Gizelle van Niekerk awarded Presidential Portuguese medal

Posted on September 20, 2023

Gizelle van Niekerk, a cum laude graduate in MSc Chemistry, was recently awarded the Presidential medal for outstanding academic achievement by the President of Portugal. This factors in both undergraduate and postgraduate studies at UP.

“It is a great honour and privilege to have received the Presidential Medal. It is wonderful to know that the quality of the education at UP generates students whose achievements are recognised nationally and internationally. I am extremely grateful for this award, as they are a testament to endless hours in the laboratory and countless late nights studying fervently throughout my studies,” said an elated Gizelle when asked how she feels about this award.

“She added, “Perseverance and dedication are crucial to success, and these awards reinforce my belief that hard work does pay off. Being acknowledged for one’s achievements, especially as a woman in STEM, encourages one to go from strength to strength and is vital in motivating the next generation of female scientists to reach new heights. I am incredibly grateful to my supervisor, Prof Henriëtta Langmi from the Department of Chemistry, for her faith in me and all her support. Without her and all the people who have helped me along my journey at UP, I would not be where I am.

Due to the President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, visiting the country of South Africa in 2023, South Africa was tasked with identifying top academic candidates among the South African Portuguese community. Nominees were put through a selection process, and the top 10 finalists were invited to meet the President at a Gala Luncheon, at which the medal was awarded to me by the President. Gizelle was awarded the medal based on her consistent top academic achievement and contribution to science in South Africa.

Gizelle also recently learned she won a Department of Science and Innovation’s Woman in Science Master’s Fellowship Award.

She presented her MSc research internationally in 2022 at the 14th Green Chemistry Postgraduate Summer School in Venice, Italy. The GSSD (Green Sciences for Sustainable Development Foundation - Europe) and the OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons – United States) fully funded the trip. Gizelle has already had one published article with her supervisor in the Polyhedron Journal.

Gizelle obtained a BSc honours in Chemistry with distinction (81.85%) and won the BRUKER Prize for being the top BSc Hons Physical Chemistry graduate. She also received the Golden Key award for her first-year academic performance.

Her master’s research was to valorise waste eggshells into a value-added calcium-based metal-organic framework via an acid-mediated green synthesis for potential applications in carbon dioxide capture.


- Author Martie Meyer

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