2021 NRF Awards Honour and Celebrate South Africa’s Top Researchers and Scientists

2021 NRF Awards Honour and Celebrate South Africa’s Top Researchers and Scientists

On the 2nd of November 2021, the National Research Foundation (NRF) hosted the prestigious celebration of South African research excellence; the NRF Awards.

The annual NRF Awards recognise recent outstanding achievements made by individuals and teams whose excellence has significantly advanced science for the benefit of society. Their internationally competitive work is assessed for, among other things, the contribution to the field of study focusing on quality and impact. One of the objectives of the awards is to encourage the continued culture of advancing South Africa’s scientific knowledge and technological innovation by rewarding those that make use of research for the advancement and betterment of humanity.

In her welcome address, Dr Nompumelelo Obokoh, Chairperson of the NRF Board said, “Amidst the despair and grief brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic are also many stories of selflessness, kindness and courage that continue to restore our faith in humanity and inspire us to dream of a better tomorrow. Even during this turbulent time, our researchers have continued to nurture the country’s knowledge economy in many other scientific fields as well.”

This year the NRF hosted a hybrid event with limited inperson guests in Pretoria and live-streamed to more than 500 virtual attendees. The ceremony celebrated 68 awardees across 10 categories.

Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande graced the ceremony virtually to congratulate the awardees. “To illustrate our continued commitment to science, technology and innovation, the Department of Science and Innovation has developed a new policy framework on Science and Technology. The Decadal Plan on Science, Technology and Innovation will serve as an initial 10-year implementation plan from 2020-2030. To practically demonstrate our capacity as a government working together with the National System of Innovation, we have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in line with the vision of the Decadal Plan. Our researchers committed their expertise and resources to developing solutions to the pandemic and monitoring its impact locally, but also contributing to the global body of knowledge”.

In his closing remarks, NRF Chief Executive Officer Dr Fulufhelo Nelwamondo also reflected on the progress made by scientists over the past few months: “The increasing challenges faced due to the COVID-19 outbreak as well as other societal challenges have not only underscored the importance of research in society, but also shone a very bright light on the ability of our scientists, both established and those just starting out on their research paths, to rise to the occasion. We have seen sterling work in a broad spectrum of areas including vaccine research, the development of diagnostics, monitoring and modelling of the spread of the pandemic, health policy research and science advocacy as well as improved opportunities for public engagement with science. In closing, a reminder to ourselves that Science remains the key to a reimagined, innovative future. Let us continue to do worthwhile work by advancing knowledge, transforming lives and inspiring a nation!”

The awards were presented as follows:

Research Excellence Award for Next Generation Researchers

2020

  • Dr Nkositetile Raphael Biata, Department of Chemical Sciences at the University of Johannesburg
  • Dr Alexandré Delport, School of Life Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal

2021

  • Dr Takudzwa Madzivanzira, Ichthyology and Fisheries Sciences at the NRF-South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity
  • Dr Neelakshi Mungra, Department of Integrative Biomedical Sciences at the University of Cape Town
  • Mr Emmanuel Tetteh, Department of Chemical Engineering at the Durban University of Technology

Research Excellence Award for Early Career/Emerging Researchers

2020

  • Dr Moses Basitere, Department of Chemical Engineering at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology
  • Dr Phiwayinkosi Vusi Dludla from the South African Medical Research Council
  • Professor Pragashnie Govender, School of Health Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal
  • Dr Tebogo Pilgrene Mashifana, Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Johannesburg
  • Professor Christopher Ouma, Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Cape Town

2021

  • Professor Oluwafemi Adebo, Department of Biotechnology and Food Technology at the University of Johannesburg
  • Professor Shanade Barnabas, Department of Communication and Media at the University of Johannesburg
  • Dr Isobel Brink, Department of Civil Engineering at the Stellenbosch University
  • Professor Ntanganedzeni Mapholi, Department of Agriculture and Animal Health at the University of South Africa
  • Professor Nnamdi Nwulu, Department of Electrical & Electronic Engineering Science at the University of Johannesburg
  • Professor Moses Phooko, Department of Private Law at the University of Johannesburg

Public Engagement with Research Award 2020/21

  • Professor Liesl Zühlke (2020), Department of Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of Cape Town
  • Professor Rachel Wynberg (2021), Department of Environmental and Geographical Science at the University of Cape Town

Champion of Research Capacity Development and Transformation at South African Higher Education Institutions Award

2020

  • Professor Emmanuel Iwuoha, Department of Chemistry at the University of the Western Cape

2021

  • Professor Sabiha Essack, Anti-Microbial Research Unit at the University of KwaZulu-Natal

Hamilton Naki Award 2020/21

  • Professor Sharon Prince, Department of Human Biology at the University of Cape Town

NRF Excelleration Award for South African Research Institutions 2020/21

  • Mangosuthu University of Technology

Science Team Award 2020

  • The Institute for the Development of Energy for African Sustainability (IDEAS) Team at the University of South Africa

