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R50 million donation to advance innovation in South Africa

- Wits University

Alumnus Dr David Fine's generous donation will be used to establish the Angela and David Fine Chair in Innovation.

Dr David FineFrom making air travel safer to detecting chemicals that can cause cancer, from developing advanced technologies for finding buried landmines, the curiosity of Dr David Fine, a Wits University alumnus, has resulted in innovations that have impacted on society for over 45 years.

Now, the successful Boston-based innovator and entrepreneur is heeding the call from his alma mater to help establish an ecosystem to drive researcher-led innovation at Wits that will solve some of Africa’s greatest challenges, and advance the public good.

In celebrating its centenary this year, Wits has identified innovation as one of its major strategic thrusts and Fine’s generous donation of 3-million dollars (about R50 million) will be used to establish the Angela and David Fine Chair in Innovation.

“Innovators are problem solvers. They can think practically across multiple technical disciplines, and who use accessible and inexpensive methods and material to build products and services, that have real-life impact. South Africa needs a culture of innovation. My hope is that the Chair in Innovation will help place Wits at the leading edge of innovation in the Global South,” says Dr Fine, now retired. He remains passionate about inspiring a new generation of innovative problem solvers.

“We are very grateful to Dr Fine for walking this #Wits100 journey with us. His generous donation will go a long way towards propelling our research towards innovation, enabling scholars, researchers, students and those with curious minds to seek and create new knowledge, across disciplines and sectors. Dr Fine is leaving a legacy for future generations, and this Chair in Innovation will undoubtedly create an enabling environment for the flourishing of great ideas that will herald this continent into a new era of innovation, change, and growth,” says Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal.

Dr Fine graduated from Wits with an honours degree in chemistry in 1964. He later read for a PhD from Leeds University in the United Kingdom, before leaving for the US to run the Combustion Lab at MIT. He worked for 28 years at Thermo Electron (now Thermo Fisher) before establishing two companies of his own – CyTerra in 2000, and Vero-BioTech in 2006.

World-firsts

Dr Fine has dedicated his life to transitioning high technology chemistry-based instruments from concept and research through to production and commercialisation.

Amongst his many achievements is the development of the first airport sniffers that could detect traces of plastic explosive residue in passenger luggage. This was in response to the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 259 people. Thousands of these devices have since been deployed around the world, making air travel safer. A similar device is also used to detect narcotics.

In the field of analytical chemistry, Dr Fine developed a method to detect traces of nitrosamines in foods, body fluids and in factories. Chronic nitrosamine intake is associated with numerous cancer sites. A third important innovation is a handheld detector for finding buried landmines, using a combination of ground penetrating radar and metal detection.

Innovation. For Good.

In its first 100 years, Wits has on several occasions successfully risen to meet society’s needs to turn knowledge into impactful solutions. Wits was actively involved in pioneering the development of radar, the first in the country to own a mainframe computer, to access a quantum computer, to develop a digital innovation precinct, to house a Mirage jet for use in teaching and research, to discover and describe early pre-human fossils, to host a 5G lab, and to effectively transmit data through light.

More recently, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Wits’ clinicians, researchers, social scientists, engineers, data scientists, legal experts, ethicists and others have played an important role in responding to the pandemic both locally and globally.

“It is an exciting time to be at Wits. The Chair in Innovation is part of our broader innovation strategy that includes the establishment of the Wits Innovation Centre (WIC) which will support several important initiatives that are due to be announced in the coming months. The ideal candidate for Chair in Innovation will be an innovator with a strong academic interest and experience in commercialising research ideas,” says Professor Barry Dwolatzky, Director of Innovation Strategy at Wits, founder of the Wits Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct and Director of the Joburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE).

“Innovation thrives in diversity, so naturally because Wits is a rich, diverse community of researchers, academics, students and staff, we are able to cultivate multidisciplinary collaboration, a key component towards finding solutions to the major challenges confronting humanity and our planet.”

The Wits Centenary Campaign

Wits University has made a formidable impact on society over the past 100 years and is set to continue advancing society for good. It remains a beacon of hope for South Africa, and is well-poised to serve as a catalyst for change in the decades to come.

Wits celebrates 100 years of academic and research excellence, innovation, and social justice in 2022. It launched the Centenary Campaign, that aims to raise R3 billion to support, teaching, research and innovation, infrastructure development and students. A series of events is being planned which will culminate in a Homecoming Weekend from 2-4 September 2022, closer to Wits’ official birthday.

