School of Mathematics, Statistics & Computer Science

ASSAf Membership for Respected UKZN Academics

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Three UKZN academics are among 31 of the country’s leading scholars and scientists inaugurated as members of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) while a colleague is one of 10 admitted to the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS).

Professor Petra Brysiewicz and Professor Thirumala Govender, both of the College of Health Sciences, and Professor Kavilan Moodley of the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES) were among the cohort of new ASSAf members. Professor Lembe Magwaza from CAES was one of those inaugurated into SAYAS.

ASSAf’s new members are elected by other members annually with the academy prioritising inclusion of the country’s top scholars, emphasising the importance of multi-disciplinarity in its membership cohort. Membership of ASSAf recognises scholarly achievement while members voluntarily give of their time and expertise in service of society. The new cohort brings membership of ASSAf up to 597.

Since 2011, the academy’s SAYAS has provided a national platform for South Africa’s young scientists, across numerous disciplines, to interact with one another and access international networking and career development opportunities, enabling them to fully participate in local and internationally relevant research and development agendas. SAYAS recognises young scientists under 40 with PhDs and who have excelled in their fields.

Brysiewicz, a professor in the School of Nursing and Public Health and honorary professor in the Division of Emergency Medicine at the University of Cape Town, plays an active role in various emergency care organisations in South Africa and Africa, leads educational updates, and undertakes national accreditation of trauma units. In recognition of her significant contributions to emergency care and nursing in South Africa, she was awarded the Order of the Emergency Medicine Society of South Africa and was inducted into the Academy of Nursing of South Africa. Brysiewicz is the communicating principal investigator for the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health funded programme developing research leadership in health researchers.

Govender, a professor of Pharmacy in the Discipline of Pharmaceutical Sciences, head of the Drug Delivery Research Proto-Unit and head of the NanoHealth Pillar of the UKZN Nanotechnology Platform, completed her PhD at the University of Nottingham in England through a Commonwealth Scholarship focusing on nanotechnology identified technologies for enhancing drug incorporation into polymeric nanosystems for targeted delivery. With a C1 rating from the National Research Foundation (NRF), 113 publications and almost 5 000 citations to her name, Govender has focused her research on the development of novel materials and antibiotic nano drug delivery systems to target methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections.

Moodley, a professor in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science and Director of the Astrophysics Research Centre, joined UKZN’s academic staff in 2003 after completing his PhD at the University of Cambridge in England and postdoctoral research at the University of Oxford. Boasting 85 research papers and 6 000 citations, Moodley’s research focuses on cosmology and involves confronting cosmological theories with observational data. The Principal Investigator on the HIRAX telescope project, he is a member of the NRF’s Astronomy Advisory Council and the South Africa Radio Astronomy Observatory User Committee, having also served on the scientific board of the international Atacama Cosmology Telescope project, the international science working group for the Square Kilometre Array Project, and as associate editor for the South African Journal of Science. A recipient of the South African Institute of Physics Silver Jubilee Medal and a Fulbright Visiting Research Scholar Fellowship to Princeton University in the United States, Moodley has delivered invited lectures at several international conferences.

Magwaza, an Associate Professor in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences, completed his PhD in horticultural sciences at Stellenbosch University and has more than 15 years’ research experience and eight years’ lecturing experience. An NRF Y-rated researcher, he focuses on horticultural science, plant physiology and postharvest biology and technology, developing methods and protocols for preserving fruit and vegetable quality and reducing postharvest losses. His research in rural agronomy and development aims to devise and implement innovative, science-based technologies to increase income and food security through improving soil fertility and crop production for low-input subsistence farmers. He focuses on characterising and improving quantity and quality of food products by identifying appropriate genotypes to withstand inevitable changes in climate. Consistently among UKZN’s top published researchers, Magwaza has published more than 85 articles in peer-reviewed journals, five book chapters, and presented more than 20 papers at international conferences. He has supervised eight PhD, 12 MSc and six honours students.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photographs: Supplied