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

Renowned forensic scientist speaks at the UFS
2014-04-02


Forensic science is about the truth. At the presentation delivered by Dr David Klatzow, were, from the left: Tinus Viljoen, lecturer in Forensic Genetics, Dr Klatzow and Laura Heathfield, also a lecturer in Forensic Genetics.
Photo: Leonie Bolleurs 

It is necessary for more research to be done in the field of forensic science in South Africa. This is according to Dr David Klatzow, well-known forensic scientist, during a lecture delivered at the University of the Free State (UFS) last week.

The university is offering, for the first time this year, a BSc degree in Forensic Science in the Department of Genetics. This three-year degree is, among others, directed at people working for the South African Police Service on crime scenes and on criminal cases in forensic laboratories. Students can also study up to PhD level, specialising in various forensic fields.

There is no accredited forensic laboratory in South Africa. “It is time to look differently at forensic science, and to deliver research papers on the subject. In light of the manner in which science is applied, we have to look differently at everything,” Dr Klatzow said.

Dr Klatzow praised the university for its chemistry-based course. “Chemistry is a strong basis for forensic science,” he said.

A paradigm shift in terms of forensic science is needed. Micro scratches on bullets, fingerprints, DNA, bite marks – all of these are forensic evidence that in the past led to people being wrongfully hanged. This evidence is not necessarily the alpha and omega of forensic science today. DNA, which seems to be the golden rule, can produce problems in itself. Because a person leaves DNA in his fingerprint, it is possible that DNA is transferred from one crime scene to another by forensic experts dusting for fingerprints. According to Dr Klatzow, this is only one of the problems that could be experienced with DNA evidence.

“No single set of forensic evidence is 100% effective or without problems. Rather approach the crime scene through a combination of evidence, by collecting fingerprints, DNA, etc. It is also very important to look at the context in which the events happened.

“A person sees what he expects to see. This causes huge problems in terms of forensic science. For example, if a criminal fits the profile of the perpetrator, it doesn’t follow that this specific criminal is the culprit. It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that isn’t so,” Dr Klatzow said.

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