SA teaching hospital shows 23 percent decrease in superbug transmission after novel intervention

- Wits University

A study shows for the first time that Ultraviolet room decontamination paired with manual cleaning decreases transmission of CRE by 23% in a hospital setting.

Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacterales (CRE) are a set of microorganisms that demonstrate resistance to at least one of the Carbapenem antibiotics.

The CRE crude mortality rate [death rate] is close to 40%, according to limited surveillance studies in SA.  

Researchers at the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre (WDGMC), the first private teaching hospital in SA, demonstrated the reduction in CRE transmission in a 26-month study across the 210-bed hospital.

The reduction in transmission came after a novel implementation of the intervention that combined the sustained use of a UV room decontamination device with regular cleaning using bleach and ammonium disinfectants.

US-based manufacturer UVDI and eHealthGroup Infection Control provided the UV room decontamination device known as the UVDI-360 Room Sanitizer.

The study was published in the March 2022 issue of The Journal of Hospital Infection.

About the study

The intervention included broad UV room decontamination across five high-risk patient units (including two critical care units, oncology, transplant, and gastrointestinal surgery rooms) during a 12-month period following a 12-month baseline and two-month wash-in period.

A wash-in period refers to the gap between two periods that allow for implementation. Otherwise, the effect may be obscured during the phase of implementation where use is sub-optimal.

Dr Warren Lowman Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre clinical microbiologist

“Our team’s study indicated that enhanced environmental hygiene using UV room decontamination technology in the hospital can help prevent the transmission of CRE – an especially challenging set of multidrug-resistant organisms,” says lead investigator Dr Warren Lowman, Clinical Microbiologist & Infection Prevention and Control Specialist at WDGMC and a lecturer in the Division of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in the School of Pathology at Wits University.

The UV room decontamination device was implemented in three usage scenarios:

  1. Terminal cleaning following patient discharge
  2. Terminal cleaning following patient transfer; and
  3. in a novel treatment, occupied rooms where the patient had an existing multidrug resistant organism (MDRO) infection and was moved during device use.

For each scenario, the UV device was operated with five-minute treatment cycles, the number of which varied per room setting and size.

This research underlines WDGMC’s steadfast commitment to patient and staff safety through the use of novel infection prevention protocols,” said Dr Sue Tager, CEO of WDGMC. “In the ongoing fight to prevent the transmission of superbugs, both in and beyond Africa, these results provide hope and concrete proof that effective solutions exist.”

About the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre

Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre (WDGMC) is the first and only private teaching hospital in South Africa. It was established in 2002 when the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits University) bought the Kenridge Hospital with a founding donation from the Donald Gordon Foundation. The hospital was then renamed the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre. The 210-bed facility’s main specialties are transplant surgery, oncology (paediatric and adult), gastroenterology (medical and surgical), geriatric medicine, interventional radiology ophthalmology, ear-nose and throat, urology, nephrology, cardiology, women’s health and orthopaedics.

South African History Archive returns home

- Wits University

SAHA was officially relaunched at Wits and will be part of the Archives and Research Hub.

The South African History Archive (SAHA) has been reintegrated into Wits University

Wits University has welcomed the return of the South African History Archive (SAHA), one of the most important social justice archives in the country, to its place of origin.

The reintegration of SAHA into Wits is an important moment as the University moves to establish the Archives and Research Hub in response to the crisis facing archives today.

SAHA will build on the synergies with entities at the University, such as the Historical Papers Research Archive and the History Workshop, to augment social justice archives and develop stronger interests in archives for research and learning.

“Universities have an important role to play in supporting independent archives, especially considering the crisis facing archives nationally, a crisis amplified by the fire last year at the University of Cape Town which destroyed precious and irreplaceable archives,” says Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Wits University.

Speakers at the relaunch of the South African History Archive (SAHA)

More than thirty years ago at the dawn of democracy, SAHA was established at Wits University to secure archives of the anti-apartheid movement. As an independent human rights activist archive, it continues to focus on documenting, supporting, and promoting greater awareness of and engagement with past and contemporary struggles for justice.

“SAHA pioneered archival activism by making the archive accessible to the public and to bring history out of the archive in the ongoing struggles to deepen democracy and accountability. 

“Together with Wits, it played a critical role in the conversation and debate that erupted at universities and civil society in the 1990s about the nature of archives, the place of archives, the critique of the colonial archive,” says Professor Noor Nieftagodien, SA Research Chair (SARChI): Local Histories, Present Realities, and Head of History Workshop.

