Named after the self-taught surgeon who trained generations of medical students in surgical techniques, the Hamilton Naki Award honours individuals for achieving world-class research performance despite considerable challenges.
After finishing high school, Professor Lerothodi Leeuw won an engineering bursary to the University of the Witwatersrand in 1987. Unfortunately, at the time under the apartheid government, professional certification was not permitted for qualified black engineers, seriously hampering his ambitions. However, an opportunity to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the USA arose and he subsequently became the first black South African to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree and one of only three black students from anywhere in the world to major in Physics at the institution. He went on to obtain the MSc degree in Astronomy at UCT and his PhD degree in Astrophysics from the University of Central Lancashire in the UK.
Professor Christoffels has cemented his reputation in the genomics field, and more recently made a lasting impact on health innovation in South African schools. He currently holds the DST/NRF Research Chair in Bioinformatics and Public Health Genomics at UWC.