On 30 July 2020, the National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) will host its 22nd annual awards event in partnership with South32. This year, six researchers from the University of Cape Town (UCT) are among the finalists.
Also known as the ‘Science Oscars’ of South Africa, the NSTF Awards were established in 1998 to recognise outstanding contributions to science, engineering, technology and innovation by professionals, teams and organisations in South Africa.
The theme for this year is Plant Health in recognition of the 2020 International Year of Plant Health declared by the United Nations. A special theme award will go to the researcher who has made an outstanding contribution to this field.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the awards gala dinner will take the form of a live-stream broadcast. This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of the NSTF, a milestone that the virtual event will celebrate.
The UCT finalists and their respective categories are as follows.
Emeritus Professor William Bond, Department of Biological Sciences
Bond is an ecologist who has championed the ecological role of tropical grasslands and challenged the idea that they are ‘degraded forests’.
Since the new millennium, planetary ecology has been contributing to global change science. Bond’s research contributes to this field by focusing on the non-forested ‘open’ ecosystems of the world, such as grasslands, shrublands and savannas.
Open ecosystems are common in South Africa and very common in Africa, often in climates that also support forests. Long viewed as deforested and degraded by frequent fires and herds of large, grazing mammals, these systems have been shown by Bond and others to be ancient. New concepts for open ecosystems have spread widely in tropical regions challenging out-dated perceptions and policies. They are also contributing to new thinking on ecological processes in north temperate forests and Eurasian forest-steppe mosaics.
Professor Jennifer Broadhurst, Department of Chemical Engineering
W Kambule-NSTF Award: Researcher
Using interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches, Broadhurst’s research focuses on the characterisation and management of mine waste and water, as well as their associated long-term environmental impacts and adverse effects on surrounding communities.
She has made valuable contributions to recovery and waste re-purposing; mitigation of acid mine drainage; measuring and monitoring health risks related to mine dust; and the development of post-closure economic opportunities. Her work is aimed at supporting the environmentally and socially responsible extraction and primary development of South Africa’s mineral resources.
Since joining the UCT chemical engineering department in 2001, Broadhurst has been involved in research and capacity development activities relating to the environmental and sustainability issues associated with coal-based power generation and primary metal production.
Broadhurst holds the interim Department of Science and Technology/National Research Foundation South African Research Chair (SARChI) in bioprocess engineering.
Dr Sharief Hendricks, Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine
TW Kambule-NSTF Award: Researcher
Hendricks’ research aims to promote an active and healthy lifestyle through sport. Physical activity and participation in sport are key counter-measures to an array of major health issues facing society, such as non-communicable diseases and childhood obesity.
To improve participation in sport, reduce the risk of injury and enhance performance, Hendricks has produced innovations for researchers and practitioners to study human movement.
His recommendations have arguably reduced the risk of injury and particularly serious injury in all South Africans playing rugby – from junior/youth levels through to senior levels (including professional). They have also helped educate coaches and trainers to better design their training plans and sessions, which has led to better standards of training and competition.
Professor Robert Wilkinson
Wilkinson is a world-leader in the understanding, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of TB.
As a physician and scientist, he has worked on tuberculosis (TB) and HIV–TB coinfection for 27 years, including the last 16 in South Africa. His research focuses on fundamental aspects of this respiratory disease.
Wilkinson has made particularly important contributions to the detection and prevention of TB through the development of blood tests and advanced radiology, as well as preventative treatment and a new vaccine. He has also performed ground-breaking work to understand, prevent and treat complications that occur in HIV-infected people who develop TB.
Wilkinson is the director of the Wellcome Center for Infectious Diseases Research in Africa based at UCT and a member of the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine.
Associate Professor Abimbola Windapo, Department of Construction Economics and Management
Engineering Research Capacity Development Award
Windapo is a construction business and management researcher who confronts the problems of poor project and organisation performance from a practice perspective.
Her work started in South Africa in response to the high failure rates of many construction companies, the construction industry’s poor health and safety records and the need to adopt sustainable construction techniques in line with the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals.
Over the past nine years, Windapo has demonstrated that the construction techniques used by industry stakeholders are not aligned with sustainable principles, which contributes to the general underperformance of construction projects.
Her research has uncovered that construction companies will only comply with building, environmental, health and safety regulations if there are economic benefits attached, and that product and geographical diversification of the construction industry has produced sustainable growth and development of construction companies.
Professor Liesl Zühlke, Division of Cardiology
TW Kambule-NSTF Award: Researcher
Zühlke has developed and is growing a comprehensive multi-disciplinary programme to conduct, promote and support research addressing the plight of children with heart disease in South Africa and on the African continent. Through her research, which focuses on rheumatic and congenital heart disease, she is addressing this largely neglected area.
Her research programme aims to gather basic information that is lacking and answer key questions on the genetics of congenital heart disease, transitional care, heart disease of pregnancy and quality improvement in terms of improved outcomes for patients – among other areas.
Zühlke is a paediatric cardiologist and director of the Children’s Heart Disease Unit at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. She is also the only woman full professor of paediatric cardiology in South Africa, and she teaches in the Faculty of Health Sciences at UCT.
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