The South African Women in Science Awards

The South African Women in Science Awards

Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor

The South African Women in Science Awards (WISA) have become an integral part of South Africa’s annual celebrations of Women’s Month in August. The Department of Science and Technology (DST) has been hosting WISA since 2003 as part of government’s efforts to recognize and create incentives for women scientists and researchers in the country and to profile successful women scientists whose distinguished achievements in research and innovation are an inspiration to the nation, particularly to young women and girls. The objective is to create enough role models for young women and girls.
The focus for the 2010 awards is on Life Sciences, Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Social Sciences and Humanities. The Social Sciences and Humanities category is featured for the first time this year. The 2010 WISA winners were announced at a Gala dinner on the 13th of August 2010.




Distinguished Woman Scientist in the Life Sciences

Winner: Prof. Jill Farrant

First runner-up: Prof. Susan Nicolson

Second runner-up: Prof. Karen Sliwa-Hahnle

Prof Jill Farrant

Prof. Jill Farrant completed her PhD in cell biology, physiology and biochemistry at the former University of Natal in 1991. She currently occupies a research chair in Molecular Physiology of Plant Desiccation Tolerance at the School of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Prof. Farrant is the first woman in science at UCT to receive an A-rating from the NRF, which underscores her stature as an international researcher. She has published close to 100 peer-reviewed articles over the years. Prof. Farrant has supervised 25 MSc and 13 PhD students (of which 10 and 13, respectively, were women), as well as numerous postdoctorates. She runs the Equity Development Programme, under which she has obtained funding for black and women students. Her work allows for the identification of characteristics, genes and the signals that switch those genes, which might be important to drought tolerance. This research could lead to the production of drought tolerant crops. Prof. Farrant works on South African species. She is the associate editor of the journals Plant Signaling and Behaviour, and Plant Growth Regulation, and is on the editorial board of Annals of Botany.

Prof. Susan Nicolson

Prof. Susan Nicolson completed her PhD in insect physiology at the University of Cambridge in 1974. She is currently Head of Department and Professor in the Department of Zoology and Entomology at the University of Pretoria. She is rated as a B researcher by the NRF, and has made an immense contribution over the years in two major disciplines of the biological sciences, namely the excretory physiology of insects and nectivorous feeding in sugar birds and sunbirds. Prof. Nicolson has published well over 120 research articles and has written two books. Twenty Masters and PhD students have graduated under her supervision. She has served the Zoological Society of Southern Africa for many years as both editor of the South African Journal of Zoology (now African Zoology) and also as a committee member of the Zoological Society.

Prof. Karen Sliwa-Hahnle

Prof. Karen Sliwa-Hahnle graduated with a PhD in immune activation in heart failure in 2002 at the University of the Witwatersrand. She is currently a Professor of Cardiovascular Research, and Director of the Hatter Cardiovascular Research Institute at the University of Cape Town. She is rated a B researcher by the NRF. Prof. Sliwa-Hahnle has made a substantial contribution to the understanding of the causes and treatment of unexplained heart failure of pregnancy (a condition which affects 1 in 1 000 women following childbirth in Africa), and to the delineation of heart diseases that afflict the urban population of Soweto. She initiated community awareness and intervention programmes that seek to improve nutrition in Soweto.These are now expanding nationally. She has over 60 publications in the highest ranking journals in this area, and has supervised or co-supervised 10 PhD students. She also trains registrars in the field of internal medicine, and fellows in cardiology on a regular basis. She serves on five international editorial boards, and she is an Adjunct Professorial Fellow to the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Australia.


Achiever Award for a Woman Innovator in Indigenous Knowledge Systems (Winner)

Ms Makgoshi Masipa

Ms Makgoshi Masipa is a lecturer in housing and textiles at the University of Venda. She completed her Masters degree in development at the University of Limpopo (UL) in 2000. Her lifetime commitment has been community development projects largely focused on food security. She has been instrumental in the establishment of the following departments: Department of Nutrition (UL), and the Department of Family Ecology and Consumer Sciences (University of Venda). In addition to her numerous other projects, in 2006 she started a project on indigenous food processing which included the bottling of indigenous fruits such as prickly pear and marula. This initiative has been proposed for the establishment of an Indigenous Knowledge Centre (Food Processing Plant) in the Botlokwa area, with jams and juices processed from the indigenous fruits which are abundant in season. She contributed substantially to the training of agriculture technicians in Limpopo who developed indigenous dishes, published in the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research South African Indigenous Foods recipe book project. In 2008, Ms Masipa was appointed a member of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Indigenous Knowledge Systems.




