Stellenbosch University
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Inaugural lecture represents another milestone in a successful career
Author: Daniel Bugan
Published: 09/10/2020

Outgoing Department of Logistics stalwart Prof JH (Hannelie) Nel recently celebrated another milestone in her career when she delivered her inaugural lecture.

Her online lecture entitled Bringing dietary data closer to the truth with statistical adjustment: The 2018 Provincial Dietary Intake Survey as an example, was held on 1 October 2020. It is the first study in South Africa to implement statistical methods to investigate how adjustment for within-person variation affected the interpretation of nutrient intake and dietary adequacy of selected nutrients. The National Cancer Institute method was implemented to correct for within-person variation for a better approximation of usual intake.

The study caps a career devoted to human nutrition, anthropometric, socio-demographic and transport-related research studies. Nel will be retiring at the end of 2020.

But Nel has not completely drawn the curtain on her research activities, hinting that additional projects might be in the pipeline.

“Research work never finishes, it is never complete," she says. “Inevitably, I will remain involved in dietary, socio-demographic and socio-economic research projects as I have become steeped in the techniques, skills and methodologies to interpret the data and extrapolate relevant conclusions."

The tireless dedication to her work has not gone unnoticed. In 2009, she was awarded the Tom Rozwadowski medal for the best published contribution in any accredited journal in Operations Research during 2008. Last year she also received a C2 rating from the National Research Foundation in recognition of her high-quality research outputs.

However, although she is grateful for the recognition, she prizes the “feeling of having grown academically and mentally in her field" more highly.

Nel describes her time as chair of the Department of Logistics from 2011 to 2017 as one of the highlights of her career and a huge honour.

Under her watch, the Department evolved towards more research driven Honours and Masters programmes. The Department also experienced cycles of programme renewal in Logistics Management, Transport Economics, Operations Research and Quantitative Management. A new programme, the Postgraduate Diploma in Transport and Logistics was introduced in 2017.

She says of the Department: “It was and is in constant flux, as it should be. It grew in size and in influence. It adopted new directions. Obviously, the challenge was and remains to keep in touch with the changing environment in the academic and business fields."

Nel started her career as a junior lecturer at the Vaal Triangle Campus of North-West University before joining the University of Limpopo. Since 2004 she has been lecturing Operations Research, Quantitative Management and Forecasting for undergraduate and postgraduate at SU.

“The nature of a lecturer in general is to be a self-teacher, and there is no such thing that you teach only what you have learned," she says. “A specific body of knowledge is attached to every position and with every subsequent position comes new challenges and new required and newly acquired life skills. The boundaries between different academic disciplines become more porous, and we are able to recognise more application possibilities."

She is thankful for the support she received from the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences over the years.

“It is a huge pleasure to function within the Faculty and to have such astounding, unequivocal support. The Division for Research Development and library staff also played a huge supportive role. I was, for example, afforded several opportunities to present papers abroad.

“We cannot function as individuals. To be successful we need to work as a team. It was an honour to be part of a team that shared a common purpose and a common ethos. In the end, one could say my thinking and my worldview were influenced and shaped by the Stellenbosch University. It made me a better academic, and a better person," she said.​

  • ​To watch Prof Nel's ​inaugural lecture, click here.