UP academics are category finalists in NSTF Awards

Posted on June 25, 2018

Profs Namrita Lall, Xiaohua Xia, Mmantsae Diale, Kevin Wall and the University of Pretoria Institute for Sustainable Malaria Control (UP ISMC), headed by Prof Tiaan de Jager are category finalists in this year’s prestigious National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) Awards.

These annual awards are presented in partnership with mining company South 32 and are referred to as the 'Science Oscars' of South Africa as they are the largest, most comprehensive and most sought-after national awards of their kind. In South Africa, the NSTF is the most representative multi-stakeholder, non-profit forum for the promotion of science, engineering and technology (SET) and innovation, through collaborative efforts.

The theme for this year’s awards is ‘Sustainable Energy for All.’ This is in recognition of the International Decade of Sustainable Energy (2014-2024), as declared by United Nations. The Awards Gala Dinner will celebrate this theme on 28 June 2018.

Prof Lall, who holds a Department of Science and Technology/South African Research Chair Initiative Chair (SARChI) Chair in Plant Health Products from Indigenous Knowledge Systems, is a finalist in the TW Kambule-NSTF Awards: Researcher category.

She is an internationally recognised scholar in the field of Phytomedicine which is reflected by her recent appointment as an adjunct Professor at the University of Missouri. Prof Lall has been placed in the Essential Science Indicators list of the top 1% of publication outputs (citations) in the disciplines of Pharmacology and Toxicology. One pharmaceutical product for skin-hyperpigmentation problems has been commercialised by international and national companies, while another 12 pharmaceutical prototypes are close to being commercialised.

Finalist in the Special Annual Theme Award: Towards Sustainable Energy for All, Prof Xiaof the Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering, is also a finalist in the Lifetime Award categoryHis scientific contributions are made through his research in nonlinear and complex systems and their applications in the real world. His projects deal with the most important social, economic and environmental problems of contemporary South Africa: HIV/AIDS, transportation and energy efficiency.

Prof Diale, Associate Professor in the Department of Physics is a finalist in the Engineering Research Capacity Development Awards category. She has been nominated for her exceptional performance as a researcher in materials development for applications in semiconductor devices used in light harvesting processes.

Her work centres on collection and storage of solar energy to reduce the effects of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, consequently climate change. This work has a focus which is different from other established energy platforms like nuclear and coal, which can be both harmful and dangerous to the environment.

She explained that ‘the United Nations has long desired that all people on the planet have access to electricity. This millennium goal can only be reached if we have energy technologies that will be accessible at low cost and without disruptions due to unforeseen natural consequences.’

South Africa occupies the best position in the universe where solar irradiation is available to all. ‘What is needed is technologies that will collect and store this valuable cheap resource,’ she said.

Prof Wall, an independent consultant and Extraordinary Professor in the Department of Construction Economics, is a finalist in the Lifetime Award category. He has been nominated for his many decades of responsibility at a senior level for infrastructure service delivery, much of it of an innovative nature, with both public and private sector organisations. The innovation has embraced new and improved policies and strategies, planning and engineering services norms, methods of construction and maintenance, institutional reform, skills transfer and job creation.

Prof Wall is currently serving as a Long-Term Infrastructure Management Adviser at National Treasuryand is also on the boards of a number of public sector service delivery bodies.

The UP ISMC is a finalist in the Communication for Outreach and Creating Awareness of Science Engineering Technology and Innovation Award. Malaria is a complex, often fatal, vector-borne disease. Moving from malaria control to elimination requires novel control measures and strategies. Prof de Jager and his team (Prof Lyn-Marie Birkholtz, Prof Walter Focke, Prof Leo Braack and Dr Taneshka Kruger) at the UP ISMC strive to contribute towards eliminating malaria through high quality, trans-disciplinary research, new innovation and education.

The team promotes malaria awareness and prevention by communicating scientifically correct information through formal, informal and more innovative methods including social media. The UP ISMC is an avenue for the translation of high impact scientific research, from laboratory to community, improving the health of rural communities and visitors to malaria areas.

The UP ISMC developed a cellphone application, MalariaBuddy, in partnership with travel company, TWF and is active on social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Malaria messages are communicated to local communities, travellers and the general public through various media sources. ‘Education, health promotion, communication and innovative high impact research are key to address the Sustainable Development Goals, including malaria,’ said Prof de Jager.


- Author Primarashni Gower

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