EDUCATION & SCIENCE

Raenette Taljaard

Lunch spot: Magica Roma, Pinelands

When Raenette Taljaard entered Parliament as a Democratic Alliance MP in 1999, she was—at 25—the youngest woman ever elected to the South African National Assembly. She served as shadow minister of finance from 2002 and was a member of Parliament’s portfolio committee on finance. She also served on numerous other parliamentary committees, including the standing committee on public accounts during the arms deal investigation.
She resigned from Parliament in 2005 to join the academic world. Taljaard is a Yale World Fellow, a Fellow of the Emerging Leaders Programme of the Centre for Leadership and Public Values and a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum. She holds an MA in political science from Rand Afrikaans University. She also has an MSc in public administration and public policy from the London School of Economics. Taljaard is currently the director of The Helen Suzman Foundation and lectures part-time at Wits’s Graduate School of Public and Development Management in areas ranging from public finance to regulation and peacekeeping.

Tshilidzi Marwala

Lunch spot: Barrington’s, Killarney

A recipient of more than 35 awards, including the Order of Mapungubwe from President Thabo Mbeki, Tshilidzi Marwala is currently the Carl and Emily Fuchs professor of systems and control engineering and head of the control and systems group in Wits University’s school of electrical and information engineering. He sits on various boards, including City Power Johannesburg and the South African Council of Natural Scientific Professions. He is also a Fellow of the CSIR. An accomplished and prolific academic, Marwala has made contributions to more than 100 journals, proceedings and books. Before taking up his post at Wits, he was an executive assistant to the technical director at South African Breweries.

Born in Venda in 1971, Marwala matriculated from Mbilwi Secondary School in Sibasa. He has a bachelor of mechanical engineering (magna cum laude) degree from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio in the US, a master’s in engineering from the University of Pretoria and a PhD in computational intelligence from Cambridge University. Marwala’s areas of expertise are the theory and application of artificial intelligence to engineering, computer science, finance, social science and medicine. He supports Moroka Swallows, loves Indian food and plays golf.

Stuart Wilson

Lunch spot: Bar Six, Melville; Moyo, Zoo Lake

Born near Manchester in the United Kingdom, Stuart Wilson was educated at Oxford University. He worked as a policy adviser at the UK government’s home office and immigrated to South Africa in 2002. He is currently a researcher at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, the Wits University-based human rights institute. Wilson has been involved in a series of successful human rights cases in the fields of education and housing. He has assisted parents of children who were unlawfully refused access to public schools, schools facing unlawful closure by the provincial governments, and informal settlers seeking to hold state officials in contempt for failure to deliver on legal undertakings to build low-cost housing and provide basic services.

Wilson is part of the legal team that represents the residents of two inner-city buildings who are challenging the City of Johannesburg’s attempt to evict them as part of its urban renewal strategy. He writes regularly for scholarly journals and news publications. His published academic research spans the fields of education policy, transitional justice and the right to housing.

Zandile Mciza

Lunch spot: Dros; Nino’s

Zandile Mciza’s was born in Durban but grew up in King William’s Town in the Eastern Cape, where she encountered many instances of health afflictions such as hypertension and diabetes. Finding solutions to some of these chronic diseases motivated her to become a general practitioner. She completed a BSc to qualify for enrolment at the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) medical school, but later decided to become a dietician instead. She obtained her BSc in dietetics at the University of the Western Cape in 2000, did an MSc in medical nutrition and dietetics at UCT, finished two chapters in 2003 and converted to a PhD. She is currently working full-time on her PhD, which analyses the social, cultural, environmental and familial factors that contribute to obesity. A registered dietician, she is a part-time sports dietician at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa.

Karin Jacobs

Lunch spot: Cognito, Stellenbosch

A senior lecturer in the department of microbiology at Stellenbosch University, Karin Jacobs obtained her PhD from the University of Pretoria in 2000. Jacobs received several bursaries and awards during her studies, including a prestigious fellowship for doctoral studies and a post-doctoral fellowship. She received the AECI award for her honours study as well as the Andries Brink Sasol prize, dean’s medal, senate’s medal and S2A3 Gencor bronze medal for her master’s dissertation. In 2003, Jacobs was awarded the L’Oreal-Unesco international fellowship for young women in science and, in 2005, the L’Oreal department of science and technology award for most promising young female scientist. Jacobs has published 26 papers in peer-reviewed journals as well as a book. Her research has been presented at local and international conferences and involves the taxonomy of several economically important fungal genera as well as the fungal ecology of fynbos soil.

Mamokgethi Setati

Lunch spot: Orient, Melrose Arch

Professor Mamokgethi Setati holds a PhD in mathematics education from the University of the Witwatersrand. She is the director of the Marang Wits centre for maths and science education and an associate professor of mathematics education at the university. In addition, she is professor extraordinaire at the Tshwane University of Technology. Setati is a National Research Foundation-rated researcher and has published more than 30 reviewed articles in international journals, conference proceedings and book chapters. She is the managing editor of an accredited mathematics education journal, Pythagoras, and serves as a reviewer for several national and international journals. Setati has won several awards for her community and research work, including a national science and technology award for the most outstanding South African young female black researcher in 2004. She is the deputy chairperson of the South African committee for the International Mathematics Union and the South African representative to the International Commission for Mathematical Instruction.

Carol Simon

Lunch spot: The Yellow Piano, Grahamstown

Currently the holder of a National Research Foundation Innovations post-doctoral fellowship, Carol Simon spends much of her time inspecting worms at the department of zoology and entomology at Rhodes University. In particular, her research focuses on the biology, reproduction and taxonomy of polychaete worms that are pests to cultured abalone. She has been investigating the reproductive cycles of the worms as well as describing the developmental mode of their larvae, as this information has important implications for implementing effective treatment methods on farms.

She is now preparing the first taxonomic description of a species that occurs along the south coast of South Africa, which is new to science. The best thing about her work, she says, is that it is the perfect marriage of fundamental and applied research that employs a range of different techniques, so she is constantly learning. This work also enables her to collaborate with researchers in South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States.

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