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Walter Parry’s legacy celebrated and re-entered into Stellenbosch history http://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=10671Walter Parry’s legacy celebrated and re-entered into Stellenbosch history Wiida Fourie-Basson (media: Faculty of Science)<p>The legendary physicist and mathematics teacher Walter Parry (1913-1966) is the first historical figure in the history of Lückhoff High School in Stellenbosch to have his remarkable life story and legacy re-entered into the history of the school, town, and university.<br></p><p><img src="/english/PublishingImages/Lists/dualnews/My%20Items%20View/Stanley%20Amos.jpg" alt="Stanley Amos.jpg" class="ms-rtePosition-2" style="margin:5px;width:300px;" />“And he won't be the last!" emphasised Mr Stanly Amos, chair of the Lückhoff Alumni and opening speaker at the inaugural Walter Parry Memorial Lecture held at Stellenbosch University (SU) on Wednesday 22 May – the day of Parry's birth 111 years ago in District Six.<br></p><p>“Tonight, is a giant step forward for social and restitutive justice by Stellenbosch University for our community and South Africa at large," he said.</p><p>The event was hosted by the Lückhoff Alumni in collaboration with SU's Social Impact Division and the Department of Physics, as part of the Lückhoff Living Museum visual redress as restitution initiative. The establishment of the Walter Parry Memorial Lecture is part of a larger effort to help correct historical omissions and distortions of the contributions and experiences of those connected to the Vlakte and especially the old Lückhoff school. During the late 1960s, this community and staff and learners from Lückhoff were forced to leave the area and move to designated areas under the Group Areas Act of 1950.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">The lecture commenced with a statement of support from SU's Rector and Vice-Chancellor Prof. Wim de Villiers. He said the inaugural Walter Parry Memorial Lecture holds historical significance within SU's commitment to restitution: “Parry, a brilliant mathematics teacher and pillar of the Stellenbosch community, faced tremendous adversity during apartheid, and dreamed of becoming a scientist, but the doors to a life in academia were not open to him. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">“In our restitution statement, SU acknowledges its contribution towards the injustices of the past. For this we have deep regret. We apologise unreservedly to the communities and individuals, like Walter Parry, who were excluded from the historical privileges that SU enjoyed. His legacy inspires us to bridge the past with practical applications in science today. Through this lecture, and in responsibility towards present and future generations, we honour his contributions and recognise their enduring relevance," he said.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Mr Chris Jooste, current principal of Lückhoff High, said in his welcome that Parry was a true champion of life and a compassionate educator in service of others: “Officially, this used to be a no-go area for us. Now we are here to celebrate his life and feel very welcome."<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;"><img src="/english/PublishingImages/Lists/dualnews/My%20Items%20View/Brian%20Pool.jpg" alt="Brian Pool.jpg" class="ms-rtePosition-2" style="text-align:justify;margin:5px;width:309px;height:206px;" /></p><p style="text-align:justify;">A critical part of the lecture was delivered by Mr Brian Pool, an alumnus and later principal of Lückhoff High School and a colleague of Parry for six years. It is known that Parry started teaching mathematics at his alma mater, <a href="https://trafalgarhighschool.co.za/about-us/">Trafalgar High School</a> in District Six. Before arriving at Lückhoff in 1952, Parry was also principal at <a href="https://patersonhigh.co.za/home/">Paterson High School</a> in then Port Elizabeth. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">“I was in his class from Grade 10. He taught without text books and could literally answer any of our questions," Mr Pool remembered. He also recounted how they had to pass SU to study at UCT, waking up early for the 6am train to Cape Town, and then rushing through District Six to catch the 5:03 pm train back to Stellenbosch. <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Prof. Shaun Wyngaardt, another Lückhoff alumnus who is today a nuclear physicist and head of SU's Department of Physics, delivered the primary inaugural lecture. He reflected on the physics at the time that must have inspired Parry, such as Rutherford's discovery of the atomic nucleus in 1911 and the debates about quantum physics, challenging the very core of classical physics. He also shared that, at UCT, Parry must have studied under Sir Basil Schonland – one of South Africa's foremost nuclear physicists who himself studied under Rutherford.<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;"><img src="/english/PublishingImages/Lists/dualnews/My%20Items%20View/Shaun%20Wyngaardt.jpg" alt="Shaun Wyngaardt.jpg" class="ms-rtePosition-2" style="margin:5px;width:311px;height:207px;" /></p><p style="text-align:justify;">“The passion for physics is contagious. Like water moving through the landscape and gradually changing it, in the same way we still feel the ripples of time and space in the many applications of nuclear and quantum physics today – from the treatment of cancer to exploring the cosmos," he explained.