College of Science, Engineering & Technology

Impacting lives through water treatment research

Prof Bhekie Mamba

"A great leader is an ordinary person with extraordinary wisdom." This African proverb personifies Prof Bhekie Mamba’s humanitarian academic journey.

In his quest to find solutions for the treatment of wastewater, acid mine drainage and surface water pollution, he has been generating and imparting scientific knowledge to those who come after him in academia, as well as to the water industry and society.

Mamba, who has a B3 rating from the National Research Foundation (NRF), is the Executive Dean of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology and former founding director of the Nanotechnology and Water Sustainability Research Unit, now known as the Institute for Nanotechnology and Water Sustainability (iNanoWS) at Unisa.

"A B-rating gives an indication of how your research is perceived by your peers and the impact your research has in society and internationally," says Mamba.

His research looks into developing a water remediation strategy for the water quality of various sources. This consists of a three-step work package:

  1. Detecting water contaminants using various analytical tools including electrochemical and biosensory techniques, molecular biological profiling and fingerprinting techniques
  2. Synthesising, characterising and applying nanomaterials, nanocomposites and nanostructured membranes and hybrid systems to remove water contaminants
  3. Demonstrating and commercially exploiting research outputs through upscaling, prototypes and patenting the most promising technologies emanating from the research

A pioneer in the removal of organic micropollutants from water

Mamba has published over 400 peer-reviewed journal articles in high-impact journals, some of which have been extensively cited by renowned researchers, and he has co-authored 22 book chapters.

Google Scholar has recorded over 12 858 citations with an H-index of 52.

For the past few years, the annual citations have exceeded 1 000, which compares favourably with those of other leading scholars in his research field.

In addition, several of his research publications appear mainly in quartile 1 and 2 ranked journals.

Increasing capacity in his research field

Mamba has supervised over 100 master’s and PhD students to completion. Many of the master’s students obtained their qualifications with distinction while a minimum of two high-quality publications have emanated from each of the PhD students’ research.

Some of the PhD students whom he has supervised and postdoctoral fellows he has hosted are now his colleagues and NRF-rated researchers. "The research that I initiated is now being developed further as I co-supervise a new generation of students," he says.

In September 2021, Mamba received a Water Research Legends Award from the Water Research Commission for "his continuous contributions, the advancements he has brought to knowledge in the field, and for being a leader who has brought national and global recognition to the South African water sector over the years".

He is the incoming Editor-in-Chief of the Nature partner journal called npj Clean Water, and is on the editorial board of two journals: Advanced Membranes and Membranes. In 2021, he was appointed as a guest editor of a special issue of Membranes.

Mamba has held several research grants, which have enabled him to attract good master’s and doctoral students to his research group. Subsequently, he has set up international collaborations with institutions in India, China, Oman, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Belgium, South Korea, Singapore and Australia, as well as universities in Africa where his former PhD students are employed as academic staff.

"The journey towards global excellence and stature always presents opportunities to learn new things and to partner with other great minds from both industry and academia," says Mamba.

The quest for new knowledge and motivation to break new ground continues to propel his research agenda.

* By Mpho Moloele, PR and Communications Practitioner, Department of Research, Innovation and Commercialisation

Publish date: 2022-11-14 00:00:00.0