Drumroll! And the ‘Science Oscars’ go to…

Unisa’s Prof Diane Hildebrandt, Director of the Material and Process Synthesis Research Unit (MaPS) and Prof Bhekie Mamba, Executive Dean of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology (CSET) and Director of the Nanotechnology and Water Sustainability Unit (NanoWS). The pair were fêted at the NSTF-South32 Awards last night in recognition of their outstanding contributions to science, engineering, and technology (SET) and innovation in South Africa.

Prof Diane Hildebrandt (Director: MaPS) and Prof Bhekie Mamba (ED: CSET and Director: NanoWS) were winners at the NSTF-South32 Awards on 29 June 2017 in recognition of their outstanding contributions to science, engineering and technology (SET) and innovation in South Africa.

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 Eskom-sponsored award for engineering capacity development by individuals over the last five to ten years, regardless of nationality or citizenship, went to Hildebrandt for demonstrating outstanding leadership in increasing the participation of young researchers, while Mamba received the NSTF-Water Research Commission Award towards achieving sustainable water management, knowledge generation, and solutions. This is a new award.

“It is a great honour to receive this recognition,” said Hildebrandt, who added that it deserved to be shared with all the wonderful students who had come under her aegis in her career. “It has been a real privilege to work with the brightest and best young engineers and scientists in South Africa and Africa. Also thanks to all my colleagues who I have worked with over the years and special thanks to David Glasser.”

Mamba said that it was an honour to be recognised and to be the first recipient of the water research and innovation award. “I wish to thank my colleagues, collaborators (local and international), and current and former postgraduate students who have worked hard on various aspects of the water quality research project. It is also heart-warming to receive an award sponsored by the Water Research Commission, from whom the first research grant for this project was received, 15 years ago.”

You can read a Mail & Guardian interview with Prof Diane Hildebrandt here, and one with Prof Bhekie Mamba here.

Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor, official Patron of the NSTF/South32 Awards, presented the prizes.

The winners were awarded with state-of-the-art trophies, representing a ‘feather in the cap’ of every NSTF Award winner. They are made by industrial 3D laser printing from titanium, and embody the NSTF Awards slogan: Today’s research…tomorrow’s innovation.

The NSTF-South32 Awards, formerly the NSTF-BHP Billiton Awards, are a collaborative effort to recognise outstanding contributions to 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.

*Compiled by Sharon Farrell