Eight UCT researchers honoured by ASSAf & SAYAS

07 November 2022 | Story Nadia Krige. Photo Lerato Maduna Read time 6 min.
Eight researchers from UCT are among those recognised this year by the Academy of Science of South Africa and the South African Young Academy of Science.
Eight researchers from UCT are among those recognised this year by the Academy of Science of South Africa and the South African Young Academy of Science.

The University of Cape Town’s (UCT) commitment to excellence has been recognised by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), which this year elected seven of the institution’s researchers to join its membership, and the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS), which welcomed one researcher from UCT.


ASSAf, the official Academy of Science of South Africa, acknowledges that its strength lies in the quality and diversity of its membership, which is made up of internationally renowned scholars elected by their peers.


At the annual awards ceremony, held on 19 October 2022, professors Karen Barnes, Jacqueline Hoare, Aubrey Mainza, Thomas Meyer, Pilate Moyo, Jeff Murugan and Nasheeta Peer were named among its 29 new members. Dr Mubeen Goolam was inaugurated as one of 10 new SAYAS members.


SAYAS members are young scientists below the age of 40 who have PhDs and are deemed excellent in their fields of expertise. SAYAS members are from all disciplines, including pure and applied sciences, humanities, social sciences and the arts.


Professor Karen Barnes

Department of Medicine


Appointed professor of clinical pharmacology at UCT in 2008, Barnes is also the founding director of the Collaborating Centre for Optimizing Antimalarial Therapy (CCOAT). She has over 20 years of experience in clinical pharmacology and pharmacokinetics and has authored more than 100 peer-reviewed publications on malaria. Barnes’ main research interests include the comprehensive evaluation of malaria treatment policy changes in Southern Africa and improving anti-malarial dosing regimens for vulnerable populations. She serves as an advisor to several WHO Expert Groups on malaria.


Professor Jackie Hoare

Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health


Trained as a neuropsychiatrist, Hoare is a professor of psychiatry. She heads up UCT’s Division of Consultation Liaison Psychiatry and co-directs the UCT HIV Mental Health unit. Her clinical work includes treating mental illness, neurocognitive disorders and adherence in adolescents and adults with chronic illness. In the last two years, Hoare has gained significant clinical experience in managing the mental health consequences of COVID-19. She founded and chairs the Adolescent Clinicians Group and Better Together Adolescent service at Groote Schuur Hospital.


Professor Aubrey Mainza

Department of Chemical Engineering


Mainza is the head of UCT’s Department of Chemical Engineering and deputy director of the Centre for Minerals Research. He has more than 18 years of experience in academia, research and industry. Mainza’s research includes comminution and classification, and he uses the discrete element method, computational fluid dynamics and positron emission particle tracking in his modelling. He serves on advisory committees for international conferences, chairs the International Comminution Researchers Association African Chapter and sits on the committee of the Western Cape branch of the Southern Africa Institute of Mining and Metallurgy.


Professor Tommie Meyer

Department of Computer Science


Meyer is a professor of computer science and co-director of the Centre for Artificial Intelligence Research (CAIR). His research is in the area of knowledge representation and reasoning, focusing on non-monotonic reasoning, belief revision and description logics. He heads up the Knowledge Representation and Reasoning group at UCT. Meyer is a National Research Foundation A-rated researcher and one of only three South African computer scientists to have achieved this feat.


Professor Pilate Moyo

Department of Civil Engineering


Moyo is the head of UCT’s Department of Civil Engineering and a professor of structural engineering. His research focuses on structural dynamics, safety and serviceability, as well as deterioration of structures (mainly concrete structures) – specifically alkali aggregate reaction damage, which is a pervasive concern not only in South Africa but worldwide. In the structural dynamics field, Moyo has an international reputation for conducting advanced research on the in-service behaviour of large bridges carrying heavy loads and the safety and serviceability of large dams.


Professor Jeff Murugan

Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics


On his website, Murugan describes himself as being “passionately curious” about “understanding the mathematical structures that underpin the physical universe”. He has a PhD in string theory and was a National Research Foundation postdoctoral fellow in the High Energy Theory group at Brown University before joining UCT in 2006. His work revolves largely around emergent phenomena from condensed matter to neurophysics and can be broadly categorised according to duality, integrability, information and gravity.


Associate Professor Nasheeta Peer

Department of Medicine


Peer is an associate professor in the Department of Medicine at UCT and a senior specialist scientist in the South African Medical Research Council’s (SAMRC)Non-communicable Diseases Research Unit. Her research focuses on the epidemiology and prevention of cardiovascular risk factors in South Africa and internationally. Earlier this year, Peer received a Silver Scientific Merit Award from the SAMRC. Her work has had a major impact on the formation of health policy for the prevention of non-communicable diseases by the national Department of Health.


Dr Mubeen Goolam

Department of Human Biology


Named among the Mail & Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans for 2022, Goolam is making his mark as a stem cell biologist. He did his PhD at the University of Cambridge where he identified novel molecular mechanisms involved in early cell fate decisions during mouse development. For his post-doctoral research at the University of Oxford, he studied maternal–fetal interactions during early pregnancy. His current research draws from both areas of work and looks at developing an in vitro model of placental development to study maternal–fetal interactions and early embryo cell fate decisions.

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