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Dr Ocaya
Dr Richard Ocaya’s research addresses the skills development and transfer millennium goal of many governments globally.

With the Fourth Industrial Revolution becoming a reality, Dr Richard Ocaya’s research is receptive to the fact that Africa and the world need to re-imagine their research. His research focuses on electronic instrumentation design for scientific measurements, computational physics on atomic nano-atomic structures, and semiconducting organic compounds materials built on silicon to realise Schottky devices.

Software developer 
“I develop most of the instrumentation that I apply in my research – both software and hardware,” said Dr Ocaya, a Physics Lecturer and Programme Director: Physics and Chemistry on the UFS Qwaqwa Campus.

“I am active in scientific computing through the computing cluster and software development, mathematical physics for material science modelling, and embedded instrumentation design using microprocessors. I also have deep interest in radio and data telemetry, in which I hold a South African patent issued in 2013. My present international collaborations are with like-minded researchers in similar fields in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Japan, Egypt, South Korea, and the United States,” he added.

How does his research talk to the real world?
“The driving principle of all areas of my research has always been to deploy cutting-edge research to actual, real-world applications for the immediate betterment of Africans. The areas of my research align closely with the millennium goals of many governments globally, including the Republic of South Africa. These goals pertain to skills development and transfer that position us to better address the challenges of energy, water, and other priorities.”

Dr Ocaya is currently co-promoting a PhD student, having previously supervised one PhD, two MSc, and more than twenty honours students. He is a self-taught electronics and computer programmer, whose curiosity led him to question ‘the voices and music coming from a box; a radio’. “In my quest to satisfy my curiosity, I collected many discarded devices, took them apart, and tried so many circuits, only to have them fail because the theory was lacking. After thousands of failed projects and with me barely thirteen and in lower secondary school, my first ever project actually worked,” he said.

NRF-rating
He is the author of the book Introduction to Control Systems Analysis using Point Symmetries: An application of Lie Symmetries, which is available in all major bookstores such as Amazon, in both print and e-book format. He is a C3 NRF-rated researcher whose work makes a pioneering contribution to the new and growing field of phononics, an independent field of the now established photonics.

“This field will someday lead to improved energy-storage devices and faster processors due to more efficient heat removal from nanodevices,” he concludes.


News Archive

UFS scientists involved in groundbreaking research to protect rhino horns
2010-07-27

Pictured from the left are: Prof. Paul Grobler (UFS), Prof. Antoinette Kotze (NZG) and Ms. Karen Ehlers (UFS).
Photo: Supplied

Scientists at the University of the Free State (UFS) are involved in a research study that will help to trace the source of any southern white rhino product to a specific geographic location.

This is an initiative of the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa (NZG).

Prof. Paul Grobler, who is heading the project in the Department of Genetics at the UFS, said that the research might even allow the identification of the individual animal from which a product was derived. This would allow law enforcement agencies not only to determine with certainty whether rhino horn, traded illegally on the international black market, had its origin in South Africa, but also from which region of South Africa the product came.

This additional knowledge is expected to have a major impact on the illicit trade in rhino horn and provide a potent legal club to get at rhino horn smugglers and traders.

The full research team consists of Prof. Grobler; Christiaan Labuschagne, a Ph.D. student at the UFS; Prof. Antoinette Kotze from the NZG, who is also an affiliated professor at the UFS; and Dr Desire Dalton, also from the NZG.

The team’s research involves the identification of small differences in the genetic code among white rhino populations in different regions of South Africa. The genetic code of every species is unique, and is composed of a sequence of the four nucleotide bases G, A, T and C that are inherited from one generation to the next. When one nucleotide base is changed or mutated in an individual, this mutated base is also inherited by the individual's progeny.

If, after many generations, this changed base is present in at least 1% of the individuals of a group, it is described as a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), pronounced "snip". Breeding populations that are geographically and reproductively isolated often contain different patterns of such SNPs, which act as a unique genetic signature for each population.

The team is assembling a detailed list of all SNPs found in white rhinos from different regions in South Africa. The work is done in collaboration with the Pretoria-based company, Inqaba Biotech, who is performing the nucleotide sequencing that is required for the identification of the SNPs.

Financial support for the project is provided by the Advanced Biomolecular Research cluster at the UFS.

The southern white rhino was once thought to be extinct, but in a conservation success story the species was boosted from an initial population of about 100 individuals located in KwaZulu-Natal at the end of the 19th century, to the present population of about 15 000 individuals. The southern white rhino is still, however, listed as “near threatened” by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Media Release:
Mangaliso Radebe
Assistant Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2828
Cell: 078 460 3320
E-mail: radebemt@ufs.ac.za 
27 July 2010



 

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