TB and HIV researcher gets high praise from SA science academy

06 November 2014 | Story by Newsroom
Dr Keren Middelkoop is this year's recipient of the AU-TWAS Young Scientist Award in the Life and Earth Sciences category.
Dr Keren Middelkoop is this year's recipient of the AU-TWAS Young Scientist Award in the Life and Earth Sciences category.

One of UCT's rising academic stars was recently acknowledged for her research into HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB) epidemics.

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), on behalf of the African Union (AU) Commission, The World Academy of Science (TWAS) and the Department of Science and Technology, presented Dr Keren Middelkoop with the AU-TWAS Young Scientist in South Africa award. Middelkoop won in the Life and Earth Sciences category.

Describing herself as a "clinician with an interest in public health and epidemiological research", Middelkoop's research focuses on the TB and HIV epidemics (and epidemic interactions) at a community level.

"Winning an award like this is very encouraging. The recognition that [one's] work is relevant and, more importantly making a difference helps to rejuvenate one's efforts," Middelkoop said.

Middelkoop was nominated for the award by Professor Linda-Gail Bekker, deputy director of Desmond Tutu HIV Centre at the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine. In her motivation Bekker highlighted that Middelkoop's "key strength is the ability to provide a link between the laboratory and clinical worlds: combining her clinical background, extensive research experience, public health training, and good grasp of the laboratory component of molecular epidemiology to help meld the disciplines to provide a comprehensive approach to these dual public health problems".

Prior to winning this national award, Middelkoop won the 2010 UCT Best Publication in Public Health prize and the Ethne Jacke Prize for the best Master of Public Health dissertation in 2013. She was also the 2011 International Union against TB and Lung Disease's Young Investigator of the Year.

Further academic accolades

Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences Professor Wim De Villiers; Professor Robert Mattes, director of the Democracy in Africa Research Unit in the Centre for Social Science Research; and honorary Professor Ivan Turok from the African Centre for Cities were among the 23 new members inaugurated into ASSAf. This brings the number of members to 445, all of whom are recognised as among the top scholars in South Africa.

Another of UCT's young academic stars whose efforts were recently recognised is Dr John Ataguba. He was inaugurated as a new member of the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS), a national platform where leading young scholars from all disciplines "can interact, and also access international networking and career development opportunities". SAYAS also collaborates with ASSAf on projects and activities related to young scientists' development.

Ataguba, one of the few public health economists in South Africa, was also a recipient of the Claude Leon Merit Awards for Young Scholars earlier this year.

Story by Abigail Calata. Photo supplied.

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