(Published - 21 April 2020)
Two academics from the University of the Western Cape (UWC) have been nominated for the 22nd prestigious National Science and Technology Forum-South32 (NSTF-South32) Awards, popularly known as “Science Oscars of South Africa”.
International renowned academic Associate Professor Carolina Ödman has been nominated for the Communication Award for her pioneering work in astronomy outreach, development and education. The Communication Award recognises a communicator who has made an outstanding contribution to science, engineering and technology (SET) through public awareness.
And rising star in sustainable energy research Dr Natasha Ross is up for the TW Kambule-NSTF Awards for Emerging Researchers. The accolade recognises the contribution of an academic through research of up to six years.
The annual award ceremony is scheduled to take place online on a date yet to be confirmed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Professor José Frantz, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, congratulated the nominees and said making research count at an engaged university like UWC is key to promoting the importance of research.
“Prof Ödman has done outstanding work in making science count for young learners through creating an understanding and awareness of science in a language that young minds can understand. This is testimony of our slogan ‘From Hope To Action Through Knowledge’ as her work is giving young learners hope to pursue science through knowledge,” said Prof Frantz.
“Dr Ross has, through her research focusing on sustainable energy, educated the public about how we can contribute to solving some of our environmental issues relating to energy. This is an essential area as we focus on contributing to the sustainable development goals. Thus, these two researchers are our ambassadors to ensure that we make research count in our societies where it matters. Congratulations to our colleagues”
The nominees were equally excited.
“Being recognised for my contribution made in science alongside such established and skilled scientists gives me reassurance and a motivational boost that my research is making a meaningful contribution to South Africa’s research environment,” Dr Ross commented.
“That being said, it has motivated me to work even harder to achieve success in my professional development and continue to make a positive contribution to society. I believe it is important to nurture and applaud emerging researchers. Recognising the significant contributions of young scientists will certainly catalyse further career achievements and contributions to knowledge creation and capacity development in South Africa”.
Prof Ödman commented that it was “a huge honour” to be nominated for the awards as she has seen them over the years given to people she deeply admires. The Awards also represent the unique identity of science in South Africa - combining both scientific excellence and an urgent relevance to society, she said. “This truly inspirational combination is relevant every day, but in these times possibly more than ever. Being nominated is an indication that we are achieving that: societal relevance and scientific excellence.
“But this nomination would also not have been possible without the innovation-friendly environment at UWC. I have found such fertile ground for my ideas and such strong support at all levels and across campus that this is really also the story of the openness to innovation and the value of community engagement at UWC.”
Who are these two ambassadors?
Dr Ross started her studies in BSc at UWC immediately after high school in 2005. She completed her PhD in 2012. Describing herself as “a young, dynamic female scientist”, she has more than seven years of teaching and research experience and is a research group leader within the SensorLab in the Department of Chemistry.
She is a supervisor to PhD, Master’s and honours students in the area of renewable energy storage and conversion systems.
“My ultimate ambition is doing academic research that is useful to my society. Therefore, in light of our current energy crisis, I actively pursue independent research in the development of efficient renewable energy storage and photovoltaic systems,” said Dr Ross.
Prof Ödman is the Associate Director of Development and Outreach for the Inter-University Institute for Data Intensive Astronomy in South Africa, which is a partnership between UWC, the University of Cape Town and the University of Pretoria. Although she was born and trained in physics in Switzerland and obtained her doctorate in cosmology at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom, she has had a strong connection to South African, holding several positions at different organisations.
After a Marie Curie research fellowship in Italy, she became the first international project manager of Universe Awareness, an early childhood development programme centered on the