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"Science Oscar" For Water Researcher: Professor Leslie Petrik Wins Prestigious Science Award At NSTF32

Author: Harriet Box & Nicklaus Kruger

As an acclaimed academic, Prof Leslie Petrik leads UWC’s Environmental and NanoScience Research Group, and is renowned for her work on water treatment, and beneficiation of industrial wastes - which earned her a prestigious NSTF-WRC Award on 28 June 2018.

(Published - 29 June 2018)

The University of the Western Cape is known to have academics who are leaders in their field, and researchers who do work that makes a difference in the world. And Professor Leslie Petrik, from the Department of Chemistry, is both of those.

On Thursday 28 June, Prof Petrik’s hard work paid off when she was honoured by the National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) at the 20th anniversary celebration of the flagship NSTF32 project - often called the “Science Oscars”.

A leading expert in the field of environmental remediation, water treatment, and beneficiation of industrial wastes, Prof Petrik received the NSTF-Water Research Commission (WRC) Award for her work towards achieving sustainable water management, knowledge generation and solutions.

“Upon reflection, it is always welcome to receive external, positive appraisal of the relevance of one's science,” Prof Petrik says. “And for me, personally, this is a significant achievement, as I only received my PhD - from UWC - in 2008.”

In the decade since, Prof Petrik has contributed significantly in skills development and innovation in the field of environmental remediation, water treatment, and waste reuse in South Africa.

She was the recipient of the 2012 UWC Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Researcher Award, the same year she was recognized as a Distinguished Women Scientist in Physical and Engineering Sciences by the Department of Science and Technology. Among her other accolades is receiving the Grant Thornton 2016 Inspirational Women Award. That same year, she received 2016 Businesswoman of the Year Award: Science and Technology from the Businesswomen’s Association (BWA) of South Africa.

“I was very pleased to receive the acknowledgement on behalf of our whole research team at the Environmental and NanoSciences group,” Prof Petrik says. “This is not a solo performance, ever!”

Working Together To Ensure South Africa’s Water Future

South Africa is a water-scarce country and relies heavily on mining activities. If not properly managed, the generated waste poses significant environmental challenges and hazard to human health.

Prof Petrik leads the Environmental and NanoScience Research Group at the University, which is known for research on water chemistry and effluent remediation. This includes treating and removing organics and inorganics from industrial brine, acid mine drainage, and textile waste water. Another outstanding contribution is the development of processes for industrial waste reuse.

“The aim is to gain a deeper understanding of waste water chemistry in order to treat it successfully,” Prof Petrik explains. “Our studies aim to provide valuable knowledge for the intelligent design and application of new water treatment process.”

The NSTF recognises outstanding contributions to science, engineering, and technology and innovation in scientific research, data management and stewardship, and water research and innovation, and more.  Prof Petrik is among 204 NSTF award recipients who have been acknowledged for their innovative work since the awards launched in 1998.

“An award like this is achieved due to teamwork. Each and every one of my students and technicians has contributed to the success of our research, and the accolades I am getting are really theirs as well.”

For more information about Professor Petrik, why not read her UWC biography, the WRC-NSTF award citation, or this Leslie Petrik Q&A.  ​​​​​​​

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