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25 April 2019 | Story Mamosa Makaya

Since 2016, the University of the Free State Center for Universal Access and Disability Support (CUADS) has received a grant from First National Bank worth R2 498 000, which supports tertiary bursaries for students with disabilities. Bursary holders are funded through CUADS, as the administrator of the bursaries.
  
These are students enrolled for various academic programmes who require academic assistance and/or assistive devices such as electronic handheld magnifiers, laptops, and hearing aids. The FNB grant also covers tuition, accommodation, study material and books, and meals.  The success of the grant is already evident, with one of the recipients having graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in December 2018. A second student was capped at the April 2019 graduations with a BSc Honours in Quantity Surveying.
 
Supporting the principles of the ITP

The UFS received the grant from FNB in instalments, starting in the 2016 academic year to date, supporting the needs of 40 disabled students. This grant and the work of CUADS speaks to and supports the principles of the Integrated Transformation Plan (ITP), namely inclusivity, transformation, and diversity. The vision of the Universal Access work stream is to enable the UFS to create an environment where students with disabilities can experience all aspects of student life equal to their non-disabled peers. The ITP provides for the recognition of the rights of people with disabilities as an important lesson in social justice and an opportunity to reinforce university values.

The successful administration of the grant to benefit past and present students is a ‘feather in the cap’ of CUADS, and is a shining example of the impact of public private investment and the endless possibilities that open up when there is a commitment to developing future leaders in academic spaces, allowing them to thrive by creating a learning environment that is welcoming and empowering. 



News Archive

Nobel Prize-winner presents first lecture at Vice-Chancellor’s prestige lecture series
2017-11-17


 Description: Prof Levitt visit Tags: Prof Levitt visit

At the first lecture in the UFS Vice Chancellor’s Prestige Lecture series,
were from the left: Prof Jeanette Conradie, UFS Department of Chemistry;
Prof Michael Levitt, Nobel Prize-winner in Chemistry, biophysicist and
professor in structural biology at Stanford University; Prof Francis Petersen,
UFS Vice-Chancellor and Rector; and Prof Corli Witthuhn,
UFS Vice-Rector: Research. 
Photo: Johan Roux

South African born biophysicist and Nobel Prize-winner in Chemistry, Prof Michael Levitt, paid a visit to the University of the Free Sate (UFS) as part of the Academy of Science of South Africa’s (ASSAf) Distinguished Visiting Scholars’ Programme. 

Early this week the professor in structural biology at Stanford University in the US presented a captivating lecture on the Bloemfontein Campus on his lifetime’s work that earned him the Nobel Prize in 2013. His lecture launched the UFS Vice-Chancellor’s Prestige Lecture series, aimed at knowledge sharing within, and beyond our university boundaries. 

Prof Levitt was one of the first researchers to conduct molecular dynamics simulations of DNA and proteins and developed the first software for this purpose. He received the prize for Chemistry, together with Martin Karplus and Arieh Warshel, “for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems”.

Attending the lecture were members of UFS management, academic staff from a range of faculties and other universities as well as young researchers. “Multiscale modelling is very much based on something that makes common sense,” Prof Levitt explained. “And that is to makes things as simple as possible, but not simpler. Everything needs to have the right level of simplicity, that is not too simple, but not too complicated.”  

An incredible mind
Prof Levitt enrolled for applied mathematics at the University of Pretoria at the age of 15. He visited his uncle and aunt in London after his first-year exams, and decided to stay on because they had a television, he claims. A series on molecular biology broadcast on BBC, sparked an interest that would lead Prof Levitt via Israel, and Cambridge, to the Nobel Prize stage – all of which turned out to be vital building blocks for his research career. 

Technology to the rescue
The first small protein model that Prof Levitt built was the size of a room. But that exercise led to the birth of multiscale modelling of macromolecules. For the man on the street, that translates to computerised models used to simulate protein action, and reaction. With some adaptations, the effect of medication can be simulated on human protein in a virtual world. 

“I was lucky to stand on the shoulder of giants,” he says about his accomplishments, and urges the young to be good and kind. “Be passionate about what you do, be persistent, and be original,” he advised.  

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