College of Science, Engineering & Technology

Distinguished Unisa academic associate earns a global recognition for his research prowess

The University of South Africa (Unisa) recently awarded its excelling researchers at their annual Research and Innovation awards ceremony which was held on Friday 7 June 2024 at the CSIR International Convention Centre (Pretoria). The awards were presented to honour more than 100 Unisa researchers and innovators who exemplified African excellence in 2022-2023. Prof Jianxin Li, a Professor Extraordinaire within the Institute for Nanotechnology and Water Sustainability (iNanoWS) at Unisa, based in Tiangong University in China, was unable to attend the ceremony in person where he was to be recognised for garnering his NRF B1 rating in the year 2023.


From left: Prof Extraordinaire Jianxin Li; Unisa Principla and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Puleng LenkaBula; and Prof Bheki Mamba

It is against this background that Prof Li received an invitation from Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Puleng LenkaBula, and the Executive Dean of Unisa's College of Science, Engineering, and Technology (CSET), Prof Bhekie Mamba, to physically receive his award. The NRF B1-rating is awarded to internationally acclaimed researchers who enjoy considerable international recognition by their peers for the high quality and impact of their recent research outputs. In this NRF rating category, reviewers are firmly convinced that the applicant enjoys considerable international recognition for the high quality and impact of his/her recent research outputs, with some of them indicating that he/she is a leading international scholar in the field.

Prof Jianxin began his academic career in 2002 as a research associate at the University of Colorado at Boulder (USA) after obtaining his PhD in Polymer Science from Stellenbosch University. In the years that followed, he has held various visiting professor positions in Japan, the USA and China. He is a Professor Extraordinarius at Unisa CSET's Institute for Nanotechnology and Water Sustainability and a Distinguished Professor and Director at China State Key Laboratory of Separation Membranes and Membrane. iNanoWS, an institute within Unisa's CSET focuses exclusively on pioneering research aimed at tackling contemporary and future challenges in water scarcity and quality. To date, one of the notable achievements that have emanated from his research group is being the first to conceptualise electrocatalysis coupled membrane separation technique to create a self-cleaning electrocatalytic membrane reactor for use in water treatment applications. He has been involved in the co-supervision of doctoral degree students at iNanoWS and has hosted numerous academics at Tiangong University for research visits and student exchange programmes.


Prof Li with attendees of his seminar

After his visit to the PVC office to receive his award, Prof Li later hosted a highly attended research seminar at the Unisa Science Campus titled "Advanced Membranes for Life Resources and Health". The seminar shone the spotlight on recent works in Prof Li’s laboratories on the commercialisation electrocatalytic membranes for water treatment applications as well membranes that are capable of removing viruses.

The university’s researchers and innovators have produced sterling work that advances African knowledge production and supports the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  

* By Edgar Rathelele, Senior Media Officer Department of Institutional Advancement & Dr Nozipho Nonsikelelo Gumbi, Communication and Marketing Specialist (acting), College of Science, Engineering and Technology

Publish date: 2024/06/28

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