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Young postdoc in chemistry awarded prestigious EU fellowship
Author: Media & Communication, Faculty of Science
Published: 22/06/2020

Dr Upenyu Muza, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science at Stellenbosch University (SU), has received a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Action individual fellowship to conduct research at the Leibniz-Institute for Polymer Research in Dresden, Germany.

Awarded by the European Commission, these global fellowships are one of the most prestigious research grants in Europe for young and upcoming researchers from all over the world.

Dr Muza, originally from Zimbabwe, completed his PhD in December 2019 under the supervision of Prof Harald Pasch, distinguished professor at SU and SASOL Research Chair in Analytical Polymer Science. Muza says working with Prof Pasch broadened his scope of experience: “Prof Pasch works on world-class projects, and he was a phenomenal person to work with."

For his PhD, he developed a novel, advanced multidimensional analytical technique that can be used to harvest a wealth of information on the microstructure of complex polymers.  During 2019 he was also one of five postgraduate students in South Africa to receive a SASOL postgraduate medal of the South African Chemical Institute (SACI) for innovative, independent and enterprising research.

For the immediate future, he plans to work on the design, hybridisation and characterisation of biomedicinal molecules for potential application in targeted drug delivery in cancer therapy.

Dr Muza says he has always been mesmerized by chemistry, even during primary school doing elementary things such as titrations: “I regard chemistry as the central science – it is the convergence point for other scientific disciplines like Biology and Physics. Chemistry can be hard, but it can be likeable as well!"
As soon as the travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic are lifted, he will join Prof Albena Lederer's research group at the Institute for Polymer Research in Dresden. In the meantime, this young man is wasting no time in learning to speak, read and write German, in order to better prepare him for his research abroad.