineer Graham Peyton (BEng 2011, BSc Eng 2012, MSc Eng 2014) won £10,000 in the Venture Catalyst Challenge at Imperial College, London, for his start-up venture. Microsonix is working on shrinking the components of ultrasound machines down to a single chip so as to make a low-cost, portable medical imaging device that can connect to tablets or smartphones.
  • Shakira Choonara (BHS 2010) was chosen as Woman of the Year in Healthcare by Woman of Stature, an organisation which raises funds for charity.
  • Emeritus Professor Beverley Kramer (BSc 1970, BSc Hons 1971, PhD 1976) has been elected as a Fellow of the American Association of Anatomists.
  • Dr Reubina Wadee (MBBCh 2004, MM 2013) was awarded R100 000 from the NHLS Research Trust for her PhD research on endometrial carcinoma.
  • Wits’ School of Physiology awarded the third Helen Laburn Research Prize to Professors Andrea Fuller, Director of the Brain Function Research Group (BSc 1995, BSc Hons 1996, PhD 2000) and Angela Woodiwiss, Co-Director of the Cardiovascular Pathophysiology and Genomics Research Unit (BSc 1985, BSc Physio 1986, MSc 1990, PhD 1996).
  • The National Research Foundation has awarded funding to alumnae Dr Ann George (BSc 1987, BSc Hons 1992, PhD 2014; Centre for Health Science Education), Dr Tanya Augustine (BSc 2003, BSc Hons 2004, MSc 2007, PhD 2014; School of Anatomical Sciences), and Thulile Khanyile (MSc Med 2015). The latter, a PhD candidate in the HIV Pathogenesis Research Unit, was also a runner-up in the academic excellence category at the South African Youth Awards.
  • Shanil (Shaun) Ramdhany (BPharm 1998) been elected president of the Canadian Association of Radiopharmaceutical Scientists. He is the VP Operations at Isologic in Canada.
  • The CSIR’s Professor Fulufhelo Nelwamondo (BSc Eng 2005; PhD 2008) received the Order of Mapungubwe in Silver for his excellent contribution to the field of science, particularly electrical engineering.
  • Professors Peter Cooper (PhD 1999) and Pravin Manga (MBBCh 1974, PhD 1993) have been honoured with the status of Emeritus Professor for their outstanding contribution to Wits University.  Prof Cooper’s research focus is on aspects of neonatology and probiotics and Prof Manga’s research interest is valvular and ischaemic heart disease.

Arts, humanities, business and law

  • Paul Mrkusic (BArch 2002) is CEO of the South African Antique, Art and Design Association – where he wants members to break the rules and go “beyond fashion”.
  • Pianist and singer Yonela Mnana (BMus 2008) is on the Mail & Guardian’s list of “people who have our attention in 2017”.
  • On the same list is artist Mbali Dhlamini (MA FA 2016), who has studied the role of colour in the Africanisation of missionary Christianity.
  • Historian Professor Keith Breckenridge (BA 1987, BA Hons 1988), Deputy Director of WiSER, has won the Academy of Science of South Africa’s Humanities Book Award for his book Biometric State: The Global Politics of Identification and Surveillance in South Africa, 1850 to the Present.
  • Rakesh Mohanlal (MBBCh 1994) is the first person to gain approval from the National Bar Council of South Africa to practise as an advocate as well as a medical doctor.
  • Transnet CFO Garry Pita (BCom 2000, BCom Acc 2001) was nominated for the 2017 CFO Awards, which recognise CFOs of listed companies, large corporations, state-owned entities and government institutions, and awards them for outstanding performance and leadership.
  • Several Witsies are on the new board of the SABC: Mathatha Tsedu (BA Hons 2008), Khanyisile Kweyama (PDM 1996), John Matisonn (BA 1996) and Febe Potgieter-Gqubule (MM2007)
  • Dr Kendall Petersen (BA 2003, BA Hons 2004, MA 2005, PhD 2012) is Wits’ new Diversity, Ethics and Social Justice Manager. “If you are going to commit yourself to bringing about change, then you should start at home,” he said.
  • Chartered accountant Refilwe Nkabinde (BAcc 2001) is the CFO of ICT company BCX. She spoke to CFO South Africa about the powerful women who mentored her.
  • Wits-trained actuary Dixit Joshi (BSc 1992) has been appointed Group Treasurer for Deutsche Bank. In this article, he talks about the future of fixed income trading.
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