Future stars

The P-rating is awarded to young researchers who, on the basis of exceptional potential demonstrated in their published doctoral work and/ or their research outputs in their early post-doctoral careers, are considered likely to become future international leaders in their field.

Dr Cang Hui

University of Stellenbosch

Dr Cang Hui has had a life-long interest in physics and complexity sciences. He studied applied mathematics at Xi’an Jiaotong University, winning the Excellent Undergraduate Award in 1997.
His final year project under Prof Zhien Ma, a leading biological mathematician, focused on the analysis of the dynamics of epidemics. After winning the title of Excellent Post-Graduate at Lanzhou University, he obtained his MSc in applied mathematics on metapopulation dynamics in realistic landscapes in 2001 and his PhD specialising in mathematical ecology in 2004. His work on ecosystem functioning in river basins and the ecological restoration of alpine wetlands for Prof Zizhen Li won him first and third prizes in the Gansu Provincial Ministry of Education’s Progress in Science and Technology awards. Dr Hui joined the University of Stellenbosch in 2004, conducting his postdoctoral research on spatial pattern analysis with Prof Melodie McGeogh. He presented a Bayesian model in the Journal of Animal Ecology, dealing with the modifiable area unit problem in physical geography and landscape ecology. The work highlighted the importance of spatial scale in the study of species distribution and community structure. He was appointed Visiting Professor by the Key Laboratory of Western China’s Environmental System at Lanzhou University in 2006, and was involved in raising the awareness of the effects of climate change on social environmental sustainability.

In 2007 he presented a talk entitled Dilemma Between Social Development and Environmental Sustainability on Robben Island for the Mandela-Rhodes Foundation as well as one entitled Climate Change, Environmental Sustainability and the Future for Cambridge University’s Working for Industry Programme’s Prince of Wales Seminar series. Dr Hui joined the DST/NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology at the University of Stellenbosch as a full-time researcher in 2008. His work uses biological invasions as a natural experiment to explore community structure and the characteristics of invasive species. He has also built, with support from the NRF Blue Skies programme, a unifying model for macro-ecological patterns. His current work covers a number of areas, including large-scale ecological functioning (supported by the BIOTA Project), adaptive evolutionary dynamics (supported by CIB) and the genetic structure of invasive birds. Besides supervising students and presenting short courses, he is also a member of the Ecological Society of America (ESA) and an active reviewer for more than 30 journals. He has published a number of papers in Nordic Society’s Oikos and the Ecological Society of America’s journal Ecology, as well as other mainstream scientific journals. He is also a member of the editorial boards of Biological Invasions, The Open Zoology Journal, and Applied Mathematics and Computational Sciences. He has published more than 60 peer-reviewed papers in 25 journals as well as four book chapters in the field of ecology and applied mathematics. More than 40 are listed in ISI journals. His publications have received more than 300 citations to date.

Dr John Terblanche

University of Stellenbosch

Dr John Terblanche has established an international track record in the field of insect physiology. He obtained both his MSc and PhD degrees from the University of Stellenbosch, the former in physiology and the latter in zoology. His work has provided the foundation for a variety of applications in the control of agricultural pests and pest-borne diseases. As a PhD student he worked under the renowned evolutionary physiologist Prof Steven Chown, with whom he also worked on the Tsetse Fly Project, a collaborative project of Iowa State University, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Kenya Trypanosomiasis Research Institute, the Tanzanian Trypanosomiases Research Institute and the University of Oxford. This project provided valuable data in areas of tsetse biology, thermal tolerance, desiccation resistance and metabolic rate, which assisted in the prediction, management and control of tsetse-borne trypanosomiasis. Two other major projects were an Antarctic invertebrate survey, including studies of the physiological mechanisms underlying low temperature tolerance in springtails, and a study of human ventilatory hypoxia tolerance conducted during his MSc research. While completing his postdoctoral research, he was also part of a team researching insect thermal biology on Marion Island. He serves as a scientific advisor to the SA Department of Agriculture’s Genetically Modified Organisms Committee and has initiated a number of projects with industry partners such as the Deciduous Fruit Producers’ Trust, Citrus Research International and the SA Sugar Research Institute. Dr Terblanche jointly won a research exchange scholarship to visit Dr Hetz’s laboratory in Berlin to investigate mechanisms underlying discontinuous gas exchange and holds an NRF Blue Skies grant to further explore this field.