That was the high moment of archives in South Africa, Nieftagodien says. Funders lined up to support independent archives and research work around archives.

“There was an excitement around archives in which the Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC) created a massive archive which is a memory of our experienced under apartheid and that generated a lot of interest in the archives.”

Today, however, the landscape is very different.

“What one sees is crisis. Archives are in a dismal state. If you go to any public archive, you’ll see various states of decay and of lack of organisation. This is really an important moment as Wits University is signalling a recognition of the state of the archive and the role it can play in support archives,” he says.

Wits is celebrating its centenary this year and in the past 100 years has amassed important collections and an impressive library.

“With SAHA and Historical and Research Papers being together, the University has two of the leading independent archives in the country and southern African region. Archives are sites of preservation, but they are also more than that. Archives should be active sites of research, for scholars and students from our continent and globally. As a research-intensive university, Wits regards the archives as an important part of its core functions,” says Vilakazi.

Read South African History Archive relaunched at Wits for more about SAHA’s reintegration into Wits University.

Self-healing arrays of twisted light from a laser

- Wits Communications

Wits physicist part of team that develops novel laser.

Interacting twists and swirls occur in many natural systems, for instance, in clusters of cyclones encircling the poles of Jupiter and motile haploid cells of sea urchins swimming in vortex trajectories. But this type of interaction doesn’t naturally happen with light, until now. 

Prof. Andrew Forbes structured light lab

An Italian-South African research collaboration featuring Professor Andrew Forbes from the School of Physics published in Nature Photonics a novel laser with 100 mini twisted laser beams that interact. Surprisingly, the interaction allowed the twists to self-heal if perturbed, ushering in a path to resilient arrays of light from lasers.

Inside the laser was a nano-structured “metasurface” made of an array of 10 x 10 mini metasurfaces, each capable of producing a twisted light beam. Twisted light is similar to the swirl we see in water draining from a sink, except in light the swirl is in its energy flow. By carefully designing the laser cavity, the team showed that the 100 twisted light beams could be coupled so that they shared common properties. As a consequence, when one was perturbed it could be self-healed by interacting with the others.

 “Usually lasers give out one blob of light, like your laser pointer, but this laser gives out 100 exotic beams all coupled together and interacting,” explains Forbes, collaborator on the project and Distinguished Professor in the School of Physics where he heads up the Wits Structured Light Laboratory. “Lasers are often very sensitive to errors, but this laser can find the error and fix it!”  

Link to the Nature Photonics article: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41566-022-00986-0

Abstract:

Geometric arrays of vortices can be found in various physics fields, owing their regular internal structure to mutual interactions within a spatially confined sys- tem. In optics, such vortex crystals may form spontaneously within a nonlinear resonator as the result of a complex energy minimization problem. Their crystallization is relevant in many areas of physics, though their usefulness in the framework of topological optics is limited by the lack of control over their topology. On the other hand, programmable devices used in free space, like spatial light modulators, allow the design of nearly arbitrary vortex distributions but without any intrinsic evolution. By combining non-Hermitian optics with on-demand topological transformations enabled by metasurfaces, we report a solid-state laser that generates optical vortices with mutual coupling and actively tunable topologies. We demonstrate 10×10 vortex laser arrays with nonlocal coupling networks that are not limited to nearest-neighbour coupling but rather dictated by the crystal’s topology. The vortex crystals exhibit sharp Bragg diffraction peaks, witnessing their coherence and high topological charge purity, which we resolve spatially over the whole lattice by introducing a parallelized analysis technique. By structuring light at the source, we enable complex transformations that allow to arbitrarily partition the orbital angular momentum inside the cavity and to heal topological charge defects, making these resonators a robust and versatile tool for advanced applications in topological optics.

Future Ecosystems for Africa programme launched at Wits

- Wits University

Programme aims to identify African ecosystem vulnerabilities while leveraging African-informed transformative change opportunities.

The Oppenheimer Generations Research and Conservation in partnership with the University of Witwatersrand and the University of Exeter launched the Future Ecosystems for Africa programme at the Origins Centre museum at Wits University in Braamfontein.  