Distinguished Woman Scholar in the Social Sciences or Humanities

Joint Winner: Prof. Stella Nkomo

Joint Winner: Prof. Clair Penn

First Runner-Up: Prof. Erika De Wet

Second Runner-Up: Prof. Lind a Richter

Prof. Stella Nkomo

Prof. Stella Nkomo is a Professor of Human Resource Management at the University of Pretoria, and has a B-rating from the NRF. She completed her doctoral studies at the University of Massachusetts in the United States of America. Prof. Nkomo has held teaching positions at the University of North Carolina, the University of Massachusetts, the University of South Africa and the University of Rhode Island. She has been a visiting professor/scholar at Dartmouth College and Harvard University. Her internationally recognised work on race, gender and managing diversity appears in numerous journals. She has been widely acclaimed by her peers for her brave and novel approaches in respect of the risky topics of race, gender, power and inequality. Prof. Nkomo’s work brings cutting-edge insights from a dynamic South African perspective. She is a highly visible thought leader in the field as evidenced by invitations to contribute to encyclopaedias and handbooks. She is an associate editor for Organization: The Critical Journal of Organization, Theory and Society. She also serves on eight other editorial boards. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Sage Award given by the Gender and Diversity Division of the US Academy of Management, which recognises the contributions made through a scholar’s body of work.

Prof. Clair Penn

Prof. Clair Penn is a Chair of Simmonds Hampton Trust of Speech Pathology and Audiology and Professor at Wits University. She is B-rated by the NRF. In 2007, she was awarded the order of Mapungubwe (Silver) by the President of South Africa. Prof. Penn completed her PhD in Speech Pathology at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1983. Prof. Penn is internationally recognised for her contribution to research on language disorders and aphasia, work which includes disorders following a stroke, her work on intercultural linguistics and communication, and more recently her groundbreaking work on healthcare communication. Prof. Penn has published well over 60 papers in refereed journals, has written or edited four books while contributing to many others, and has published a large number of conference proceedings. Prof. Penn has successfully supervised 12 PhD and more than 30 MSc students. She has served on numerous committees which advance her area of work, and has received many research grants. Her community work includes teaching courses for community-based rehabilitation, speech and hearing workers at the Alexandra Health Clinic and Tinswalo Hospital.

Prof. Erika De Wet

Prof. Erika De Wet is a Professor of constitutional law and acting Head of Department at the University of Amsterdam. Since leaving South Africa in 1991 she has worked at various institutes, universities and legal institutions. Her doctoral degree in comparative constitutional law was completed at the University of the Free State in 1995. She is B-rated by the NRF. Prof. De Wet has retained links with South African universities by serving as an Extraordinary Professor of the University of North West from 2004 to 2009, and holding a similar position at the University of Pretoria from 2008 to date. Since 2004 three students have completed their PhDs under her supervision. The high regard in which she is held internationally is also evident from the membership of the six editorial boards of numerous academic journals of high international standing that she has held over the years. She is currently Editor in Chief of International Law in Domestic Courts. Her status as an academic is based on her illustrious publication record of 2 books, 1 book chapter, and more than 40 peer-reviewed articles. She is an internationally recognised leader in her field, and her book The Chapter 7 Powers of the United Nations Security Council is widely cited in international courts.

Prof. Linda Richter

Prof. Linda Richter is a distinguished research fellow at the Human Sciences Research Council. She is on contract for half of her time to the Geneva-based Global Fund on a project to fight Aids, tuberculosis and malaria. She is an elected fellow at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, an honorary Professor at the University of the Witwatersrand, and an honorary fellow at the University of Melbourne, in Australia. She completed her PhD in Psychology in 1981 at the University of Natal. She is rated a B researcher by the NRF. The Birth to Twenty (Bt20) study, a birth cohort study of 3 273 children born in Soweto in 1990, who have been followed up, together with their families, for 20 years, has carved a respectable niche in the international literature for developmental research from low and middle income countries. Her work is internationally recognised as evident from her 122 peer-reviewed publications, 4 books, 102 book chapters, and 65 research reports. Her tireless contribution to research, policy and practice aimed at improving the well-being of children, youth and families in South Africa is widely acknowledged. She has devised innovative interventions including programmes to support malnourished children and their caregivers, street children, children in situations of conflict and war, support for vulnerable children provided by youth, promoting men’s care and protection for children, and palliative care for sick children in the context of the HIV/Aids pandemic. Prof. Linda Richter is currently serving on the UNAIDS Task Force on Women, Girls, Gender Equality and HIV, and is a member of the Coalition of Children Affected by AIDS, the Inter-Agency Task Team and the Regional Inter-Agency Task Team on Children and AIDS.