Dr Terblanche has published 59 peer-reviewed articles in international journals such as Science, Ecology Letters, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA and Biological Reviews, as well as 14 news commentaries and three popular articles. These publications have been cited over 720 times. His news and popular science articles have helped raise awareness of scientific research to the broader community, especially at high school level. In addition, he has also made three book contributions—one each on thermal relations of insects, insect responses to climate change and radio telemetry in insects. He has also peer-reviewed more than 90 articles in 34 international journals such as Ecology Letters, The American Naturalist, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, Evolution and Ecology. He also serves as a regular reviewer for the Journal of Experimental Biology, the Journal of Insect Physiology, Functional Ecology and Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, and grant proposals for agencies such as the NRF, the National Science Foundation (US), the National Environment Research Council (UK), and the Israel Science Foundation. He is currently a senior lecturer at the University of Stellenbosch, and has mentored a number of students at Honour’s, Master’s and Doctorate levels. He serves on the editorial board of African Entomology and Frontiers in Invertebrate Physiology, and has previously served on the editorial board of Open Entomology Journal. He is a member of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, the Entomological Society of Southern Africa and the Ecological Society of America.

Dr Trevor Vickey

University of the Witwatersrand

The origin of mass has remained one of the greatest mysteries in physics. Where the Standard Model Theory of the elementary particles of matter and their interactions has remained the cornerstone of much of the research in this area, a major missing piece of the puzzle is the generation of elementary particle mass. It is in this area that Dr Trevor Vickey has focused much of his work, specialising in elementary particle physics. He obtained his Master’s and PhD degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the United States and started his career assisting in the assembly of hadronic calorimeter modules for the ATLAS detector. This is one of the general purpose experiments performed with the Large Hadron Collider, a 27km long facility located at CERN on the Swiss-French border used for accelerating protons to near-light speeds. He also worked on the construction of the central outer tracker, a charged particle tracking detector for the RUN II upgrade of the collider detector at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (CDF) in the US. In recognition of academic excellence, he was inducted as a lifetime member of the Alpha Lambda Delta national honour society.

Dr Vickey’s work at CDF on bottom quark identification led to the first measurements of top quark (an elementary particle and fundamental constituent of matter) production cross-section at 1,96TeV in the lepton+jets final state and resulted in his receiving a Physical Review D publication with 180 citations from the American Physical Society. For his PhD thesis he returned to the lepton+jets top quark, this time measuring the polarisation of W bosons from the decay of top quarks, which garnered him the Giulio Ascoli Award in 2004 for excellence and originality in the study of high-energy physics. After obtaining his Doctorate, he accepted a postdoctoral position at the University of Wisconsin on the ATLAS experiment at the LHC. Here his research broke ground in a number of areas including Tau identification, Higgs boson searches and evaluating the discovery reach for exotic non-Standard Model particles. His expertise in Higgs boson searches resulted in his selection to present Higgs Searches at the LHC on behalf of the ATLAS collaboration at the 2008 Recontres de Moriond in Italy, one of the most important winter conferences in his field. Dr Vickey has made contributions to seven sub-chapters of the book Expected Performance of the ATLAS Experiment—Detector, Trigger and Physics and led the development of the ATLAS silicon tracker readout driver circuit board used to read out 86.2-million channels of the ATLAS experiment. He has co-authored more than 100 peer-reviewed articles and was inducted into the Sigma Xi scientific research honour society. He is currently a senior lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand and a visiting lecturer at the University of Oxford. He is a member of the American Physical Society, the South African Institute of Physics and the UK Institute of Physics.

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

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