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UFS researchers receive awards from the NSTF
2008-06-04

The recipients of the two awards are, from the left: Prof. Jan van der Westhuizen, UFS Department of Chemistry, Dr Susan Bonnet, UFS Department of Chemistry, Prof. Thinus van der Merwe, FARMOVS-PAREXEL, Prof. Maryke Labuschagne, UFS Department of Plant Sciences, and Prof. Ken Swart, FARMOVS-PAREXEL.
Photo: Lacea Loader

  

UFS researchers receive awards from the NSTF   

The University of the Free State (UFS) last week received two prestigious awards from the National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) during its tenth gala-awards ceremony held in Kempton Park.

Prof. Maryke Labuschagne from the Department of Plant Sciences at the UFS was the female recipient of the research capacity-development award over the last ten years. She received the award for her successful mentoring of black researchers and students. The award, sponsored by Eskom, includes a prize of R100 000 which will be used for research purposes.  

A team consisting of Prof. Jan van der Westhuizen and Dr Susan Bonnet from the Department of Chemistry at the UFS and Prof. Kenneth Swart and Prof. Thinus van der Merwe from FARMOVS–PAREXEL received the innovation award for an outstanding contribution to science, engineering and technology from either an individual or a team over the last ten years.
 
Prof. Labuschagne, an expert in the field of plant breeding and food security in Africa, received the award for her contribution to the training and development of black students and researchers in this field. Various black students successfully completed their postgraduate studies under her guidance at the UFS during the past ten years, with positive results.

Research by her South African students has led to a firmly entrenched research relationship between the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and the UFS, while research by her local and international students has culminated in no less than 82 publications over the last decade.

It has also led to the establishment of collaboration agreements with universities and research institutes in Malawi, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania – among others with the University of Malawi where Prof. Labuschagne and her students are involved in the International Programme in the Chemical Sciences (IPICS) of the Uppsala University in Sweden. The project focuses on the study of genetics and chemistry of tropical roots and tuber crops in Malawi. This has led to collaboration with international research organisations and has generated overseas funding.

The combined team from FARMOVS–PAREXEL and the UFS won an award for the synthesis of drug analogues used as reference products during the analysis of the drug concentration in blood, from existing and new drugs registered nationally and internationally.

The project resulted in capacity building in synthetic organic chemistry, mass spectrometry and chromatography: Five master’s degrees were completed, seven are in progress, and six postgraduate students commenced with Ph.D.’s.

The skills transferred during this project are already being applied to examine the properties of indigenous medicinal plants as part of the recently established UFS novel drugs and bioactive compound cluster.

Applied Biosystems, the Canadian manufacturer of mass spectrometers, donated equipment to the value of more than R10 million for this project. As a result the UFS is one of the few universities in the world that can offer postgraduate training in bioanalytical chemistry.

Prof. Hendrik Swart, head of the Department of Physics at the UFS, and Dr Martin Ntwaeaborwa, senior lecturer at the Department of Physics were finalist in the research- capacity developer and black-researcher categories respectively.
The NSTF awards gives recognition to the outstanding contributions of individuals and groups to science, engineering and technology. This includes all practising scientists, engineers and technologists across the system of innovation, including, for example, teachers and students in mathematics, science and technology. The NSTF represents government, science councils, professional bodies, higher education, business and civil society.

Altogether nine individuals and three organisations were presented with the NSTF Awards trophy by the Minister of Science and Technology, Mr Mosibudi Mangena.

Media Release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Assistant Director: Media Liaison
Tel:  051 401 2584
Cell:  083 645 2454
E-mail:  loaderl.stg@ufs.ac.za
4 June 2008

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