Latest News Archive

Please select Category, Year, and then Month to display items
Years
2017 2018 2019 2020
Previous Archive
17 April 2019 | Story Leonie Bolleurs
Science ambassadors
Friends Tekano Mbonani and Chaka Mofokeng are pursuing graduate degrees in respectively Physics at the University of the Free State (UFS) and Astronomy at the University of the Western Cape. The two got together and decided to reach out to the high school, Leseding Technical Secondary School, where they came from.

It was a full house as more than 120 learners packed the hall at the Leseding Technical Secondary School in the Free State, where two young Astronomy researchers had come home to tell their younger peers about their studies and career prospects across South Africa.

Chaka Mofokeng and Tekano Mbonani are both former learners at the high school. Currently pursuing graduate degrees – for Mbonani in Physics at the University of the Free State (UFS), and for Mofokeng in Astronomy at the University of the Western Cape – the two friends got together and decided to reach out to the high school where they came from.

The event took place in January before schoolwork, tests, and exam preparations are occupying learners’ minds, inviting them to think about the big picture – the future, and how to be part of it. This is timely, because in July last year, the MeerKAT radio telescope was inaugurated in the Karoo. The MeerKAT is the first step to the international SKA telescope project, but it is already one of the best radio telescopes in the world and has placed South Africa firmly on the world map of radio astronomy and engineering.

Building a bridge
“This project enables us to build a bridge between secondary and tertiary institutions. Currently focused on senior secondary students, we aim to promote science through outreach events and activities. Using science and technology-based activities and events, such as stargazing at an observatory or exploring the universe in a planetarium, we want to attract these future secondary graduates. We also provide mentorship, hoping to help them improve their academic performance in matric,” said Mbonani.

For a whole morning, they spoke about their journeys, about science, about the skills that scientists acquire during their studies and all the opportunities such studies open up in an era where the 4th Industrial Revolution is predicted to reduce the number of jobs in many traditional professions. They addressed their peers in both English and Sesotho.

Astronomy in South Africa contributes to critical-skills development. Investing in the MeerKAT, for example, meant that over a thousand bursaries were made available through the SKA South Africa Human Capacity Development programme. Young scientists like Mofokeng and Mbonani have the opportunity to be part of MeerKAT science projects through their studies, using machine learning and other skills that are high in demand in today’s world. This was one of the messages they brought home.

Gaining new skills

“As an Astronomy research student, I have gained skills such as data analysis, mathematical modelling, communication and writing, programming, and teamwork, among others. These are requirements for most companies and institutions. With the unfolding of the 4th Industrial Revolution, such skills sets make young and aspiring scientists the perfect candidates for making the most of future opportunities,” reflected Mofokeng.

Most of the learners said they have never attended a science-outreach event. They were inspired by the young scientists’ stories and nearly half of them said they could see themselves pursuing a career in science. The learners also expressed a strong interest in more events of this kind, as well as mentorship during Grades 11 and 12 from peers at university. They asked about the salaries earned by astronomers, how long the studies take, and where astronomers are working in South Africa.

This initiative, started by two bright young scientists, hopefully marks the beginning of many more events of this kind. Mofokeng and Mbonani are already planning what to do on their next trip home.

News Archive

UFS academic appointed as team doctor for SA Olympic Team
2012-03-22

 

Dr Holtzhausen’s appointment reflects well on the quality of exercise and sports medicine presented at the university.
20 March 2012

Dr Louis Holtzhausen, Head of the university’s Department of Sports and Exercise Medicine, has been selected by the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) as team doctor for the more than 300 athletes that will represent South Africa at this year’s Olympic Games in London.

“This is definitely one of the most important highlights of my career, in which I’ve worked with professional athletes and top sporting people,” says Dr Holtzhausen, a recognised South African academic in Sports Medicine.

“It is not only an honour to be appointed as team doctor for the South African Olympic Team. It is also a privilege to represent the UFS. The fact that Sascoc approached me reflects well on the quality of exercise and sports medicine that we present here at the university,” says Dr Holtzhausen.

Dr Holtzhausen says he has already worked with some of the athletes in the Olympic Team. These include members of the South African boxing team, the hockey team, as well as track and field athletes that have been preparing for the Olympic Games at the university’s High Performance Unit.

There is, however, hard work ahead for Dr Holtzhausen. His work will start before the team leaves for London in July. “I have to ensure that all the athletes are healthy and that everyone’s immunisation programmes are up to date. We also have to ensure that no athlete takes banned substances,” he says.

During the Games, Dr Holtzhausen will keep an eye on the optimal functioning of every athlete. “Anything that could hamper them medically will be sorted – whether it’s a broken ankle or a cold,” he says.

He will also see to it that medical services are available during the competition. Immediate medical assistance will be available, especially at high contact sports like boxing.

Dr Holtzhausen has also been team doctor for Team South Africa at the All Africa Games, the biggest sporting event in Africa. He was recently appointed as a member of the International Committee and Coordinator for Africa of the worldwide Exercise is Medicine project. This project proposes that exercise be used in the prevention of chronic disease in the general population, as well as in the treatment of people with existing chronic diseases. Dr Holtzhausen is also an honorary member of the South African Sports Medicine Association (SASMA). This membership is awarded to members of the medical and scientific community who make significant contributions to the advancement of sports medicine.

Dr Holtzhausen is a member of the Vice-Chancellor’s Prestige Scholars Programme.
The goal with the Prestige Scholars Programme is to select no more than 100 of the most promising young scholars (typically holding lecturer status) and to make substantial investments in their development towards the professoriate. A tailored, intensive programme of support has been designed which combines international placement working alongside leading scholars in the discipline of the prestige scholar, with intensive mentorship and support from within the university.

We use cookies to make interactions with our websites and services easy and meaningful. To better understand how they are used, read more about the UFS cookie policy. By continuing to use this site you are giving us your consent to do this.

Accept