Professor Stephanie Burton of the University of Pretoria (UP) was announced as one of the winners at the 2020/2021 National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) NSTF-South32 Awards. The NSTF Awards are informally known as South Africa’s “Science Oscars”. Prof Burton won the Management Award, having been one of eight UP finalists.
The ceremony took place on Thursday 30 September 2021 as a hybrid event broadcast from Johannesburg and Cape Town, with finalists hosted in their respective cities. The theme for this year’s awards was “Creative Economy”, in recognition of the 2021 International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development as declared by the United Nations.
“It is an honour to receive this award from the NSTF, a prestigious organisation that recognises excellence as its primary criterion for these awards,” said Prof Burton, a Professor of Biochemistry who previously held the position of Vice-Principal: Research and Postgraduate Education at UP. Prof Burton is not only an accomplished academic, but also a leading player in higher education organisations. She is an internationally acclaimed researcher and a National Research Foundation B-rated scientist.
The NSTF Awards are the largest, most comprehensive and sought-after national awards of their kind in the country. They were established in 1998 to recognise outstanding contributions to science, engineering and technology (SET) and innovation by SET-related professionals, teams and organisations in South Africa. This includes scientists, engineers, innovators, science communicators, engineering capacity developers and organisational managers/leaders, as well as data and research managers.
“For me, this award represents several significant things,” Prof Burton added. “It represents recognition of a career that was built from an academic research base to a position in university leadership, where leading development and implementing strategies have meant that many people – my colleagues – have been enabled to achieve their goals and build their careers. I have always seen my role in university leadership as one of enabling others.”
Dr Blade Nzimande, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, said that in the years since this prestigious event was inaugurated, competition has continued to become tougher, to the point where selection as a finalist itself is a greater honour and privilege.
“Congratulations to Prof Burton,” UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe said. “We are proud of your work and for constantly striving for excellence. As we continue to build partnerships with key stakeholders and seek greater levels of external funding, we also seek to increase the commercialisation of our research and establish UP as a leader in science communication, which you as researchers all contribute to in the work that you do.”
“The award also represents recognition of the achievements of a leading university,” Prof Burton said. “And it represents recognition of the contribution that one can make to national goals and to the development of a whole national sector. It has always been important to me to have a voice and to participate in national – and international – debates and activities, and to build constructive connections. I have had the privilege to be involved in several national and international organisations focusing on diverse aspects of research and higher education, and the fact that this award recognises those contributions is immensely rewarding.
“I hope to have many more opportunities to serve in these roles over the next few years, and I very much look forward to making further contributions to research development in this country.”