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Women in leadership at the ARUA CoE MEN

- Wits University

Sustained female leadership in the Centre of Excellence for Materials, Energy and Nanotechnology (CoE MEN).

Professor Nosipho Moloto is the new Director of the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) Centre of Excellence for Materials, Energy and Nanotechnology (ARUA CoE MEN). Professor Claudia Polese is the Deputy Director.

Profs Nosipho Moloto and Claudia Polese are new Director and Deputy Director of ARUA CoE MEN 600x300

They take the reins from Professor Lesley Cornish, who has retired.

The ARUA Centres of Excellence (CoEs), including the ARUA CoE-MEN, unite researchers from member universities such as Wits, Pretoria, Nairobi, and Ghana, focusing on materials science, energy, and nanotechnology (MEN).

These centres play a vital role in consolidating world-class researchers to collaborate on priority thematic areas, and provide a platform for graduate students to engage in cutting-edge research.

By bringing together dedicated scholars and students, the CoEs serve as catalysts for innovative research endeavours, aiming to significantly expand knowledge generation in Africa.

"This initiative addresses persistent development challenges by leveraging the collective expertise of researchers across diverse backgrounds and disciplines, and fostering interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation beyond traditional academic boundaries," says Moloto.

"My responsibility as director is to facilitate interactions between member universities, oversee joint research activities, and ensure effective communication to fulfil the ARUA mandate. Through collaborations with leading institutions worldwide, we aim to expand our network and enhance the impact of our research efforts. With the support of the deputy director, Professor Claudia Polese, and our administrator, Mrs Marina Labuschagne, I am confident that we can achieve our goals.”

Nosipho Moloto

A Research Professor in Inorganic Chemistry at Wits, Moloto is also the DSI/NRF/Nedbank SARChI Chair in Energy Materials. She was a co-winner in the 2023 National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF-South32) ‘Science Oscars’ in the Engineering Research Capacity Development category. 

Moloto says, “Ultimately, within my tenure, I aspire to leave a visible footprint of world-class MEN researchers across the four universities and beyond, while also prioritizing the training of the next generation of researchers in the field.”

The ARUA CoE-MEN is positioned to become a materials science and engineering hub for training and mentoring African postgraduates and early-career academics and for developing innovative and applied research on new materials and advanced manufacturing processes to boost the knowledge-based economy in Africa.

Deputy-director Polese is an Associate Professor in Aerospace Manufacturing and Design and Head of Aeronautical Engineering Stream in the School of Mechanical, Industrial and Aeronautical Engineering at Wits.

Professor Claudia Polese awarded Knight of the Order of the Star of Italy.

Polese says, “I am a strong supporter of the ‘transformation through internationalisation’ approach, and I believe that, building on the solid foundations of the DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Strong Materials and the African Materials Science and Engineering Network [AMSEN], we will be able to strengthen our existing collaborations in Africa and establish new strategic ones. We are also aiming at consolidating and building new cooperation with small to medium enterprises, as well as with the main industrial role players in the African context."

Former ARUA CoE-MEN director, Professor Lesley Cornish, retired in 2023. Dr Robin Drennan, Director: Research and Development at Wits says, “Lesley has done great work over several years to establish the centre and now we look to Nosipho and Claudia to take it from ‘good to great’.”

Professor Lynn Morris, Wits Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation, says, “Congratulations Nosipho and Claudia and thank you for taking over the reins. Thank you, Lesley, for your years of dedication and building a solid platform. We look forward to seeing the Centre of Excellence MEN go from strength to strength.”