</p><p><strong>Who was Walter Parry?</strong></p><p>Walter Hazel Parry (1913-1966) was born as an only child in humble circumstances in District Six. He was awarded an MSc in Physics (<em>cum laude</em>) from the University of Cape Town in 1934 and planned to continue with a doctoral degree in physics to fulfill his dream to become a nuclear physicist. He was, however, forced to take on the position of a lowly paid technical officer and eventually became a mathematics teacher. Parry was known among colleagues and the community not only for his mathematical brilliance, but also for being an extraordinarily inspirational teacher. </p><p>Both Mr Amos and Mrs Elizabeth Vergotine, Parry's eldest daughter, also confirmed the rumours that Prof. Piet Zeeman (1918-1985), then head of SU's Department of Physics in the 1950s, secretively collaborated with Parry on projects for experiments which were planned for the Southern Universities Nuclear Institute (today known as iThemba LABS). Parry passed away unexpectedly in 1966, at the age of only 53.</p><p><strong>Establishment of the Lückhoff Living Museum</strong></p><p>Reneé Hector-Kannemeyer, deputy-director in the Social Impact Division, emphasized the importance of re- writing history today: “We are writing the story of Walter Parry back into history. The Walter Parry Memorial Lecture today is an example of epistemic justice. This knowledge helps correct historical omissions and distortions. It brings to light the contributions and experiences of people who have been unjustly erased or ignored, such as the brilliance of Parry."  <br></p><p><img src="/english/PublishingImages/Lists/dualnews/My%20Items%20View/Renee%20Hector%20Kannemeyer.jpg" alt="Renee Hector Kannemeyer.jpg" class="ms-rtePosition-2" style="margin:5px;width:306px;" /></p><p>Walter Parry's story will form part of the Lückhoff Living Museum initiative to be established in the old Lückhoff school in Banhoek Road. The living museum initiative was co-conceptualized with the late Mr Otto van Noie, former Lückhoff learner, teacher, and community activist. In 1969 staff and learners were forced to physically relocate to a new school in Idas Valley, some carrying their benches as they left. In 2007 then Rector Prof. Russel Botman symbolically acknowledged the school community of 1969. In 2019, fifty years on, SU held a special ceremony during which two of the original school benches were returned to the school, as part of an act of restorative justice. Click here for a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTyb02DMzjY">video clip</a>. </p><p>In his closing remarks, Dr Leslie van Rooi, director of SU's Social Impact Division, said Parry will continue to inspire many in the years to come: “We must make sure that we all work much harder to make it possible for the next generation of children to come and study here," he concluded. </p><p>The lecture was attended by Parry's eldest daughter, Mrs Elizabeth Vergotini, representing her seven siblings of which four are deceased. Already deep in her eighties, she said the event was emotionally overwhelming: “A big thank you once again to get this very special project off the ground. It was a tremendous success." </p><p>Parry's youngest daughter, Gwyneth, followed the lecture online from Libya. She thanked the Lückhoff Alumni for their input and thought process behind the memorial lecture: “It was beautiful and emotional for me. I'm the youngest of the family, but I remember his kind heart. Thank you again. You have no idea what this gesture means. To think people in Stellenbosch will now think differently of my dad after all these years."</p><p>Learners and teachers from Lückhoff High also attended this historical event together with a significant representation of the surrounding communities historically excluded from Stellenbosch University. </p><p>According to Hector-Kannemeyer, it is believed that this historic event has drawn the largest community attendance in an academic space in the history of Stellenbosch.  One of the attendees, Mrs Minni van Noie (83), who has lived in Stellenbosch her entire life, said this was the first time that she has been in a lecture hall on the Stellenbosch University campus.  </p><p>At the end of the evening's celebration, the vice-chair of the Lückhoff Alumni Mr Wilfred Daniels remarked upon the significance of the event and the coming together in the physics department of communities that were previously held apart: “This is long overdue. I can honestly say that I was made to feel welcome this evening," he concluded. </p><p>According to Hector-Kannemeyer, it is hoped that this work will draw attention to the possibilities of how divided pasts can be cemented into common, joint and shared futures. <br></p><p><em>​All images by Henk Oets</em><br></p>
