Distinguished Women Scientists

This year, the theme for the Women in Science Awards is "Using Science and Technology to Develop Rural Women and End Poverty". (Supplied)

This year, the theme for the Women in Science Awards is "Using Science and Technology to Develop Rural Women and End Poverty". (Supplied)

Physical and Engineering Sciences

Winner: Prof. Alison Lewis
Prof. Alison Lewis graduated with a BSc (Chemical Engineering), MSc (Chemical Engineering) and PhD, all from the University of Cape Town (UCT).
She is a registered professional engineer and a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at UCT. She is also the UCT Orator.

Her interest in chemical engineering grew after being inspired by the realisation that the practical application of mathematics and chemistry was fundamental to the field. She started a new group specialising in crystallisation and precipitation research, and the group has since become one of the accredited research units at UCT.

The research unit is funded by a range of national and international companies and consists of five staff members, one postdoctoral researcher and 15 postgraduate students. Since the research unit's inception, 24 Master's and PhD students have graduated and they have published between them more than 100 international peer-reviewed publications, a patent, eight book contributions and 85 conference presentations.

Both her MSc and PhD degrees focused on applied mathematical models for water treatment, and her research interests revolved around water treatment, and more recently, water refining. Prof. Lewis's research highlights crystallisation as a tool to purify metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium, as well as its potential to treat contaminated water, such as acid mine drainage. She believes that it is essential to design water-treatment processes that are sustainable; they must not only produce pure water, but also recover the contaminants as useful products. This is now her main research focus.

Prof. Lewis has received a number of awards and honours, including the 2010 NRF President's Award for research capacity development and a number of best conference paper and poster awards. She is also a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa and a fellow of the South African Academy of Engineering.

Runner-up: Prof. Leslie Petrik
In May 2008, Prof. Leslie Petrik received her PhD in chemistry from the University of the Western Cape (UWC) in the field of fuel cell and renewable energy technology. She is currently an associate professor, leading the environmental and nanoscience (ENS) group in UWC's Department of Chemistry. The group does postgraduate research in nanoscience, nanotechnology and environmental remediation. Under her leadership over the last six years, more than 60 students (at honours, MSc, PhD, NDT and MTech level) have graduated from ENS programmes. Prof. Petrik was a winner of the Department of Trade and Industry's technology award in the THRIP (Technology and Human Resources for Industry Programme) Quality and Quantity of Students category in 2010.

Prof. Petrik has focused primarily on environmental remediation and nanotechnologies for water purification and waste remediation, with a specific emphasis on how nanotechnology may be beneficially applied in this field. Recent breakthrough technologies patented by Prof. Petrik show how low-cost nanostructured adsorbents can be prepared from waste fly ash, and applied to remove toxic metals and other pollutants from water, how organic pollutants and problem bacteria in water can be completely decomposed and destroyed in a simple, one-step process using a electrohydraulic discharge system, and how fly ash can be used to treat and purify acid mine drainage from coal and gold mining. Since 2008, Prof. Petrik has published seven patents, eight book chapters and more than 48 (out of a total of 67) scientific papers in internationally accredited journals. Prof. Petrik is a reviewer for several international journals and NRF grants and ratings. Her work has attracted numerous research grants and resulted in collaboration with several international research organisations and universities in the USA, Russia, Finland, Poland, Turkey and France.

Social Sciences and Humanities

Winner: Prof. Relebohile Moletsane
Prof. Relebohile Moletsane received her PhD from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, USA, in 1996.

Prof. Moletsane is currently a Professor and JL Dube Chair in Rural Education in the Faculty of Education at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). She has extensive experience in teaching and research in the areas of curriculum studies, gender and education, HIV and Aids education, and girlhood studies in Southern African contexts.

Her methodological interests include the use of participatory visual methodologies in doing research and development work with marginalised groups. She is working on a project which uses digital story-telling with teachers (Through the eyes of women teachers: Indigenous knowledge systems and teaching in rural schools in the age of Aids), and has published several articles and book chapters on using digital technology and digital storytelling in rural communities, including cellphilms, short videos, photo-documentaries and photo narratives.

She is also the co-author (with Claudia Mitchell, Ann Smith and Linda Chisholm) of the book Methodologies for Mapping a Southern African Girlhood in the Age of Aids, a co-editor (with Kathleen Pithouse and Claudia Mitchell) of the 2009 book Making Connections: Self-Study & Social Action and the lead editor (with Claudia Mitchell and Ann Smith) of a 2012 book called Was it Something I Wore? Dress, Identity, and Materiality.

First runner-up: Prof. Liesel Ebersöhn
Prof. Liesel Ebersöhn obtained her PhD in Educational Psychology from the University of Pretoria in 2000. She is director of the Unit for Education Research in Aids and professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Pretoria.

Prof. Ebersöhn is known for her work on resilience in scarce-resource and highneed education settings. She serves on the council of the World Education Research Association (WERA) and was nominated to co-chair the WERA Task Force on Poverty and Education.

Prof. Ebersöhn is the editor of the South African Journal of Education and a past president of the Education Association of South Africa. Prof. Ebersöhn has authored and co-authored 44 articles in various refereed journals. She has been co-author, editor or co-editor of five books and 11 book chapters. Of the 53 postgraduate students she has supervised to completion, many are now scholars at higher education institutions.

Her projects have led to an understanding of how resilience, as opposed to pathology, is an alternative social response to adversity. Her collaborative knowledge generation has had a decided impact on curricula for teacher training.

Since 2003, scores of in-service distance education students have, based on her doctoral research, gained knowledge to view children from a strengthsbased and coping perspective.

Based on research under her mentorship, pre-service teacher education students become equipped to understand their contribution to promoting kaleidoscopic wellness in resource-scarce and HIV-challenged schools, rather than being focused on the microscopic pathology of Aids, poverty and aligned adversities. Prof. Ebersöhn currently holds an NRF C-rating.

Second runner-up: Prof. Annet Wanyana Oguttu
Prof. Annet Wanyana Oguttu completed her LLD in tax law at the University of South Africa (Unisa) in 2008. She was the second woman to have completed a doctorate in tax law at a South African university, and the first black woman to have done so.

She is currently a professor of tax law in the Department of Mercantile Law at Unisa, making her the first black woman to be a full professor of law at Unisa. She is the subject head of the tax law group, at the forefront of developing new qualifications and modules in tax law and supervises postgraduate dissertations and theses in tax law.

She is also an instructor for the international tax law course at the University of Pretoria's African Tax Institute. In 2009, she pursued postdoctoral studies in international tax law at the University of Michigan.

Prof. Oguttu has published 23 articles in top national and international journals, of which 18 are in peer-reviewed journals on topics relating to international tax law. Her publications have contributed to alleviating the current dearth of information on international tax law issues from a South African perspective.

Prof. Oguttu is a member of the editorial board of the Global Studies Journal and she has peerreviewed many tax law articles for various national and internationally accredited journals.

She is an NRF C2-rated researcher and the first black woman in the College of Law at Unisa to receive an NRF rating. She received the Unisa 2011 Women of the Year and the Unisa 2010 Top Performer awards.

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