Distinguished Young Woman Scientist in the Life Sciences
Winner: Prof. Alta Schutte
First Runner-Up: Dr Marieka Gryzenhout
Second Runner-Up: Dr Nomakwezi Mzilikazi

Prof. Alta Schutte

Prof. Alta Schutte is a Professor and Director of the Hypertension in Africa Research Team at North-West University. She completed her PhD in Physiology at the former Potchefstroom University in 2002. She has had a Y1 rating from the NRF since 2005, and is awaiting her latest rating. She has published widely in the area of cardiovascular research, with a track record of 59 research articles, and has co-authored 4 books. Her work focuses on alleviating the immense burden of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease in African people. She has successfully supervised 10 Masters and PhD students. She has been a reviewer for 16 local and international journals, and has also served as a reviewer for the NRF.

Dr Marieka Gryzenhout

Dr Marieka Gryzenhout is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of the Free State. She completed her PhD in Microbiology in 2006 at the University of Pretoria (UP). It is said that when she graduated she was the PhD student with the largest number of publications ever at UP. Her work is focused on pathogens (fungus) that threaten forests, particularly in tropical regions. The support she provided to her peers while a PhD student is evident from her co-authorship with them while they were all students. She has mentored several postgraduate students, and successfully supervised one PhD and several honours students. She has 40 publications in peerreviewed journals. She has served as a reviewer for one local journal. She has given a number of international invited talks. Marieka has contributed immensely in science awareness and understanding by the general public through talks. Also, she is a founder and editor of the e-newsletter Mycorrhiza, which has a growing mailing list.

Dr Nomakwezi Mzilikazi

Dr Nomakwezi Mzilikazi is a Senior Lecturer at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU). She completed her PhD in Zoology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 2004. Nomakwezi is Y2-rated by the NRF. She has significantly advanced the understanding of torpor and heterothermy in small mammals. Her work has direct relevance for predicting the impacts of climate change. Dr Mzilikazi has established one of the best-equipped laboratories for small animal energetics in South Africa, at NMMU. She has authored and co-authored 10 publications in peer-reviewed journals, and also served as a reviewer for one international journal, and as a grant and scholarship reviewer for the NRF. Nomakwezi is more than happy to share her enthusiasm with others (students, media and the public) through lectures and interviews. In 2003, she was the recipient of a DST Woman in Science Fellowship.


Distinguished Young Woman Researcher in the Social Sciences or Humanities
Winner: Prof. Michelle Kelly-Louw
First Runner-Up: Dr Floretta Avril Boonzaier

Prof. Michelle Kelly-Louw

Prof. Michelle Kelly-Louw is a Professor in Banking and Insolvency Law in the Department of Mercantile Law at Unisa. She completed her doctorate in law at Unisa in 2008. She has a Y2 rating from the NRF. Michelle’s research contributes extensively to three fields of commercial law, namely insolvency law, consumer law and banking law. She is an expert on the law of demand guarantees, a field of study that is essential to international finance. Not only has she contributed to the drafting of legislation in South Africa (more than six Bills and Acts, as well as the regulations under them), but also to the dissemination of information to the general public on the application of these provisions. She often volunteers her time to teach insolvency law to school children in high schools in Pretoria. In 2000/2001 she was an active member of the Unisa Street Law Committee. Her publication record includes 20 peer-reviewed articles, 1 book, 5 book chapters, and three technical/policy reports. She has successfully supervised 3 Masters students. She is a member of the advisory board of a United Kingdom journal, and has been a reviewer of 2 South African journals.

Dr Floretta Avril Boonzaier

Dr Floretta Avril Boonzaier is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cape Town. She completed her

PhD from the same institution in 2005 with a research topic which focused on the construction of subjectivities in relation to violence in intimate heterosexual relationships, a topic which informed some of her current projects. In one such project with Stellenbosch University, Dr Boonzaier investigates intimate heterosexual relationships in a low income, semi-rural community in the Western Cape—a project funded by the South Africa-Netherlands Research Programme on Alternatives in Development. In another flagship project entitled Men, Masculinities and Violence, Dr Boonzaier explores constructions of masculinity in the South African context and particularly in relation to the perpetration of violence against an intimate women partner. This project is aimed at coming up with research-led interventions towards developing effective interventions for domestic violence. Dr Boonzaier has published 7 peer-reviewed articles. She has 5 book chapters and has co-edited the first book on gender and psychology in South Africa. Dr Boonzaier has successfully supervised 6 Masters students. Dr Boonzaier has been a recipient of several awards. In 2009/10 she was a Harvard-Mandela Fellow at Harvard University, and was also a visitor at the WEB du Bois centre. While she was a student, she received Mellon Fellowships at both the MA and PhD levels.




