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Emerging UWC Scholar receives AGNES Junior Researcher Grant

University of the Western Cape (UWC) contract lecturer, Dr Keagan Pokpas, in the Department of Chemistry, has been awarded a Junior Researcher Grant from the Africa-German Network of Excellence in Science.

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(Published - 22 October 2019)

He was nominated for the award by Professor Ramesh Bharuthram, former UWC Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic and now Emeritus Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.  

Professor Bharuthram explains the background to the AGNES Grant and the nomination and selection process. “Following my success in receiving the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH) postdoctoral fellowship to Ruhr University Bochum, Germany, in 1986 and 1991, I have become part of the AvH family as a member of the South African AvH Association and the wider family of African Humboldtians (the alumni of the AvH Foundation).  As such, we promote the Foundation and its activities, as well as support its programmes.  

“Recently, African Humboldtians have started to play a central role in the Africa-German Network of Excellence in Science (AGNES) Programme which is managed by the AvH Foundation with support from the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF).

“In the past years I have served as an assessor for the AGNES Grant for Junior Researchers – targeted at outstanding young scholars from across the African Continent who have recently completed their doctoral degrees. The programme is designed to identify potential candidates who may be mentored and prepared as possible candidates for the prestigious AvH Fellowship. Not unexpectedly, the quality of the applicants is impressively very high.”

AvH Fellows are mandated to identify and nominate candidates for the AGNES Junior Researcher Award. Should the candidate be successful then the AvH Fellow is designated by the AvH to serve as a mentor to the awardee in preparing them to apply for the AvH Fellowship in later years.

“After a careful search for an outstanding doctoral graduate by studying their publication outputs and on the strong recommendation of Professor Emmanuel Iwuoha, one of our SARChI Chairs and an A-rated NRF Researcher, I nominated Dr Keagan Pokpas who received his PhD in 2017 under the supervision of Professor Iwuoha.” 

After a thorough selection process Dr Pokpas, with 10 publications within one year of receiving his PhD degree in leading journals in his research field, was one of seven candidates from across the African continent who were selected for the 2018 AGNES Grant for Junior Researchers of Euro 1000 towards a research visit to Germany.

It is not the amount of the grant funding that matters, said Prof Bharuthram, but it is the fact that Dr Pokpas had been identified so early in his career as a potential candidate for the prestigious AvH Fellowship through a very competitive process that was an honour. 

With additional support from UWC and other sources, Dr Pokpas starts a two month visit to the Institute of Analytical and Bio-Analytical Chemistry, Department of Chemistry, at Ulm University, Germany, on 25 October 2019. There he will be hosted by Professor Christine Krantz in a collaborative research programme. It is planned that the research work initiated at Ulm University will be continued in the Sensor Laboratory at UWC. The arrangement was facilitated by Professor Iwuoha.


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