And the 'Science Oscar' goes to…

Like the Periodic Table§, she is the sum of many elements. She thrives through the collective at Unisa in pursuit of shaping futures in the service of humanity and she is this year’s winner of the TW Kambule-NSTF Award: Researcher at the NSTF-South32 awards.


Prof Lindiwe Zungu (Executive Dean: CGS) receives her state-of-the-art NSTF-South32 titanium trophy, representing a "feather in her cap" as the winner of the 2018/2019 TW Kambule-NSTF Award: Researcher. Her research outputs have impacted positively on the promotion of worker’s health and safety, for instance, guidelines for the re-design of safety clothing for women in mining.

Prof Lindiwe Zungu, Executive Dean of the College of Graduate Studies (CGS), says she feels honoured and humbled on receiving this prestigious accolade. "I must say that, after years and years of research that beneficiates the economy and provides protective clothing for women in the mining sector, I am truly humbled by the recognition received from the National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF). It is gratifying to be known to have made an outstanding contribution to science, engineering and technology in South Africa."

Prof Mandla Makhanya, Principal and Vice-Chancellor (VC), said that he was overjoyed by the news. "It is an outstanding achievement to reach the finals of these awards but to win means that you are on the top of your game as a national, continental and global contextually relevant scholar. On behalf of Unisa, I thank Prof Zungu for her dedication and commitment to her scholarship, and for her consistence in excellence."

The VC added that this was a very competitive award that testified to the quality and depth of talent at Unisa. "In particular, our commitment to advancing women in research, and especially black women, is a matter of pride and is bearing fantastic results."

Zungu affirmed that it was truly a remarkable accomplishment, not only for her, but for the Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC) that funded her research, and for Unisa. She said that it was testimony that meaningful research on protective clothing and poverty alleviation through mining really did contribute to science, engineering, technology and innovation.

The TW Kambule-NSTF Award was even more special for Zungu because Prof Khambule taught in the community in Orlando High and then showcased his excellence at Wits University. "Producing outputs that benefit otherwise marginalised women in the hazardous mining sector, I feel a strong affinity with him and my community in general, as well as the many individuals from Unisa who have come out in numbers to support me. As the isiZulu proverb affirms: Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu! I am because we all are. To become the salt of the earth, it takes two separate elements: Sodium and Chlorine. Independently these are toxic, but in the unity of a compound they become edible and enhance the gastronomic experience.

Thanks a gazillion!

Zungu went on to thank her nominator, Prof Michael K Masemola, and her seconder, Prof Zethu Nkosi, without whom, she said, her mining safety research enterprise would be in vain. "I’m grateful to you, professors."

She also thanked everyone, from the Chairperson of Council at Unisa, who attended the awards ceremony to support the nominees, through senior and middle management, to the administrative foot soldiers for the opportunity to shine for Unisa.

"In my operational sphere, I am grateful to the Unisa administrative staff who draft the policies behind our vision at Council and at the Management Committee, such as Prof Thenjiwe Meyiwa, Vice-Principal of Research, Postgraduate Studies, Innovation and Commercialisation. Her vision provides stability to every atom and even radical elements in the research ecosystem at Unisa.

"Science Oscars" of South Africa

The NSTF-South32 Awards, formerly the NSTF-BHP Billiton Awards, are a collaborative effort to recognise outstanding contributions to science, engineering and technology (SET) and innovation in South Africa for researchers and other SET-related professionals. This includes experienced scientists, engineers, innovators, science communicators, research and engineering capacity builders, organisational managers/leaders, and research managers.

The awards are referred to as the "Science Oscars" of South Africa, as they are the largest, most comprehensive, and most sought-after national awards of their kind. The NSTF Awards were also the first science awards initiated in the country in 1998.

In 2018, the incumbent of the Unesco-Unisa Chair in Nanosciences and Nanotechnology and senior scientist of the National Research Foundation iThemba Laboratory for Accelerator Based Sciences, Prof Malik Maaza, won the NSTF-GreenMatter Award at the 2017/2018 NSTF-South32 awards. He received the award in recognition of his work towards biodiversity conservation, environmental sustainability and a greener economy.

Over a period of 25 years in research and development, Maaza has contributed towards developing technological innovation aimed at, among other things, enhancing decarbonisation of the energy system, environmental protection, and in nanoscience and nanotechnology. He is considered a pioneer in this field nationally and continentally.

In 2017, two Unisans won awards. Prof Diane Hildebrandt, Director of the Institute for the Development of Energy for African Sustainability (IDEAS) and Prof Bhekie Mamba, Executive Dean of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology (CSET) won for engineering capacity development and achieving sustainable water management, knowledge generation and solutions respectively.

Hildebrandt has been training students to lead and green the African process industry, while Mamba has made significant scientific and technological contributions to the fabrication of advanced nanostructured materials and systems for water treatment.

§The United Nations (UN) proclaimed 2019 the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements. The UN recognises the importance of raising global awareness around chemistry. This includes chemistry’s role in solving global challenges within the energy, agriculture, health and other critical sectors.

* Compiled by Sharon Farrell, Editor: Internal Communication, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2019-07-01 00:00:00.0