Launch of the Future Ecosystems for Africa programme

The Future Ecosystems for Africa programme is an African-wide initiative that aims to identify African ecosystem vulnerabilities and tipping points while leveraging African-informed transformative change opportunities. It supports research to address conservation and development issues across the continent, identifying that Africa has a unique, but temporary opportunity to guide development onto nature-supporting, rather than nature-eroding paths.

The programme was made possible through a donation from Oppenheimer Generations Research and Conservation as part of the Wits Centenary campaign, in which the University celebrates 100 years of research excellence. Wits’ Centenary is an opportunity for the global community to celebrate the impact that Wits has had on their lives, and a chance to reflect and to look to the future. 

As part of its Centenary campaign, Wits aims to raise R3 billion in order to give more of South Africa’s talented youth access to quality education at Wits, and attract top teaching and research talent, we can do even more to tackle inequality, contribute to employment and drive sustainable development.

Global collaboration for local action

The overarching aim of the Future Ecosystem for Africa programme is prioritising ecosystem-based interventions in Africa, this includes what to protect and how, plus what to rehabilitate, and also identifying whose voices need to be included in this decision-making. 

Through this programme, Wits University Professor Sally Archibald and Associate Professor Laura Pereira are working with project partners from across the continent and the globe to drive research that can feed into policy strategies that enhance the resilience of African ecosystems and the wellbeing of its people. This approach to developing resilient African Future Ecosystems will build on findings from the IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) regional assessment for Africa that emphasised Africa’s rich bio-cultural heritage and diverse value perspectives for nature needed to be brought more strongly to the fore in science and decision-making. 

“This is an Africa-led, Africa-centred programme to influence thinking and action on the continent,” says Archibald. 

The journey starts with progressive and thoughtful futures thinking to re-imagine Africa’s future with communities across the continent. Co-creating these futures requires drawing on data and knowledge from within Africa, and integrating ecological, social and economic information with the stories and belief systems of local peoples. 

Project partner, Dr Duncan Kimuyu says that “This programme presents a much-anticipated opportunity to change the narrative about how African ecosystems are perceived and managed”.

Developing the next generation of African scientists and empowering them to have strong voices around African development pathways brings us a step closer to ensuring sustainable future ecosystems. This programme enables African scientists to mobilise and increase their impact, strengthens existing regional networks, and will support several ‘Oppenheimer Impact Scholars’.

According to Dr Duncan MacFadyen, Head of Research at Oppenheimer Generations Research and Conservation,“the development of the Future Ecosystems for Africa Programme is hugely exciting as it will undoubtedly create real impact and practical outcomes across the African continent. We hope to better understand the unique and complex relationships between man and the environment, as well as develop an understanding of self-healing rates within different landscapes across the continent,” says MacFadyen. 

A model for impact

The programme is designed to ensure that activities ranging from data collection to visioning workshops all have maximum impact through active integration and feedback between core project activities. Outputs drive action at high levels through national policy and global negotiating platforms, and from the bottom-up through targeted interventions and innovative local projects.

Health Sciences student wins Wits FameLab

- Wits Communications

Mpho Mathole won the Wits leg of the international science communication competition and will go on to participate in the nationals later this year.

Mathole, member of the Faculty of Health Sciences Student Council, impressed the judges by explaining how he is researching using biostatistics in improving healthcare provision in South Africa. In the three minutes allotted to him, Mathole communicated his research clearly and concisely to the audience. He won the chance to go through to the national semi-finals of the competition, and then stands a chance to represent South Africa at international level. Mothole says his leadership role motivates his study because it is about moral progress from self-regard to thinking about the greater good of the community.

Mothole just edged out Johanna Marais, a master's student in neuroscience, while Boiltumelo Tlhaole came in in third place.

“FameLab has inspired me and my love for my study and field of work,” says Marais, whose research investigates the prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea in a cohort of cis-gendered women living with HIV and how that impacts cardiometabolic health.

Winners of 2022 Wits leg of FameLab

FameLab is the biggest science communication competition in the world. The competition aims to find and support students across the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields to present and communicate their research better. The first FameLab competition was held in Cheltenham 17 years ago. In South Africa, the competition has been running since 2013 and is made possible by a partnership between the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement and Jive Media Africa.

The Wities’ presentations cut across various fields, from Astrophysics to health sciences, and asking and resolving local community issues to global problems. This included third place Tlhaole’s, work, which looks at taking waste from South African staple, maize and making it into highly valuable chemicals and hydrogen energy.

