Faculty Announces Its NSTF Awards Finalists

Posted on May 26, 2008

These are Prof Chris Chimimba, who is an Associate Professor in the Department of Zoology and Entomology; Prof Pat Eriksson, the Head of the Department of Geology; and the Research and Education Programme of the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) under the directorship of Prof Mike Wingfield.
The magnitude of these awards can perhaps be reinforced by a quote from the Minister of Science and Technology, Honourable Mosibudi Mangena, at the 9th National Science and Technology Forum awards, on 23 May 2007: “The NSTF Awards is one of our country’s supreme ceremonies that recognizes the outstanding contributions made by individuals, schools, institutions, organizations and professional bodies to science, engineering and technology (SET). The awards, therefore, provide a platform for acknowledging and rewarding practicing scientists, engineers and technologists across our system of innovation, including, teachers and students in mathematics, science, engineering and technology education."
Prof Chris Chimimba, Associate Prof, Department of Zoology and Entomology - Category H. The Category H award is made to a senior black researcher who has made significant contributions to science, engineering and technology over the last 5–10 years, and who also represents a role model for others to follow. The recipient of this award also receives a research grant to cover his/her research costs.
Professor Chimimba’s research is primarily in biosystematics where he applies multidisciplinary or “total evidence” approaches such as morphometrics, DNA sequencing, cytogenetics, and GIS techniques in order to address taxonomic problems in a range of vertebrate and invertebrate species. These animals are of medical, veterinary, agricultural, economic, nature conservation, and alien invasion concern, and there is a particular focus on their impact on rural communities.
“Apart from being internationally competitive in scientific outputs and in the training of graduate students, our research is also directed at contributing at the local community level in formulating strategies and policies that would benefit these local communities where biologically invasive species are concerned,” concludes Professor Chimimba.
Prof Pat Eriksson, Prof and Head of Department of Geology - Category A. To be nominated in this category, the nominee must have made enormous contributions to science, engineering and technology (SET) in South Africa for over a decade and more (“lifetime”) in any sector or discipline of SET. The NSTF website (www.nstfawards.org.za) goes on to substantiate the significance of this category in stating that “it includes therefore all other contributions such as managerial, technical, commercial and financial activities that are often necessary for the successful development and diffusion of new or improved products, processes or services. In this regard the period may be either some portion of a lifetime or the entire lifetime and this needs to be defined in the nomination.”
Prof Eriksson obtained a higher doctorate (Dr rer nat habil) at Ludwig-Maximilian University, Munich, in December 1998. At the end of 2006, he became the Head of Department of Geology at the University of Pretoria. Prof Eriksson, Professor of Sedimentology, is the founder of an intercontinental collaborative endeavor known as the Global Precambrian Sedimentation Syndicate (GPSS). This group is dedicated to the analysis of Precambrian basins with emphasis on the evolution of volcano-sedimentary basins-fills. The scientists involved are from South Africa, the USA, UK, Brazil, Australia, India, Germany, Denmark, and Finland.
Research and Education Programme of Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) - Category D. This category encompasses the Awards for Innovations. In a nutshell, the individual or team is part of a corporate organization (this includes large companies, science councils, universities).
FABI’s nomination for this award adds to the 10th Anniversry festivities of the postgraduate research institute where research and education is focused broadly on the improvement of crops related to forestry and agriculture. “I am delighted that FABI has been selected as a finalist for the NSTF Awards. This is especially true, given that this year marks the 10th anniversary of an institution which celebrates diversity, multi-culturalism and ten years of research excellence,” says Prof Mike Wingfield, Director of FABI.
FABI resides within the University of Pretoria structures and is part of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. More than 50 PhD(s) and at least 100 MSc(s) have been produced by this award-winning team whose significant innovations include techniques to improve pulping through the detection of novel genes in trees; diagnostic tools for pathogens and pests, screening protocols for tree pathogens and gene discovery relating to disease resistance and drought tolerance.
· The winners are to be announced at the NSTF Dinner on 27 May 2008.

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