University of Pretoria - Research Review
University of Pretoria - Research Review
Part 3 - Researchers and research capacity

Research awards

Professor Bernard Slippers
Professor Bernard Slippers

Dr Nico de Bruyn
Dr Nico de Bruyn

Dr Peter le Roux
Dr Peter le Roux

Dr Thulani Makhalanyane
Dr Thulani Makhalanyane

Internal Awards

Each year the University honours and celebrates researchers and academic achievers for their contribution to UP. There are four categories of awards: exceptional academic achievers; exceptional young researchers; National Research Foundation (NRF)-rated researchers; and the Chancellor’s award.

The Chancellor’s Award: Research

Professor Bernard Slippers was the recipient of this prestigious award for 2015, in recognition of exceptional achievement in the field of research aimed at the advancement of science and the associated promotion of the interests of UP.

The Vice-Chancellor’s Book Awards

The Vice-Chancellor’s Book Awards recognise and reward authors of scholarly books, monographs and collections. The prizes are awarded annually in two categories: the humanities and social sciences, and natural and applied sciences. For 2015 one award, in the humanities and social sciences, was made to Professor Corinne Sandwith for her book, World of Letters: reading communities and cultural debates in early apartheid South Africa, published by the UKZN Press.

Her research constructs a rich historical analysis from fragments of cultural and intellectual spaces, contributing significantly to our present-day understanding of literature and culture.

Exceptional Academic Achievers Awards

These awards recognise senior academics who are regarded highly by their peers and have consistently excelled in the areas of under- and postgraduate teaching and learning, research, community service and administration. Any academic who has been awarded an A-rating by the NRF in the year under consideration automatically qualifies as an Exceptional Achiever for as long as he or she remains an A-rated researcher. For the year 2015, eight awards were made:

Professor Frans Viljoen (Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law)
Professor Liesel Ebersohn (Centre for the Study of Resilience, Faculty of Education)
Professor Jean Lubuma (Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences)
Professor Andrew McKechnie (Zoology and Entomology, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences)
Professor Teresa Coutinho (Microbiology, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences)
Professor Johan Kirsten (Agricultural Economics, Extension and Rural Development, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences)
Professor Louis Nel (Microbiology and Plant Pathology, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences)
Professor John Taylor (Food Science, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences).

Exceptional Young Researchers

This award is given to exceptional young researchers. Any person who has been evaluated by the NRF as a P-rated researcher automatically enjoys Exceptional Young Researcher status. Two awards were made for the year 2015:

Dr Nico de Bruyn (Zoology and Entomology, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences)
Dr Peter le Roux (Plant Science, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences).

External Awards

External awards demonstrate recognition of UP’s academics and their achievements. In 2015, several UP researchers received such awards as the following summary of highlights shows.

The DST-NRF SARChI Chair Awards

UP was awarded four of the new DST-NRF SARChI Research Chairs for women scientists announced by the Minister of Science and Technology, Ms Naledi Pandor, in 2015. The recipients were:

Professor Erika de Wet: SA Research Chair in International Constitutional Law
Professor Brenda Wingfield: SARChI Chair in Fungal Genomics
Professor Wanda Markotter: SARChI Chair in Animal Infectious Diseases (zoonoses)
Professor Namrita Lall: SARChI Chair in Indigenous Knowledge Systems.
The four Chairs are profiled in this Review.

NSTF-BHP Billiton Awards

These annual awards recognise outstanding contributions by individuals and teams to science, engineering, technology and innovation (SETI). Under the patronage of the Minister of Science and Technology, the awards have grown to be among the most prestigious public SETI awards in South Africa. In 2015, UP had three winners, with research interests ranging from the mole-rat queens of the Kalahari, to life under rocks in Antarctica, and the genetic improvement of forest trees:

Professor Nigel Bennett, Department of Zoology, SARChI Chair of Mammalian Behavioural Ecology and Physiology, and the Austin Roberts Chair of African Mammalogy.
Dr Thulani Makhalanyane, Centre for Microbial Ecology and Genomics, Department of Genetics.
Professor Zander Myburg, Forest Molecular Genetics Programme, Department of Genetics, and Chair in Forest Genomics and Biotechnology in FABI.

Other prestigious external recognition

Several prestigious national and international awards were won by UP researchers, including: Professor Brenda Wingfield, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, was awarded the Christiaan Hendrik Persoon medal, the highest award of the Southern African Society for Plant Pathology (SASPP) recognising outstanding research achievements in Plant Pathology. Professor Wingfield is only the sixth person and the first woman scientist to receive this award in the 53-year history of the SASPP.

Professor Michael Pepper, Director of the Institute for Cellular and Molecular Medicine at UP, and his team of researchers were awarded a Medical Research Council (MRC) Extramural Research Unit for Stem Cell Research and Therapy.

Professor De Wet Swanepoel (Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology) was awarded the Southern African Association for the Advancement of Science (S2A3) British Association Medal (Silver), one of the highest awards for original scientific research in South Africa, for his innovative smartphone application hearScreen™.

The John FW Herschel Medal, the senior medal of the Royal Society of South Africa, was awarded to Professor Robert Millar for 2016, Director of UP’s Mammal Research Institute and the MRC’s Receptor Biology Unit, for his exceptional contribution to science in South Africa. He was also elected as President of the International Neuroendocrinology Federation (INF).

Professor Josua Meyer of the Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering received the Chairman’s Award of the South African Institute of Refrigeration and Airconditioning for seminal research contributions over the past 25 years.

Professor Sunil Maharaj, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology, was awarded the South African Institute of Electrial Engineers (SAIEE) 2015 Engineering Excellence Award for his outstanding contribution to furthering the growth and development of the community and the SAIEE in supporting the elecrical engineering profession.

Emeritus Professor of Public Health Medicine, Maila John Matjila, and Professor of Health Policy and Management and Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, Professor Eric Buch, were both awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Public Health Association of South Africa for their exceptional contribution to public health.

Professor Terry Aveling from the Department of Plant Science received the 2015 SANSORBayer Science for a Better Life Award. The prize is awarded by the South African National Seed Organisation and Bayer CropScience in recognition of leadership, innovation and positive contributions to the seed industry and agriculture.

Professor Erika de Wet (UP), Dr Gansen Pillay (Deputy CEO, NRF), Professor Xiaohua Xia (UP), Professor Wiseman Nkuhlu (UP Chancellor), Professor Cheryl de la Rey (UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal), Dr Molapo Qhobela (CEO, NRF), Dr Rocky Skeef (Executive Director, NRF) and Professor Pedro Crous (UP).