UCT physicist is best emerging woman scientist

14 September 2009

Woman in ScienceCut above: Physicist Dr Amanda Weltman.

UCT once again made a strong showing in the annual Department of Science and Technology's South African Women in Science Awards, taking top spot in two categories.

Physicist Dr Amanda Weltman was named the Best Emerging Scientist, an award which recognises a young scientist for an outstanding scientific contribution in natural sciences or engineering. Weltman, who has received fellowships from Columbia University in the US, Cambridge University in the UK and NASA, is the co-author of two papers proposing the chameleon mechanism (in which scalar fields change depending on their environment), one of the hottest new topics in contemporary theoretical cosmology.

Plant physiologist Professor Jill Farrant took first runner-up in the Distinguished Woman Scientist category.

The second woman to receive an A-rating from the National Research Foundation (NRF), and the first in the natural sciences, Farrant has earned wide recognition for her work, which currently focuses on resurrection plants. Professor Diane Hildebrandt, chemical engineer at the University of the Witswatersrand, took first place.

A Fellowship for a Woman Scientist, awarded in fields in which participation by women is traditionally low, went to Zizipho Mbulawa, a PhD researcher in medical virology. Mbulawa is researching the association of the human papilloma virus with cervical, penile and other cancers, as well as with genital warts in both men and women.

The research for Mbulawa's MSc was of such a high standard that her degree was upgraded to a doctoral project. Sharing the fellowship was Buyisiwe Sondezi- Mhlungu, a physics lecturer at the University of Johannesburg.

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