06 July 2018 Photo Supplied
Five PhDs for Chemistry group at June 2018 graduation
Pictured here are the Department of Chemistry graduates and their promoters/ co-promoters. From the left are: Dr Alebel Belay, Dr Dumisani Kama, Dr Orbett Alexander, Dr Pennie Mokolokolo and Dr Pule Molokoane; back: Prof Andreas Roodt, Dr Marietjie Schutte-Smith, Dr Alice Brink and Dr Johan Venter. Prof Roodt was either promoter or co-promoter to four of the graduates, while Prof Deon Visser (promoter; not present) and Dr Alice Brink (co-promoter) supervised Dr Orbett Alexander.

What is the common factor among metal extraction from mineral reserves, the treatment of cancer, and nanomaterials in cellular phones? The answer is Chemistry. 

For the first time since the Department of Chemistry at the University of the Free State (UFS) was founded some 114 years ago, a single research group in Chemistry delivered five PhD students.  This was achieved in the division of Inorganic Chemistry at the 2018 Winter graduation ceremony by the group under leadership of Prof Andreas Roodt and senior colleagues, Drs Johan Venter, Alice Brink and Marietjie Schutte-Smith. Prof Deon Visser, a former group member, was promoter for one of the students. 

The five graduandi are Drs Alebel Belay, Dumisani Kama, Pennie Mokolokolo, Pule Molokoane and Orbett Alexander. Their research involved the use of special chemical groups which are attached to metals such as platinum, rhodium, niobium, technetium and rhenium to create compounds with special pre-selected properties. 

The combination of these special groups with the metals allow many different potential applications – all adding value. These include metal extraction from South Africa’s rich mineral reserves, the treatment of diseases such as cancer, the diagnosis of heart and brain damages, nanomaterials which are used in cellular phones, catalysts to produce cleaner petrol, special light devices which by themselves ‘glow in the dark’, and more. 

Three of the students completed part of their research in Switzerland.

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