UP hosts first-ever virtual Academic Achievers’ Awards

Posted on December 02, 2020

The Academic Achievers’ Awards are held annually to recognise UP academics who have made major strides in their respective disciplines. Read on to find out which academics were honoured this year.

For the first time in the institution’s history, UP held its annual Academic Achievers’ Awards virtually. By no means, however, was the significance of this prestigious event dampened by what Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe deems to have been “extraordinary circumstances”.

“We have been celebrating UP’s academic achievers for more than 20 years,” Prof Kupe said. “This is the first year that the awards ceremony is taking place under extraordinary circumstances. The world is in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and UP has not been left unscathed.”

The awards are held to honour UP academics who have shone in their respective disciplines. This year, a total of 110 academics were acknowledged for being included on the list of the National Research Foundation (NRF)-rated scholars or for the outstanding work they had done over the past year.

Prof Kupe is a strong advocate of the crucial role that tertiary education institutions play in not only producing relevant, impactful research, but also in partnering with various sectors in society to address prevalent issues. During his opening address, the Vice-Chancellor highlighted how UP academics have added value in response to the challenges brought about by COVID-19.

“Our staff and students have risen to the challenge with energy and passion to make a meaningful impact in the societies we live and operate in,” he said. “Some final-year medical students from UP volunteered to man a hotline for people who had questions about COVID-19. The Department of Family Medicine developed a highly efficient COVID-19 screening protocol that provides holistic health support to communities in need.

“Furthermore, two UP students developed a mobile app for homeless shelters to access assistance during the pandemic. Also, an academic from the Department of Family Medicine developed a series of animated videos that aim to educate the public about COVID-19, and research conducted by four UP academics found a correlation between lower temperatures and the faster spread of the virus. It is actions such as these that ensure that UP continues to shine as an innovative university. This explains why the University continues to deliver excellence in research.”

The guest speaker on the night was Professor Achille Mbembe, who is an NRF A1-rated researcher, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a distinguished author. In his brief address Prof Mbembe described the ceremony as a “celebration of an institution and of the great minds that constitute its soul and flesh”. He also highlighted the role played by academics like Prof Kupe in the sustainable development agenda, particularly in the context of the sustainability of the Earth’s natural resources.

“Prof Kupe is helping to deepen the idea of the university in this planetary age. In the planetary age we have to confront two issues,” he said. “The first is planetary habitability, which speaks to the Earth we share, albeit unequally, and the way in which it needs care and repair. The task we have is to devise mechanisms to take better care of it and to repair it. The second issue we have to confront is technological escalation. We have to resist the temptation to reduce the Earth to just its financial value. In his attempt at expanding and enriching our idea of the university, Prof Kupe has been insisting that we still need moral consciousness. It seems to me that in order to move forward, critical humanities in association with critical understandings of our environment is key.”

The Conversation Africa Communication Excellence Awards were presented for the first time in the history of the awards. Pfungwa Nyamukachi, Candice Bailey and Caroline Southey of The Conversation Africa – a platform that allows academics to share their research with the academic fraternity as well as with broader society – presented three awards in this category. Prof Henning Melber received the award for writing the most articles in a single calendar year; Prof Fransjohan Pretorius was the recipient of an award for the individual whose story attracted the most readers; and Dr Quixi Sonntag was awarded for her story, which garnered the most comments on the platform.

Dr Molapo Qhobela, CEO of the NRF, was on hand to share a message and congratulate UP’s NRF-rated recipients. Four UP academics were awarded the coveted A-rating; six were awarded a B-rating; 55 were given a C-rating; three were awarded a P-rating; and 17 were given a Y-rating. The number of UP academics that received these ratings from the NRF cements the University’s position as the institution of choice for the country’s best researchers.

The awards ceremony can be viewed here.

Below is the list of awardees:

Chancellor’s Award: Research

Prof Jan Eloff

Vice-Chancellor’s Book Award

Prof Robin Crewe and Prof Robin Moritz for The Dark Side of the Hive

Prof Charles Ngwena for What is Africanness?

Exceptional Academic Achievers

Prof Roumen Anguelov

Prof Dave Berger

Prof Ian Craig

Prof Schalk Els

Prof Stephan Heyns

Prof Jenny Hoobler

Prof Willem Landman

Prof Fanus Venter

Prof Frans Viljoen

Exceptional Young Researchers

Prof Roger Deane

Prof Michal Gwizdala

Prof Lijun Zhang

Excellent Supervisor's Award

Prof Don Cowan

Teaching Excellence and Innovation Laureate Awards

Dr Rory Biggs

Roland Henwood

Heather Thuynsma

Dr Nadia Trent

Community Engagement Award

Prof Christiaan Bezuidenhout

The Conversation Award for Communication Excellence

Prof Fransjohan Pretorius

Prof Henning Melber

Dr Quixi Sonntag

National Research Foundation-rated researchers:

A-rated researchers

Prof Jean Lubuma
Prof James Ogude
Prof James Raftery
Prof Brenda Wingfield

B-rated researchers

Prof Lorenzo Fioramonti
Dr Gerhard Hancke
Prof James Maina
Prof Francois Malan
Prof Dire Tladi
Prof Andries van Aarde

C-rated researchers

Dr Olufemi Adetunji
Dr Pineteh Angu
Prof Arthur Barker
Prof Margret Bauer
Prof Hilda Chikwanda
Dr Duncan Cromarty
Prof Shakila Dada
Prof Tiaan de Jager
Prof Rian de Villiers
Prof Yolanda Dreyer
Prof Amanda du Preez
Dr Jacques du Toit
Prof Graham Duncan
Dr Liesl Dyson
Prof Patricia Forbes
Prof Bernard Fourie
Prof Anabella Gaspar
Prof Alphonso Groenewald
Prof Christopher Isike
Dr Trudi Joubert
Dr Quenton Kritzinger
Prof Birgit Kuschke
Prof Johan Labuschagne
Dr John Lamola
Dr Nils Lenhardt
Dr Peter Lindsey
Prof Berendien Lubbe
Prof Koos Malan
Prof George Markou
Prof Marianne Matthee
Prof Deon Meiring (awarded posthumously)
Prof Leith Meyer
Prof Johann Meylahn
Prof Lucy Moleleki
Prof Raj Naidoo
Prof Ruthira Naraidoo
Dr Claire Newton
Dr Eric Njoroge
Dr Kenneth Oberlander
Dr Funke Omidire
Dr Inge-Marie Petzer
Prof Jerry Pillay
Prof Theresa Rossouw
Dr Astrid Schmulian
Dr Ben Schoeman
Prof Hanlie Smuts
Dr Tinus Stander
Prof Herman Steyn
Prof Mapitsi Thantsha
Prof Rada Tirvassen
Dr Magriet van der Nest
Dr Carina Visser
Dr Juan Vorster
Prof Melanie Wiese
Prof Mpume Zondi

P-rated researchers

Dr Steven Hussey
Dr Thulani Makhalanyane
Prof Cobus Visagie

Y-rated researchers

Dr Farshad Barzegar
Dr Thomas Bishop
Dr Elizabeth du Preez
Dr Inger Fabris-Rotelli
Dr Priscilla Gutura
Dr Marie Hattingh
Dr Barbara Heinze
Dr Marinel Hoffmann
Dr Faheema Mahomed Asmail
Dr Nadene Marx-Pienaar
Dr Tendani Mawela
Dr Mehdi Mehrabi
Dr Miek Messerschmidt
Dr Mohammad Moghimi Ardekani
Dr Carel Oosthuizen
Dr Tania Prinsloo
Dr Riana Steyn

- Author Kaya Nocanda

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