New academy welcomes young scientists

14 November 2011

Assoc Prof Genevieve Langdon Dr Jeff Murugan Dr Shadreck Chirikure
New scientific order: (From left) Assoc Prof Genevieve Langdon, Dr Jeff Murugan and Dr Shadreck Chirikure are founder members of SAYAS.

Three UCT scientists, all in their early to mid-30s, have been named among the 20 founder members of the new South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS).

Dr Shadreck Chirikure of the Department of Archaeology, Associate Professor Genevieve Langdon of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and Dr Jeff Murugan of the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics were inaugurated into SAYAS at a function hosted by the deputy minister for science and technology, Derek Hanekom, in Pretoria in September. "The group," said SAYAS in a statement, "was selected from among the best scientific minds in South Africa and represents a diverse range of talent in terms of race, gender and scientific discipline."

SAYAS is designed to bridge the gap between the more senior and well-established Academy of Science of South Africa, and the up-and-coming young scientists who may well be future leaders in their fields. It will also give a voice to young scientists on national and international issues, and creates a platform for them to have their say in policy decisions.

"For so long, young researchers have been excluded in charting the country's destiny," says Chirikure (33). "SAYAS is an opportunity to put this behind us, by showing the world that young South African researchers can distil solutions that can move the country forward in topical issues such as climate change, employment creation and sound governance."

Now still in its infancy, the academy will need to gain ground and credibility. Which is where the young members can contribute, says Langdon (34).

"Our first priority is to establish SAYAS as a credible and effectively functioning organisation, which means applying our minds, raising some funding and identifying a strategy for projects and involvement across the country."

Being singled out in such an early stage of one's career is a feather in any young scholar's cap. But there is perhaps just a hint of expectation that comes with the honour.

"I guess there's a greater sense of responsibility," says Murugan (35). "And that there were only 20 founding members selected from nearly 150 nominations from across the country means that this is something of a vote of confidence."

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