Lifetime Achievement Award

  • Professor Linda Richter, University of the Witwatersrand

P-Rated Researchers

2020

  • Dr Steven Hussey, Department of Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology, University of Pretoria
  • Dr Michelle Lochner, Department of Cosmology, African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, University of the Western Cape

2021

  • Dr Matteo Grilli, International Studies Group, University of the Free State
  • Dr Ryan Nefdt, Department of Philosophy, University of Cape Town
  • Dr Robert Skelton, Fynbos Node, NRF-South African Environmental Observation Network
  • Dr Nicholas Spaull, Department of Economics, Stellenbosch University
  • Dr Rosalie Tostevin, Department of Geological Sciences, University of Cape Town
  • Dr Christopher Trisos, African Climate and Development Initiative, University of Cape Town

A-Rated Researchers

2020

  • Professor Willem Boshoff, 1ST A-RATING, Department of Fine Arts, University of the Free State
  • Professor Colin Chapman, 1ST A-RATING, School of Life Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal
  • Professor Dieter Heiss1ST, A-RATING, Department of Physics, Stellenbosch University
  • Professor Elmi Muller1ST, A-RATING, Dean: Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University
  • Professor James Ogude, 1ST A-RATING, Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship, University of Pretoria
  • Professor Mario Santos, 1ST A-RATING, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of the Western Cape
  • Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim, 2ND A-RATING, Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa, University of KwaZulu-Natal
  • Professor Fernando Albericio, 2ND A-RATING, School of Chemistry and Physics, University of KwaZulu-Natal
  • Professor Tebello Nyokong, 2ND A-RATING, Department of Chemistry, Rhodes University
  • Professor Brenda Wingfield, 2ND A-RATING, Department of Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology, University of Pretoria
  • Professor Cornelius van der Merwe, 3RD A-RATING, Department of Private Law, Stellenbosch University

2021

  • Professor Oonsie Biggs, 1ST A-RATING, Centre for Complex Systems in Transition, Stellenbosch University
  • Professor Michael Bruford, 1ST A-RATING, Department of Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology, University of Pretoria
  • Professor Michael Claeys, 1ST A-RATING, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Cape Town
  • Professor Kevin Durrheim, 1ST A-RATING, School of Applied Human Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal
  • Professor Crain Soudien, 1ST A-RATING, Former Chief Executive Officer, Human Sciences Research Council
  • Professor Giona Tuccini, 1ST A-RATING, School of Languages and Literature, University of Cape Town
  • Professor Romeel Davé, 2ND A-RATING, Department of Physics and Astrophysics, University of the Western Cape
  • Professor Andries Engelbrecht, 2ND A-RATING, Department of Industrial Engineering / Department of Computer Science, Stellenbosch University
  • Professor Maxim Finkelstein, 2ND A-RATING, Department of Mathematical Statistics and Actuarial Science, University of the Free State
  • Professor Christopher Henshilwood, 2ND A-RATING, Evolutionary Studies Institute, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Professor Donald Kurtz, 2ND A-RATING, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, North-West University
  • Professor Bruce Rubidge, 2ND A-RATING, Centre of Excellence in Palaeosciences, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Professor Roger Smith2ND A-RATING, Department of Geological Sciences, Iziko Museums of South Africa
  • Professor Yves van de Peer, 2ND A-RATING, Department of Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology, University of Pretoria
  • Professor Melanie Walker, 2ND A-RATING, SARChI Chair in Higher Education and Human Development Research, University of the Free State
  • Professor Robert Wilkinson, 2ND A-RATING, Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine, University of Cape Town
  • Professor Jill Farrant, 3RD A-RATING, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Cape Town
  • Professor Michael Henning3RD A-RATING, Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics, University of Johannesburg
  • Professor Steven Johnson, 3RD A-RATING, School of Life Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal
  • Professor Rajend Mesthrie, 3RD A-RATING, School of African and Gender Studies, Anthropology and Linguistics, University of Cape Town
  • Professor Bob Scholes, 3RD A-RATING, Global Change and Sustainability Research Institute, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Professor Mark Solms, 3RD A-RATING, Department of Psychology, University of Cape Town
  • Professor Johannes van Oort, 3RD A-RATING, Department of Systematic and Historical Theology, University of Pretoria
  • Professor Charles van Onselen, 4TH A-RATING, Institute for the Advancement of Scholarship, University of Pretoria
  • Professor Richard Cowling, 5TH A-RATING, School of Environmental Sciences, Nelson Mandela University
  • Professor Jean Cleymans, 8TH A-RATING, Department of Physics, University of Cape Town
Prof Fulufhelo Nelwamondo, CEO of the NRF
Dr Nompumelelo Obokoh, Chairperson of NRF Board
Dr Bonginkosi Emmanuel “Blade” Nzimande, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation
Dr Phil Mjwara, Director-General of the Department of Science and Innovation
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