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Research Awards 2020: Making Research Count In The Time Of COVID-19

Author: Melanie Snyders & Nicklaus Kruger

The COVID-19 outbreak has been a sharp reminder that there are many complex problems facing our society, and we need to prepare for them as best we can – which is why UWC’s Research & Recognition Awards celebrate researchers who make their research count.

(Published - 5 October 2020)

The University of the Western Cape’s Research & Recognition Awards 2020, presented virtually for the first time and coming at the end of UWC Research Week 2020 (also a virtual event), celebrate the students, academics and support staff who make it possible to conduct the research that really makes a difference in our communities, and in the world.

Professor Ramashwar Bharuthram received the Deputy Vi​ce-Chancellor: Research & Innovation Special Recognition Award in Innovation and Achievement at the ceremony.

Prof Bharuthram has served tertiary education in South Africa for nearly fifty years and was instrumental in transforming UWC into one of the leading research institutions on the African continent. And he’s not quite done yet.

“COVID-19 has presented us all with new challenges, and demands that we be innovative in finding out-of-the-box solutions,” he said. “It is a sharp reminder that research matters for society and not just academia – and that there’s still some work to do.”

“Although this pandemic has had many negative effects, which includes severe cuts in funding for research both nationally and internationally, it has also presented an opportunity to do things differently, which has resulted in a positive impact,” said Prof José Frantz, UWC’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research & Innovation. “It is difficult to estimate the long-term economic, behavioural, or societal consequences of the pandemic but one thing is sure and that is, we are going to think differently about the research we conduct and how we will make it count for our communities.” 

Prof Bharuthram obtained his PhD in Theoretical Plasma Physics from the University of Natal, and has served the cause of higher education and research for 48 years in several capacities, and at several universities and institutions. He retired as UWC’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic at the end of 2014, following seven years in the position. His contributions earned him the very firstDepartment of Science and Technology (DST) / SARIMA Award for Exceptional Leadership in Research Management.

“I wish to express my gratitude to UWC, Prof Bharuthram said. “My period of service at UWC was indeed very special – the highlight of a 50-year career during which I am proud to have contributed to programmes and initiatives designed to drive the research agenda on the African continent. And I’m proud to see so many others carrying that vision forward.”

Prof Bharuthram was one of four recipients of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor’s Special Recognition Award in Innovation and Achievement, honouring those whose research efforts have made a difference at the highest levels.

“This event is like a light that shines on those who continue to demonstrate the resilience and hard work needed to make UWC successful. Congratulations to all our winners; may you continue to keep the flame alive of moving from hope to action through knowledge,” Prof Frantz noted. 

Other awardees included:

Prof Mario Santos: A-Rated Astrophysicist

Astrophysics guru and UWC academic, Professor Mario Santos, received his coveted A-rating at this year’s 2020 National Research Foundation (NRF) Awards, marking him as one of the top researchers in the country for their contributions to knowledge creation and dissemination. Prof Santos also holds a SARChI Chair in Cosmology for Multi-Wavelength Data and is the Director of the UWC Centre for Radio Cosmology. Prof Santos is known for his involvement with the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project which will build the world's largest radio telescope. 

“Moving to South Africa allowed me to work closely with the MeerKAT telescope and surround myself with a great team. We have been actively working on turning the large amount of data coming from MeerKAT into sensitive measurements of the tiny signal that comes from hydrogen atoms in the Universe, 5 billion years ago. It’s a huge task, but I’m confident we will achieve it soon,” said Prof Santos.

Prof Vivienne Bozalek: Transforming Teaching & Learning 

Emeritus Professor Vivienne Bozalek believes that to be an effective lecturer, one has to be willing to do some learning as well – and as Director of UWC’s Directorate of Teaching and Learning until the end of 2019, she provided pedagogical support, materials and development for lecturers and tutors.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ She’s also a celebrated teacher and researcher in her own right, having won both the Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and the Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Researcher Award for her work on the ethics of social care and teaching and learning. 

“UWC has played an enormous role in my trajectory as a researcher,” Prof Bozalek said. “The University has supported many wonderful projects and allowed me to have access to wonderful academic partners, and has helped bring students together across disciplines and across universities. I’m grateful to my friends and colleagues at UWC and throughout the world, who have challenged my ideas and sharpened my thinking over the years. I’ve learned a lot.”

Prof Rodney Uphoff: Driving International Connections

UWC Extraordinary Professor Rodney Uphoff is the Director of the University of Missouri South African Education Programme (UMSAEP), UWC’s longest-running international partnership. Prof Uphoff spends six months at UWC and the other half of the year in Missouri to facilitate research, teaching and services exchange programmes between UWC and the University of Missouri (UM) ­– a partnership which has seen over 900 faculty exchanges since 1986. The UMSAEP project has empowered UWC staff and students to meaningfully engage in matters of global importance in higher education.

“I’m very honoured to receive this award,” he said. “I’ve been coming to UWC since 2002, and it’s been a special privilege for me to work with the staff, students and leadership of this University. With every year, I continue to learn new things about the world through these shared experiences and collaborations. Thank you – and I look forward to working with you all for many years to come.”

Many other amazing researchers and supporters were honoured at the UWC 2020 Research & Recognition Awards.

The full list of winners includes:

Category

Winner

Best Master’s Graduate

Amy Schroeder

Best PhD Graduate

Dr Babatope Oluwadamilare Adebiyi

Most Students Graduated At Masters Level

Dr Thokozani Kanyerere

Most Students Graduated At Masters Level

Prof Emmanuel Iwuoha & Prof Kailash Patidar

Best Faculty Open Source Repository

Faculty of Economic and Management Science

Best Librarian Support

Mark Snyders

Innovation Award - With Impact In Society In Last 2 Years

Zenzeleni Networks

Innovation Award - For IP Registered / Granted

Prof Vladimir Linkov (HySA Systems)

Creative Arts Output - Academic Impact

Julia Martin - The Blackridge House

Creative Arts Output - Social Impact

Limpho Makapela

Faculty Book Prize Award

Prof. Ernst Conradie - The T&T Clark Handbook on Christian Theology and Climate Change 

Next Generation Researcher

Elsabe Huyshamen (Mercantile & Labour Law)

Early Career Researcher

Adriaan Engelbrecht (Biodiversity & Conservation Biology)

Mid-Career Researcher Award

Marieta Du Plessis (Psychology)

Established Researcher Award  

Nicky Roman (Child & Family Studies)

Woman In Research

Joy Papier (Institute for Post-School Studies)

Best Faculty Administrator Support

Faheema Pathan (Research Portfolio)

Best Unit Administrator Support

Elaine Petersen (DSI Food Security Centre of Excellence)

Best Department

UWC School of Public Health

Best Faculty

UWC Law Faculty


 

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