Distinguished Women in Science: Life, Natural and Engineering Sciences

Distinguished Women in Science: Life, Natural and Engineering Sciences

Winner: Prof. Quarraisha Abdool Karim

Prof. Quarraisha Abdool Karim received her PhD in epidemiology at the former University of Natal in 2000.
She is currently an Associate Professor in Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University; Adjunct Professor in Public Health and Family Medicine, Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal; and an Associate Scientific Director of the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA). In the past two decades, Prof. Abdool Karim has committed her professional career to stopping the spread of HIV in South Africa. As a principal researcher in the CAPRISA 004 scientific research programme, she demonstrated that tenofovir gel prevents both HIV and Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) Type 2 infection. This finding has been heralded as one of the most significant scientific breakthroughs in the fight against AIDS by WHO, UNAIDS and several leading organisations.

Prof. Abdool Karim is a reviewer for several public health and AIDS journals, serves on the board of the AIDS Law Project and is a consultant to WHO, UNAIDS and the UNDP on several AIDS-related expert committees on gender, ethics, treatment, and research capacity building. She is currently a co-chair of the HIV Prevention Trials Network, a large National Institutes of Health-funded network that sets and undertakes key HIV prevention research globally.

Prof. Abdool Karim is the recipient of numerous awards. In 2011, she was awarded the Drug Information Association’s “President’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in World Health” for research on the tenofovir gel microbiocide; the Allan Rosenfield Alumni Award for Excellence; and the NSTF-BHP Billiton Award for Research Leading to Innovation. She has published over 94 scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals and 22 book chapters.

First Runner-Up: Prof. Maureen Coetzee

Prof. Maureen Coetzee completed her PhD at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1987. She is currently a Research Professor and the Director: Malaria Entomology Research Unit, School of Pathology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand. Prof. Coetzee is an elected Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society, the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene and the Academy of Sciences of South Africa.

In the past 30 years that Prof. Coetzee has been involved in mosquito systematics, she has used genetic principles to discover 10 new species of Anopheles. Recently, she and her group successfully used cytogenetics, cross-matching techniques and molecular assays to demonstrate that Anopheles funestus in Malawi is in fact two separate species and this has been published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Prof. Coetzee has published over 138 scientific articles in top international peer-reviewed journals and has authored and co-authored a total of 13 books. She is a member of several World Health Organisation committees, and of scientific advisory committees for Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation projects aimed at the global elimination of malaria. Prof. Coetzee won the 2009 National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) Award for her outstanding contribution to science in the past 10 years and has an National Research Foundation (NRF) B rating.

Second Runner-Up: Prof. Renée Kraan-Korteweg

Prof. Renée Kraan-Korteweg completed her PhD at the University of Basel in 1985. She is currently a Chair of Astronomy and Head of the Astronomy Department at the University of Cape Town. Prof. Kraan-Korteweg has worked at various international institutions, such as the University of Guanajuato (Mexico), the Observatoire de Paris-Meudon (France), the University of Groningen (the Netherlands) and the University of Basel (Switzerland).

Her research is focused on unveiling the large-scale distribution of galaxies hidden by our own Milky Way, to get a better understanding of the dynamics and cosmic flows in the nearby Universe. This is being pursued through complementary observational approaches (from optical to infrared to radio). She is recognised as a world-leading expert in this field and has written various reviews on the topic.

In 2009, Prof. Kraan-Korteweg co-founded the Astrophysics, Cosmology and Gravity Centre (ACGC) a UCT-accredited Research Centre that brings observational astronomers and theoretical cosmologists together. She is also active in the National Astrophysics and Space Science Programme (NASSP) that offers postgraduate training to students from all over Africa. Prof. Kraan-Korteweg has published 165 research articles, of which 71 are in peer-reviewed journals. Prof. Kraan-Korteweg is an NRF B1-rated researcher.

This article originally appeared in the Mail & Guardian newspaper as an advertorial supplement

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