FameLab alumni and training facilitator Keneilwe Bontle Moropa, says training in science communications and in communicating scientific concepts eloquently, makes science fun, interesting and accessible to the next generation of scientist.

The two-day competition is made up out of two stages. Day one was spent training participants in a science communication workshop. Participants were trained on how to best communicate their scientific idea to a general non-scientific community; to enhance their interpersonal communication and presentation skills as well as to effectively and confidently communicate an idea.

“Leaving this session, I feel equipped to effectively communicate my concept to potential investors or funders,” says Iyanu Emmanuel Williams, master's student in the School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering.

On the second day, the students participated in a heat session where they were each given three-minutes to present their science concept to a judging panel made up of Renee Le Roux Goretsky, head of Head Pre-Award Support at Wits University, Phontsho Pilane, author, media training and communication professional and Dr Shivan Parusnath, regional lead, Africa for National Geographic Society.

Twelve Witsies in the running for Science Oscars

- Wits University

Twelve Wits researchers are contenders for the prestigious NSTF-South32 Awards for 2021/2022, four of whom were nominated in two categories each.

The so-called ‘Science Oscars’ recognise outstanding contributions to science, engineering and technology (SET) and innovation by individuals, teams and organisations in South Africa.

Vying for awards across 10 of the 13 categories are both established and emerging researchers at Wits, across faculties and disciplines. In the Faculty of Health Sciences, researchers in the fields of vaccinology and malaria are nominees, while in the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, scientists in the School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering and the School of Electrical and Information Engineering are in the running.

In the Faculty of Science, researchers in the School of Geosciences, the Evolutionary Studies Institute (ESI), and the Global Change Institute (GCI) are nominated, while the Faculty of Humanities has contenders from the Centre of Excellence in Human Development and the Wits School of Education.

Lifetime Achievement

Nominated in the Lifetime Achievement category are Professor Shabir Madhi and Professor Sehliselo ‘Selo’ Ndlovu.

  • Shabir Madhi is the Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences and Professor of Vaccinology at Wits as well as Director of the SA Medical Research Council Vaccine and Infectious Diseases Analytics Research Unit (Wits-VIDA), and Co-Director of African Leadership in Vaccinology Expertise (ALIVE) at Wits.

Prof. Shabir Madhi leads the Novavax Covid-19 vaccine trial in SA which published results showing efficacy against the B 1.351 variant, in the NEJM in May 2021

A National Research Foundation A-rated scientist and a paediatrician, Madhi’s research has focused on the epidemiology and clinical development of vaccines against pneumonia and diarrhoeal disease. These studies have informed World Health Organization recommendations on the use of the lifesaving pneumococcal conjugate vaccine and rotavirus vaccine in children, and flu vaccination of pregnant women. Madhi led South Africa and Africa’s first Covid-19 vaccine trials (Oxford/AstraZeneca and Novavax Covid-19 vaccine).

  • Selo Ndlovu is Professor of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering in the School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering and the DSI/ NRF SARChI Chair: Hydrometallurgy Sustainable Development at Wits. DSI/NRF SARChI refers to the Department of Science and Innovation/National Research Foundation South African Research Chairs Initiative.

Prof Selo Ndlovu

Ndlovu was the only black woman in Engineering Sciences to hold a research chair when it was awarded in 2015. Her research interests are extractive metallurgy in general, and hydrometallurgy and bio hydrometallurgy in particular. She is interested in metal extraction from traditional sources and the treatment of secondary metal-bearing components, such as process waste streams, for metal recovery.

Ndlovu is also nominated in the Engineering Research Capacity Development Award category.

TW Kambule-NSTF Award: Researcher

Nominated in the TW Kambule-NSTF Award: Research category are Professor Tamiru Abiye, Dr Givemore Munhenga and Dr Cameron Penn-Clarke.

  • Tamiru Abiye is Professor in the Hydrogeology Programme in the School of Geosciences at Wits. He is an NRF-rated researcher and registered Professional Natural Scientist in South Africa with some 30 years of experience in the field. Due to the fact that Africa has massive groundwater reserves which are resilient to climate change, Abiye’s research interests are to advance the sustainable use of groundwater to alleviate poverty and enhance economic development.

Professor Tarmiru Abiye

Abiye is also nominated in the NSTF-Water Research Commission Award category.

