Hamilton Naki Award 2020/21

Professor Sharon Prince

Department of Human Biology
University of Cape Town

Professor Sharon Prince grew up in a large family with limited financial resources, living in an area of the Western Cape characterised by high unemployment and crime. While her parents lacked a formal education, they placed a strong emphasis on their children’s schooling, encouraging them to excel.

Her strong sense of social justice, instilled by her parents, saw her participation in high school class boycotts in the early 1980s and, after matriculating, while studying a BSc in Chemistry and Microbiology at the University of Cape Town under a special dispensation at the time that allowed Black people to study at a “white” university, she helped found the Azanian Students Organisation (AZASO) whose guiding principle was the struggle for the creation of a democratic South Africa, free of racist oppression and exploitation. In 1983 she represented the Kensington and Factreton areas on the UDF Regional Committee. She would later join COSATU as its Western Cape Administrator.

After graduating, she completed a postgraduate Diploma in Higher Education and taught Mathematics and Physical Science at Belgravia High School and Wynberg Senior Secondary School. She completed her Honours (with distinction) and PhD in Cell Biology at UCT. After completing her PhD she was awarded the Wellcome Trust Postdoctoral Traveling Fellowship which enabled her to work at the Marie Curie Research Institute in the UK. Other Fellowships awarded include the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust Fellowship and the Harry Crossley Senior Clinical Fellowship.

Currently a Full Professor at UCT, Prof Prince leads a large research group studying novel therapeutic interventions and drug targets for the treatment of cancer. She has supervised 78 students from Honours to Postdoc level, most of whom are from marginalised groups including Black and female students. Since 2001 she has published more than 72 articles in peer-reviewed publications including PLoS Genetics and Nature Communications.