Fellowships for Women Scientists

Adriana Marais

Adriana Marais recently completed her MSc in quantum physics from the University of Kwa-Zulu-Natal and is registered at the same institution for a PhD in the newly emerging field of quantum biology. Her research interest in the investigation of quantum phenomena in the process of photosynthesis was spurred by her participation in the international conference on the “Quantum effects in Biological Systems” held at Harvard University in June 2010. Adriana’s academic record is impeccable. She obtained seven distinctions in Grade 12 (including in Mathematics and Science), and went on to complete her MSc in Physics summa cum laude. Adriana is currently an assistant lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Marietjie Landman

Marietjie Landman is currently finalising her PhD studies in the Zoology Department of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, having had her original MSc registration upgraded to that of a PhD. Her PhD thesis focuses on developing a novel predictive understanding of the effects of megaherbivores on vulnerable ecosystems and associated biodiversity in the Eastern Cape region. Through a range of specialist consulting projects, national and international workshops, Marietjie’s skills base has appreciated to include skills in biostatistical modelling and analysis (a scarce skill among South African biologists). Marietjie’s bright future in the field of zoological sciences is supported by an impressive list of publications which include eight manuscripts published in peer-reviewed journals and five publications that are in various stages of preparation. Marietjie was invited to participate in the South African National Elephant Assessment (one of the very few woman students to be invited) and played a key role in the compilation of a chapter on the impacts of elephants on biodiversity. Ms Landman has received a number of awards, including three international awards to participate in courses in other countries.

Nonhlanhla Dlamini

Nonhlanhla Dlamini obtained a National Diploma in Biotechnology from the then Natal Technikon with distinctions in courses such as Sanitation, Safety and Hygiene, Disease and Immune Response and Food Microbiology. She subsequently completed a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology from the Durban University of Technology and a Medical Science Master’s degree in Occupational and Environmental Health from the then University of Natal. Nonhlanhla is a registered full-time PhD student in the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and is currently a visiting fellow at the University of Florida in the United States. Her research interest is on the pertinent area of African traditional medicine, with the potential for it to be used in the treatment of Karposi’s Sarcoma, a cancer of increasing significance due to its close association with HIV/Aids. In 2009, she was named one of the top 300 South African achievers by the Mail & Guardian. Nonhlanhla has written a manuscript that is being considered for publication in an international journal.




TATA Africa Scholarships

This category is sponsored by Tata Africa. Three scholarships were awarded to young women scientists in areas in which the participation of women is traditionally low.

Olasiende Oluwatoyin Adenike

Olasiende Oluwatoyin Adenike holds a Masters degree in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State, Nigeria—an institution she later joined as a researcher and a lecturer in 2007. She is currently on study leave in South Africa where she is studying for a doctoral degree in Metallurgical Engineering at the University of Witwatersrand. Her PhD project is on evaluating the corrosion resistance of duplex stainless steel. Olasiende has made several presentations in her area of work, including a paper presented at the 5th International Conference of the African Materials Research Society, Abuja, Nigeria, and a presentation at the Advanced Metals Initiatives Student Seminar, Mintek, Randburg. Back home in Nigeria, Olasiende was pivotal in the activities of the Nigerian Women Engineers and Welfare Committees by ensuring, among other things, that women academics got the support they deserved.

Seodisa Senkepeng Louisa Lekalakala

Seodisa Senkepeng Louisa Lekalakala is an MSc student in Applied Mathematics at North West University. Her current research project looks at the practical and theoretical feasibility of the use of financial derivatives in preventing market crashes, especially those as severe as the 2008 and 2009 market crash, through the application of Partial Differential Equations to Mathematical Finance. Her previous academic achievements include obtaining a BSc degree with a distinction in Mathematics, and an average final mark of 75% in Mathematics in her BSc Hons degree. Her Honours research project was published in the North West University Journal. Seodisa has taught mathematics at a high school, a college of education and has served the North West Provincial Education Department in various capacities in support of the teaching and learning of Mathematics.

Lufuno Grace Mavhandu

Lufuno Grace Mavhandu holds a BSc degree in biochemistry and microbiology, and a BSc Hons and MSc in microbiology, all from the University of Venda. Lufuno is currently registered for a doctoral degree in microbiology at the same university, with a research project designed to evaluate plant-derived molecules for anti-HIV replication properties. Lufuno’s research efforts in this area have seen her publish 2 peer-reviewed papers and 2 manuscripts, with another 4 manuscripts already submitted and 4 conference presentations made. Lufuno is the third person from the University of Venda to visit the University of Virginia on the Pfizer-Centre for Global Health Fellowship Programme.

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