Witsies win six Science Oscars at prestigious national research awards
- Wits University
Wits researchers won six National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)-South32 research awards .
Dr Tegan Bristow, Professor Raymond Durrheim, Dr Bavesh Kana and team, Dr Musa Manzi and team, Professor Bruce Mellado, and Dr Boitumelo Innocent Ramatsetse were winners across six different categories at the 2020/2021 NSTF-South32 Awards.
The dual-city hybrid event, live-streamed from gala events in Johannesburg and Cape Town simultaneously, took place on Thursday, 30 September 2021.
Blade Nzimande, Minister of Higher Education, Innovation and Training, the official patron of the awards, delivered the keynote address.
The prestigious awards, considered the ‘Oscars of Science’, recognise outstanding contributions to science, engineering, technology (SET), and innovation, in 13 categories.
Wits researchers won in the Special Annual Theme Award; Innovation: Corporate Organisation; Emerging Researcher; Researcher; Data for Research; and Lifetime Award categories.
Professor Lynn Morris, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation at Wits, says: “Winning awards in six categories highlights the extent and the richness of research excellence at Wits. Congratulations to all the winners and their teams for using their ingenuity to create a better society for all.”
Special Annual Theme Award
The NSTF this year made a Special Annual Theme Award for an outstanding contribution to science, engineering, technology and innovation towards the ‘Creative Economy for Sustainable Development’.
This is in recognition of the declaration by the United Nations of the year of the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development.
Dr Tegan Bristow, Senior Lecturer in the School of Fine Arts and Director of the Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival, won the Special Annual Theme Award for her contribution to the direction of the Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival and for leading development and research in the digital creative industry in Africa.
Dr Tiisetso E Lephoto, Lecturer and Researcher in the School of Molecular and Cell Biology at Wits, was also nominated in the Special Annual Theme Award category, as was Dr Alseno Kagiso Mosai, a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Chemistry (based on the NSTF-Water Research Commission and the Engineering Research Capacity Development nomination).
Bristow was also a finalist in the Management Award category.
Innovation Award: Corporate Organisation
Professor Bavesh Kana is Director and CEO of the DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence for Biomedical TB Research. He is the team leader of the Biomimicry Diagnostic Verification Controls Team. DSI-NRF refers to the Department of Science and Innovation and National Research Foundation.
Kana and his team won the Innovation Award: Corporate Organisation, for innovations and research and/or development by a team or an individual over the last five to 10 years. The award recognises the team's use of biomimicry to verify diagnostic tests for Covid-19 and other infectious diseases.
Dr Tiisetso E Lephoto, Lecturer and Researcher in the School of Molecular and Cell Biology was also nominated in this category, and Dr Boitumelo Innocent Ramatsetse, Lecturer and Researcher in Engineering Graphics and Design, Educational Information and Engineering Technology was a finalist.
Data for Research Award
Dr Musa Manzi accepted the Data for Research Award on behalf of the School of Geosciences Data Collection and Storage Facility. Manzi co-leads the team with Professor Raymond Durrheim and Glen Nwaila. The award is for developing techniques to use legacy data to explore for mineral resources, support safe and efficient mining, and assess and mitigate geohazards.
Wits Biomedical Informatics and Translational Sciences (WitsBITS), a Division of Wits Health Consortium under the leadership of Ms Irma Adele Maré, REDCap Manager and Honorary Lecturer in Surgery at Wits, was also nominated in this category.
TW Kambule-NSTF Award: Emerging Researcher
Dr Boitumelo Innocent Ramatsetse, Lecturer and Researcher in Engineering Graphics and Design, Educational Information and Engineering Technology in Mathematics Education in the School of Education, won the Emerging Researcher Award for designing and developing an innovative beneficiation solution called a Reconfigurable Vibrating Screen (RVS). The RSV separates mineral particles according to size and volumes as demanded by customers in the mining and mineral processing industries.
Other Wits nominees in this category were Dr Geoff Beck, School of Physics; Dr Tiisetso E Lephoto, School of Molecular and Cell Biology (also profiled as part of the NSTF's Brilliant Minds Programme); Associate Professor Thashree Marimuthu, Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology; and Dr Alseno Kagiso Mosai, School of Chemistry.
TW Kambule-NSTF Award: Researcher
Professor Bruce Mellado won the TW Kambule-NSTF Award: Researcher, which recognises an individual from 6 years up to 15 years of research work from the commencement of the research career, predominantly in South Africa.
Mellado is Research Professor in the School of Physics at Wits and Senior Scientist at iThemba LABS. Here he is coordinator of the Technology Innovation Platform in Artificial Intelligence and Director of the Institute for Collider Particle Physics.
The award recognises Mellado's contribution in SA (through the management of the SA contribution) to the Large Hadron Electron Collider at the CERN facility, the oversight of the development and production of a unique 16-layer electronics circuit board, and numerous other contributions in physics and artificial intelligence.
Wits Professor Raseelo J. Moitsheki, Head of the Wits School of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics, was also nominated in this category.
Professor Raymond Durrheim, in the Wits School of Geosciences, won the Lifetime Award, which is bestowed on an individual over a lifetime (15 years or more).
Durrheim is the DSI-NRF SARChI Research Chair in Exploration, Earthquake and Mining Seismology.
DSI-NRF SARChI refers to the Department of Science and Innovation-National Research Foundation South African Research Chairs Initiative.
Durrheim’s research interests include geophysics, seismology, exploration, earthquakes, mining, engineering, environment, and geohazards.
The award recognises Durrheim’s application of his expertise in geophysics and seismology to learn how the Earth works, where to find ore bodies and energy resources, to make mining safer, and how to mitigate the risks of earthquakes.
Professor Raseelo J. Moitsheki, Head of the School of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics and Shirley Abelman, Professor Emeritus in the School, were also nominated in the Lifetime Award category.
Wits finalists for the NSTF-Water Research Commission Award
Tamiru Aibye, Professor of Hydrology in the School of Geosciences and Professor Craig Sheridan in the School of Geography, Archeology and Environmental Studies at Wits were finalists for the NSTF-Water Research Commission Award.
Abiye is a widely published NRF-rated researcher. His work advances sustainable use of groundwater to alleviate poverty and enhance economic development, given that Africa has large groundwater reserves which are resilient to climate change. Abiye was involved in establishing and managing the Ethiopian Association of Hydrogeologists and the Africa Groundwater Network.
Sheridan is a chemical engineer and Director of the Centre in Water Research and Development (CIWaRD) at Wits. He is currently the principal investigator on a Joint Programme Initiative (Water JPI) project, funded by the European Union. The project involves constructing and monitoring two small-scale community-usage grey-water treatment wetlands in Setswetla, near Alexandra township. He also conducts research on the treatment of acid mine drainage.
About the NSTF-South32 Awards
The NSTF Awards honour and celebrate outstanding contributions to science, engineering and technology (SET) and innovation.
The awards encourage and reward excellence in:
- Scientific research
- Management of SET and Innovation
- Engineering research capacity development
- Water solutions
- Data for research
- Science communication
- NGO Award
The NSTF Awards date from 1998 and have since 2015 been organised in partnership with South32, a resources company which was established after the demerger of BHP Billiton.
The Awards are the largest and most prestigious public SET and innovation awards in South Africa.
Endorsed by the DSI, the Awards are unique in South Africa and Blade Nzimande, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology is the official patron.
Youth outreach is an integral part of the awards project. Top performing learners in mathematics and science in Grade 12 are recognised every year through the Brilliants Programme. There is also a year-long series of interactions with students and learners by Award Winners across the country. This is called the NSTF Share ‘n Dare Programme.