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1 September 2015
Three Times Lucky: UWC researchers honoured at 2015 NRF Awards

The Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, presented UWC researchers with top honours at this year's National Research Foundation (NRF) Awards, held in Johannesburg in August.

Professor Alan Christoffels, Director of the South African National Bioinformatics Institute (SANBI) at UWC, received the Hamilton Naki Special Award, recognising his outstanding efforts to build a distinguished academic career and conduct world-class research in the face of considerable equity challenges.

The award is named after the self-taught Hamilton Naki who, despite his limited conventional education, had a remarkable ability to grasp intricate anatomical structures and medical procedures, teaching medical students while working as an assistant in the laboratory for the late Dr Christiaan Barnard.

Professor Christoffels occupies a SARChI Chair which focuses on public health genomics, and addresses the needs of South African public health research while simultaneously addressing the country's national imperative to enhance quality research and teaching in science and technology. He also heads up the inter-continental B3Africa biobanking.

A-Rating for Astrophysicists

It was also announced that Professors Romeel Davé and Andrew Russell Taylor - of UWC's Department of Physics - have been awarded A-ratings by the NRF, recognising them as leading international scholars in their fields. Both researchers are part of UWC’s cutting-edge Astrophysics Group conducting research in conjunction with the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project.

Born and educated in the US, Prof. Davé moved from Arizona where he was a professor of astronomy, to Cape Town, where he is now the SARChI Chair in Cosmology, co-hosted by SKA and UWC. His research focuses on using supercomputers to model the evolution of the Universe, and he produces documentary films highlighting the contributions of astronomers from under-represented groups.

Prof. Russ Taylor has extensive expertise in radio astronomy, in particular wide-field polarisation, cosmic magnetism and Big Data, and has played a prominent role in the SKA project since its inception. Prof. Taylor was also one of the founding international SKA project scientists and co-authored the first SKA science case. He represented Canada as one of the national members on the SKA Organisation Board. The Chair is co-hosted by the SKA, UWC and UCT.

The NRF Rating System underscores the value of globally competitive research and stimulates healthy competition in South Africa's research arena. It identifies researchers who count among the leaders in their fields of expertise and gives recognition to those who constantly produce high quality research outputs, thereby being recognised as established researchers.