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CSET postgrads scoop awards

Virgilio Salomao Tete, an MTech student in Chemical Engineering at the Nanotechnology and Water Sustainability (NanoWS) Research Unit, and Hailemariam Abrha Assress, a PhD student also at the unit, attended the18th WaterNet/WARFSA/GWP-SA Symposium which was held in Swakopmund, Namibia, under the theme Integrated Water Resources Development and Management: Innovative Technological Advances for Water Security in Eastern and Southern Africa.

Virgilio Salomao Tete

Virgilio received an award for his outstanding presentation in the stream of Water for Health, Livelihoods and Economic Development, and also the 2017 Lewis Jonker Award for the Best Presentation by a Young Water Scientist.

These awards came with two trophies, certificates, a book written by the late Lewis Jonker and partial sponsorship of € 2 000 to attend a conference of his choice. Virgilio works under the supervision of Professor TAM Msagati, Dr H Nyoni, and Dr B Ntsendwana in the research unit.

His research work

Virgilio is working on designing and developing analytical techniques to assess the occurrence, fate, and distribution of emerging micro-pollutants (pharmaceutical drugs) in aquatic environments. The analytical techniques based on sensor technologies are very important and attractive tools to monitor water quality due to their fast, easy operation, and onsite application.

He will be taking part in the Stockholm World Water Week that will be held in Sweden from 26 – 31 August 2018 under the theme Water, ecosystems and human development. He is currently working on a manuscript of the work presented in Namibia for submission to the Department of Higher Education and Training accredited Journal of Physics and Chemistry of the Earth (JPCE).

Said Virgilio: 'This recognition means a lot to me as a young water scientist who is at the beginning of my research career. I have always wanted to do research that has a positive bearing in communities. I believe the use of this very economical sensor to monitor the quality of water supplied to the community will bring a solution to the ever-increasing need for human health protection and the entire ecosystem from emerging micropollutants contamination.'

Hailemariam Abrha Assress

Hailemariam received an award for his outstanding presentation in the Water, Ecosystems and the Environment stream and was named runner-up in the Young Water Scientist in the Oral Presentation Category.

Part of his project deals with the determination of occurrence of contaminants of emerging concern (CECs), specifically on occurrence of azole antifungal drugs in wastewater. Water scarcity has been a growing concern across the globe.
His research work

His research work

Due to increased human activity, urbanisation, population growth, climate change, pollution etc., countries across the globe have been challenged with the issue of water sustainability. It is forecasted that by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortages. South Africa is among the water-stressed regions of the world. Wastewater re-use is expected to offset more clean water resource and reduce discharged effluent especially in regions facing water stress such as South Africa. However, the challenge with re-using wastewater is that wastewater is known to contain a lot of chemicals/substances/ which are believed to cause harmful effect.

These are termed as contaminants of emerging concern (CECs). CECs include pesticides, heavy metals, disinfection byproducts, personal care products and pharmaceuticals. Generating scientific knowledge about the occurrence, level and risk associated with such CECs is considered to be the first thing to do in management of issues related with CECs. Hailemariam's project is one of the projects going on Nanotechnology and Water Sustainability Research Unit which are aimed at determining the occurrence, level and risk associated with the CECs, specifically pharmaceuticals.

Said Hailemariam: 'The award was a big surprise to me. It is really a great pleasure to be recognised in a scientific forum. It has inspired me to continue to work hard and do my very best on my study.  As the symposium is about integrated water resources development and management, the award also means the project is recognized to be relevant and timely which can contribute towards integrated water management.  I also strongly believe that the award will make the Nanotechnology and Water Sustainability Research Unit specifically and Unisa as a whole known to the scientific community, organisations and institutions which are member of the regional network (Waternet). This in turn will attract international students and collaborators to work with the research unit.'

* Compiled by Nkululeko Mpakama

Publish date: 2017/11/15