Prof Givemore Munhenga of the Wits Research Institute for Malaria

Munhenga is an NRF-rated scientist with over ten years’ experience in providing expertise and overseeing research in both agriculture and public health. Research projects have included the development of the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) for Anopheles arabiensis control in South Africa, and evaluation valuation and optimization of mosquito surveillance systems under low malaria transmission settings.

  • Dr Cameron Penn-Clarke is an Honorary Research Associate in the Evolutionary Studies Institute (ESI) at Wits and a geo-mapping, minerals and energy scientist at the Council for Geoscience. He has expertise in sedimentology, stratigraphy, basin analysis, sequence stratigraphy and palaeontology (with special focus on invertebrate palaeontology and evolution). His research interests are focused on biological and geological events of the Devonian Period of South Africa and abroad.

Dr Cameron Penn Clarke of the Evolutionary Studies Institute

Penn-Clarke is also nominated in the TW Kambule-NSTF: Emerging Researcher category.

TW Kambule-NSTF Award: Emerging Researcher

Including Penn-Clarke above, Wits has four contenders in the Emerging Researcher category. They are Dr Saeideh Babaee, Dr Roisin E Drysdale, and Dr Simone Richardson.

  • Dr Saeideh Babaee is a Lecturer in the School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering at Wits. A chemical engineer, her research interests include thermodynamics and energy; process design; C02 capture and storage; gas hydrates; and gas separation.

Dr Saeideh Babaee School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering

Babaee is also nominated in the Special Annual Theme (Basic sciences for sustainable development) category.

  • Dr Roisin E Drysdale is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the DSI/NRF Centre of Excellence (CoE) in Human Development at Wits. Her research and publications primarily assess the complex and dynamic relationships between geography, social development and child health. In particular, she is interested in how household factors such as poverty and food insecurity affect individual health, growth and development.

Roisin E Drysdale is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the CoE in Human Development

Dr Simone Richardson Antibody Immunity Research Unit

Her research focuses on the role of Fc effector function in HIV, COVID-19 and Influenza infection and vaccination. She previously held two Collaboration for Vaccine Discovery (CAVD) fellowships and is currently the scientific lead for all Fc effector function work at the unit. A passionate science communicator, Richardson has also blogged for the South African Young Academy of Sciences (SAYAS), is a current blogger and cartoonist, and was a FameLab semi-finalist in 2013.

Data for Research Award

Associate Professor and Director of the Legitimation Code Theory Hub in the Wits School of Education, Lee Rusznyak is nominated in the Data for Research Award category.

Prof. Lee Rusznyak, Wits School of Education

Rusznyak is the Principal Investigator in the Teacher Choice in Action Project at Wits. Her research focuses on knowledge-building and the development of expertise through initial teacher education.

She has led research on several national projects, including the Initial Teacher Education Research Project (ITERP); the South African Professional Teaching Standards (with the South African Council for Educators) and the Teacher Choices in Action project.

Innovation Award: Corporate Organisation

Mr Abdul-Khaaliq ‘AK’ Mohamed is nominated in the Innovation Award: Corporate Organisation category. Mohamed is a Lecturer in the School of Electrical and Information Engineering at Wits.

AK Mohamed School of Electrical and Information Engineering

As an information/electrical engineer with a master’s in biomedical and control engineering, he is interested in creative designs, research and development of green technologies, software, electronic or biomedical systems.

In 2019, the NRF awarded Mohamed a grant for research ‘towards control of a prosthetic or orthotic hand using neural signals’. This research explores how brainwaves can be used to control a robotic prosthetic hand, an innovation which may benefit stroke victims in particular.

Communication Award

Professor Francois A Engelbrecht and Professor Coleen H Vogel in the Global Change Institute (GCI) are nominated for the Communication Award. Engelbrecht is the Director of the GCI and Vogel is Professor of Sustainability.

  • Professor Francois Engelbrecht specializes in numerical climate model development and the simulation of African climate variability and change, in particular, he currently leads the development of an African-based Earth System Model towards participation in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase Six (CMIP6) of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP).

Professor Francois Engelbrecht

  • Professor Coleen Vogel is a climatologist by training and has undertaken research in climate change, climate vulnerability and adaptation, with a particular focus on disaster risk reduction and climate variability. She was one of the Chapter Lead Authors of the Africa Chapter for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC 4th Assessment Report and was also an author of the Synthesis Report for Policy Makers of the 4th IPCC Assessment Report.

Professor Coleen Vogel

Finalists in the 2022 NSTF-South32 Awards will be announced in May and the winners at an event in July.

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