College of Science, Engineering & Technology

Dr Mantwa Lephoto selected for Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting

Dr Mantwa Lephoto

Unisa’s Dr Mantwa Annah Lephoto, a postdoctoral fellow in the Physics Department, has been nominated by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) as one of the top ten young scientists in South Africa to attend the 70th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. Although this 2020 meeting has had to be postponed owing to the coronavirus, the invitations for young scientists are valid for next year and interactive online activities are planned for this summer.

Expressing joy, Lephoto says that "it is a great opportunity for me as a young female scientist to attend the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting." The meeting is attended by the best Nobel Laureates and young scientists from all around the world. Lephoto adds: "I am so pleased and honoured to be one of the top ten young scientists from South Africa and to be joining 660 other young scientists from 101 countries to participate in the 70th Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting."

The Lindau Nobel Laureates Meetings are annual scientific conferences held in Lindau, Bavaria, Germany, since 1951. Their aim is to bring together Nobel Laureates and young scientists to foster the scientific exchange between different generations, cultures and disciplines. The meetings focus alternately on physiology and medicine, on physics and on chemistry.

Lephoto says that she is a bit disappointed about the postponement. "However, I am happy that even though I didn’t attend this year, next year I will be able to take part. As for the online activities that Lindau prepared for this year in June, I will be happy to be part of the meeting."

The organisers of the meeting have promised that the online programme will combine the topics of the Interdisciplinary and the Economics Meeting and will give participants ample opportunities to interact with the other participants. It will include innovative formats to share work with the community - including the Nobel Laureates, to collaborate online and to discuss science. Furthermore, the online programme will allow participants to get in touch with Lindau alumni, also brilliant young scientists.

How Lephoto was chosen

The nomination process was based on a multi-step application. First, the application was sent to the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) for funding to attend the Laureates meeting. ASSAf then selected Lephoto as one of the young scientists from South Africa that they will fund to attend the meeting. The funds from ASSAf will cover a return air ticket, ground transport, visa costs, accommodation and meals for the duration of the meeting.

The second application was sent to the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting Council and Foundation for the final selection of the participants. The Lindau’s selection was based on the applicant’s academic and research achievements, motivation, dedication, recommendations as well as extracurricular activities of the applicant.

Educate, inspire and - above all - connect!

The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings foster the exchange among scientists of different generations, cultures and disciplines. Asked what sort of exchanges Lephoto hopes to gain from the meeting, she says that "the lectures at Lindau meetings are not only educative, but highly inspirational, motivating and memorable. The Nobel Laureates get to address current research findings, to elaborate their historical achievements, or to raise awareness of fundamentally important issues. I am hoping to get as much information as I can about new research taking place all around the world," she says.

Lephoto adds that she is also looking forward to interacting with Nobel Laureates, asking questions and understanding new developments in the field of science and research. "I also like the fact that young scientists will be given the opportunity to interact with the Nobel Laureates person-to-person to discuss challenging topics about science and technology. I am hoping to gather information which might be of great use for my future research. Making new friends and collaborations for research purposes will also be a great opportunity," she explains.

Energy storage materials

Explaining her research focus, she says that in recent years, "due to environmental issues and depleting fossil fuels, interest in the development of alternative energy storage/conversion devices with high power and energy densities catering for present demands has increased to a greater extent. Electrochemical capacitors or supercapacitors (SCs) have gained enormous attention owing to their potential applications. Hence, my research focus is based on microwave synthesis and fabrication of MnO2 nano-materials for supercapacitor energy storage applications."

Lephoto expressed joy after going through the list of the invited Nobel Laureates when she came across Prof Hiroshi Amano from Nagoya University in Japan who won his Nobel Award in 2014 for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes, which has enabled bright and energy saving white-light sources. Given that Lephoto’s research is based on energy storage materials, she says that "I extremely excited and looking forward to engage with Amano, as I think he will have an insight on my research interest and possibly share exciting ideas with me."

To conclude, Lephoto expressed sincere gratitude to everyone who has helped her achieve this milestone highlight in her academic career. "This opportunity would not have been possible if it were not for the mentorship of Prof Mokhotjwa Simon Dhlamini of Unisa, Prof Odireleng Martin Ntwaeaborwa of Wits University, and Dr Luyanda Lunga Noto of the Physics Department, Unisa, for their recommendation letters, and last, but not least, Dr Pontsho Mbule of the Physics Department, Unisa, a Lindau alumnus, who informed and guided me on the application process."

* By Tshimangadzo Mphaphuli, Senior Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2020/04/30