UP Professor receives Prestigious African Union Award

Posted on December 15, 2011

The award is part of the African Union Kwame Nkrumah Scientific Awards Programme and was presented to her at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Science and technology is one of the key focal areas on Africa’s development agenda. In 2007, the African Union heads of state and Government made a special call to promote greater participation of women in science and technology. In response to this commitment, the AU Commission initiated the prestigious African Union Scientific Awards Programme.

The programme is aimed at outstanding women researchers at regional level for their great scientific achievement and contribution through science to the socio-economic development of Africa.

Five African regions have been identified and two awards per region were allocated: one for earth and life sciences and one for basic science technology and innovation.

The University of Pretoria has had a previous winner in the first category in 2009 – Prof Brenda Wingfield, Deputy Dean of Research in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. In 2010, the Head of the Department of Geology at the University of Pretoria, Prof Pat Eriksson, won the Continental African Union Scientific Award consisting of a medal, a certificate and US$100 000.

The name of the award has been changed to the African Union Kwame Nkrumah Scientific Awards, in honour of the memory of the great Pan-Africanist and first president of the Republic of Ghana, Dr Kwame Nkrumah.

Prof Pretorius was born in Virginia, South Africa. She attended Stellenbosch University, where she completed the postgraduate studies (BSc Hons cum laude and an MSc). In 1998, she received a PhD from the University of Pretoria, and was appointed as lecturer in the Department of Anatomy at the Faculty of Health Sciences in 1999. She was recently appointed in the Department of Physiology of the Faculty of Health Sciences.

Prof Pretorius has published more than 150 peer-reviewed articles in international ISI-rated journals since 2000. Having recently finished her PhD, this young researcher with a passion for research was targeted with setting up a cell culture laboratory and with teaching histology, as well as neuro-anatomy (at BSc honours level).

Since 2005 her research has been focusing on the use of the electron microscope as tool to study diseases that specifically affect platelets and fibrin networks, using both human and animal models, with specific reference to haemostasis and how it may be studied using the electron microscope.

Since 2000 Prof Pretorius has also been a supervisor to 28 successful MSc and PhD students, who produced research that led to more than 60 peer-reviewed articles in international ISI-rated journals. Two of the MSc students have received the prestigious A2S3 bronze medal for best MSc and runner-up at the University of Pretoria.

Her achievements include being chosen as Exceptional Achiever: Young Researcher: Faculty of Health Sciences in 2007.

In 2009, Prof Pretorius established the Applied Morphology Research Centre (AMRC) at the University of Pretoria and currently serves as Director of the Centre. The focus of this Centre is to study human disease using ultrastructure. The Centre works closely with both private and public sector organisations, with individuals from both these sectors serving as AMRC board members.

Research also involves collaboration with the Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston. The research focuses on ferric and ferrous ions as generators of hydroxyl radicals, and the fact that iron-induced alterations in fibrinogen structure is involved in pathogenesis associated with iron overload and persistent thrombosis.

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