Home » NRF Awards » Research Excellence Award for Next Generation Researchers

The NRF provides funding to postgraduate students in order to address the skills shortages in the fields of science, engineering and technology and humanities and social sciences. One of the aims is to increase the chances of retaining suitably qualified young scientists, and thus increasing the pool of researchers and knowledge workers in the NSI. This award recognises outstanding academic performance by final year doctoral students.

  • Sooraj Baijnath’s research career started during his Master’s degree in Medical Science that saw him develop an animal model to study changes in physiology and molecular biomarkers at different stages during a pre-eclamptic pregnancy. During his PhD he has been extensively involved in the evaluation of antibiotics, targeting tuberculosis meningitis (TBM) in animal models using LC-MS and mass spectrometry imaging (MSI). He conceptualised an innovative project during which various cryoprotectants were compared as lung inflation media with the aim of preserving lung structural integrity during sample preparation, after noting a shortfall in current MSI protocols.

  • Pragashnie Govender is an academic within the field of Occupational Therapy. Her studies proposed an evidenced based instrument as an option for a more accurate clinical assessment of hypotonia – a symptom of an array of both neurological and genetic diagnoses in children. Currently, there are no standardised assessment tools for children, making the correct early diagnosis and treatment of this condition difficult, given that it is a symptom of a number of conditions or disorders. Govender’s pre-packaged action plan is thus responding to the need for more evidence-based assessment, advancing goals related to child health with respect to early detection and intervention and has both national and global significance.

  • Mr Newman sees a role for himself as both scientist and educator in the field of evolutionary ecology, particularly in the field of pollination biology. During his Master’s degree, later upgraded to a PhD, he received a National Geographic Young Explorers Grant. 

  • Ms Peer’s research interest is focussed on the diversity and ecology of true crabs in the St. Lucia Estuary. On the basis of outstanding performance, she was granted an upgrade from MSc to a PhD degree. Her PhD thesis is centred on environmental change in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, and the influence this has on crab dynamics.