Research

What do ☆ ☆ ☆ do? They shine

The story: In a night of accolades and achievements, Unisa’s best and brightest researchers and innovators came out of their libraries and laboratories to stand in the spotlight and receive the recognition they deserve for their work in 2019.

What was said: "We have a much envied reputation among our peers for quality education and, increasingly, for the calibre of research that we are providing, despite the fact that we are not a research-intensive university."

The background: Altogether 93 awards were presented at the 2020 Unisa Research & Innovation Awards, held at the Gallagher Convention Centre on Friday.

Prof Thenjiwe Meyiwa (Vice-Principal: Research, Postgraduate Studies, Innovation and Commercialisation) and HE Thabo Mbeki (Chancellor of Unisa) congratulate Prof Mandla Makhanya (Principal and Vice-Chancellor) (centre) on the award presented to him in recognition of his Honorary Fellowship from the Commonwealth of Learning.

In a night of accolades and achievements, Unisa’s best and brightest researchers and innovators came out of their libraries and laboratories to stand in the spotlight and receive the recognition they deserve for their work in 2019.

Altogether 93 awards were presented at the 2020 Unisa Research & Innovation Awards, held at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand on 6 March 2020.

The award-winners were warmly applauded by the many guests and dignitaries who attended the event, including Unisa Chancellor, HE Thabo Mbeki.

Multiple award-winner, Prof Monica Mkansi (College of Economic and Management Sciences) took home three awards on Friday night.

Some recipients were called up to the podium not just once, but two or even three times.

One such multiple award-winner was Prof Monica Mkansi of the College of Economic and Management Sciences, who took home three awards on Friday night.

She won a Half Million Rand Club Award - a new award for Unisa researchers who obtain from R500 000 to R1 million in external grant funding. Mkansi also won two awards for innovation: Most Prolific Innovator in 2019 in the protected copyright category and Most Prolific Innovator over the Past Five Years.

The latter is an accolade she won jointly with Prof Lukas Snyman of the School of Engineering. In just five years, Mkansi and Snyman have each made an astonishing six disclosures leading to patent activity.


Past winners return to shine again

Then there were the award-winners who received multiple awards this year and were also veterans of previous R&I Award events - proving that star researchers and innovators do not fade with time.

No fewer than four awards for 2019 went to Prof Malik Maaza, holder of the Unesco-Unisa Africa Chair in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, adding to the numerous R&I awards he has won in the past few years.

"These are not my awards; they are my team’s awards," Maaza said on Friday night.

Two of his latest Unisa R&I awards were in recognition of the major external awards he received in 2019, namely the International ICO Galileo Galilei Medal and the Order of Mapungubwe: Silver (South Africa’s highest honour).

The other two were innovation awards: Most Prolific Innovator in 2019 in the Industrial Property category and a new award known as the 2019 Patent Application Incentive.

Prof Ajay Mishra of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology is yet another multiple award-winner over multiple years. He has now received R&I awards for four years in a row.

"I cannot express in words how happy I feel! I am very excited," said Mishra, who took home two awards this year: a 2019 Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Research and a 2019 Half Million Rand Club Award.

Also back in the R&I Awards spotlight was Prof David Hedding of the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. "This is my third time," he said, referring to his 2019 Chancellor’s Award, which will now join the two other Chancellor’s Awards he received in 2012 and 2015.

Not content with that hat-trick, Hedding also took home a One Million Rand Club Award for external grant funding received in 2019.

Other award-winners who took home two or more awards included Prof Diane Hildebrandt of the Institute for Development of Energy for Africa (IDEAS), Prof Mokhotjwa Dhlamini of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology (CSET), Prof Paul Prinsloo of the College of Economic and Management Sciences (CEMS), Prof Lindiwe Zungu, Executive Dean of the College of Graduate Studies, Prof Lukas Snyman of the School of Engineering, and Dr Alex Kuvarega of CSET.


"Bittersweet moment" for VC

A highlight of the evening was the award presented to Prof Mandla Makhanya, Unisa Vice-Chancellor and Principal, in recognition of his Honorary Fellowship from the Commonwealth of Learning.

In giving his keynote address earlier in the evening, he had noted that the 2020 R&I Awards Dinner would be his last as he would be retiring at the end of the year after two terms at the helm of the university. "This is a bittersweet moment for me," he said, joking that he would soon have plenty of time on his hands to watch Unisa’s research and innovation progress.

Then there were the much-anticipated 2019 Women in Research Awards, which saw Dr Sintechè van der Merwe of the College of Human Sciences receiving the Youngest Female Doctoral Graduate Award. The winner of the Emerging Researcher Award went to Dr Itumeleng Setlhodi of the College of Education, while Prof Zethu Nkosi of the College of Human Sciences walked away with the Leadership Award.

All in all, nine main categories of awards were presented at the 2020 R&I Awards ceremony:

  • Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Research: 9 recipients
  • 2019 Women in Research Awards: 3 recipients
  • 2019 National Research Foundation Awards (post 2019 Awards ceremony): 6 recipients
  • 2020 National Research Foundation Awards: 22 recipients
  • 2019 Senate Publications Committee/Hiddingh-Currie Award: 2 recipients
  • 2019 Prestigious External Research Awards and Recognition: 15 recipients
  • 2019 Half Million Rand Club Awards: 6 recipients
  • 2019 Million Rand Club Awards: 11 recipients
  • 2019 Innovation Awards: 16 recipients
  • The Conversation Research Communication Recognition Awards for 2019: 3 recipients.

Congratulations to each and every award-winner; you have done Unisa proud.

The full list of winners of 2020 Research & Innovation Awards is available here.

* By Clairwyn van der Merwe, Contract writer, Directorate of Research Support

Publish date: 2020-03-11 00:00:00.0