The Science Engagement Award recognises individuals in the research community at South African Higher Education Institutions and science councils who make outstanding contributions to public engagement with and understanding of various areas of science over a sustained period. The aim of the award is to encourage academics, while working in their fields, to also contribute substantially and be committed to enhancing the public's engagement with and understanding of science, technology engineering and innovation.
School of Molecular and Cell Biology
University of the Witwatersrand
Described as a pioneer in the use of social media and other communication platforms to promote public understanding of science, Professor Lee Berger has built an unequalled reputation as both a scientists and communicator.
His work in the area of palaeoanthropology has garnered world renown, particularly with his team’s work on the hominid fossil discoveries of Australopithecus sediba and Homo naledi and the Rising Star Expedition. His commitment to making his work accessible to ordinary people, particularly in encouraging girls to take up STEM subjects at school and at tertiary level, has helped to lift the veil of mystery around science and its impact on society.
With a series of lectures with titles such as “Talking Crap: Using Dung Beetles as Agents of Discovery”, and a TED talk entitled “Dance of the Dung Beetle”, you would be right in thinking that Professor Byrne has made insects, particularly African dung beetles, the focus of his research. However, bringing his science to the public in an engaging and captivating way that is easy to understand, is another passion of his.