SU microbiome researcher honoured for his contribution to the fieldhttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=10669SU microbiome researcher honoured for his contribution to the fieldFaculty of Science (media & communication)<p></p><p>Prof. Thulani Makhalanyane has been awarded the prestigious Silver Medal of the South African Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (SASBMB) for his outstanding contribution to the field.</p><p><a href="/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=10274">Prof. Makhalanyane</a> is a world-renowned microbiome researcher with a joint position in the Department of Microbiology and the School for Data Science and Computational Thinking at Stellenbosch University (SU). </p><p>The <a href="https://sasbmb.org.za/sasbmb-medals/">SASBMB Silver Award</a> is awarded annually to a younger member of the society who has displayed a record of national and international research excellence and is an active participant in SASBMB activities. The medal will be presented during the 28th SASBMB congress at the University of Limpopo in July this year.</p><p>Prof. Makhlanyane says he has been a member of the society since his student days: “Over the years, I have been inspired by attending the meetings and the work presented has shaped my career. It is a true honor to receive this news, and I am grateful for the acknowledgment and recognition."</p><p>Recently, he joined the ranks of a group of African researchers calling for more equitable research partnerships to explore the unique and diverse microbiomes found in African populations and environments. The statement was published in <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-024-03026-2">Nature Medicine</a>.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">"We previously highlighted the need for increasing studies on <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41579-023-00925-y#Ack1">African microbiomes</a>. As Africans, we must be at the forefront of these studies because they directly impact on our own communities and ecosystems. We need equitable partnerships for achieving meaningful and sustainable research outcomes," he said. </p><p>Prof. Alf Botha, head of the Department of Microbiology, said they are extremely proud of this accomplishment by one of their academics.<br></p><p>​<br></p>
Experts convene to exchange solutions to help mitigate extreme climate and weather events http://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=10670Experts convene to exchange solutions to help mitigate extreme climate and weather events School for Climate Studies (media)<p><span style="text-align:justify;">​Cli</span><span style="text-align:justify;">mate experts from around the world gathered at Stellenbosch University recently to discuss aspects of extreme climate and weather events and strategies to prepare and adapt to them more effectively.</span><br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">The international conference, themed “<a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Q0YThWaNwJbiDGlHeeho8tMigCdASlCY/view">Integrated Responses to the Intensification of Extreme Climate and Weather Events in Developing Economies</a>," took place from 22 to 24 May 2024. The event was co-sponsored by SU's <a href="https://climate.sun.ac.za/">School for Climate Studies</a>, the Alliance for Collaboration on Climate and Earth Systems Science (<a href="https://www.access.ac.za/home">ACCESS​</a>) programme hosted at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), in collaboration with two international partners, the Scientific Committee on Problems in the Environment (SCOPE) and the Non-Aligned Movement Science and Technology Centre (NAM S&T). The conference was attended by 120 local and international delegates.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">CSIR senior researcher and ACCESS Director Dr Neville Sweijd said the meeting acknowledges the increasing trend of extreme events such as floods, droughts, wildfires, extreme wind and storm surges. These occurrences are becoming more frequent, with increased intensity, longer durations and out of typical seasonal periods.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">“Climate change manifests in various ways. It's not just a gradual shift in weather patterns, as statistics might suggest; it manifests as periodic unprecedented extremes in temperature, rainfall and other climatic aspects. People don't perceive climate change as a simple average of weather conditions over time; rather, they experience it as weather impacts, such as heatwaves that break long-held temperature records or extreme rainfall leading to flooding. These severe events serve as stark reminders of climate change's significant impacts, underlining its urgency and the necessity for coordinated action to adapt to its devastating effects," he said. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Climate experts agreed that extreme climate and weather phenomena pose a clear and immediate threat to societies in several ways. They impact human lives and livelihoods. From deadly hurricanes and cyclones to strong heatwaves and lengthy droughts, these occurrences cause devastation, resulting in loss of life, community displacement and infrastructure damage. Such occurrences not only endanger individuals but also increase pre-existing vulnerabilities, disproportionately harming marginalised populations that often lack the resources to prepare for or recover from disasters fully.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">“Extreme events pose a threat to our societies as they can alter ecosystems, destroy infrastructure and cause loss of lives and livelihoods. Therefore, it is very important for us to examine the scientific drivers of these events, as well as develop tools for early warning, and plan for the appropriate responses, both in anticipation of these extreme events and during and after they occur," said Professor Guy Midgley from Stellenbosch University.  </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Extreme events are well known in South Africa and in recent years, these events included the 2015 - 2018 Day Zero drought in the Western Cape, the Knysna Fires of 2018 and the Durban Floods of 2022. Globally, there have been occurrences such as the 2022 Pakistan floods, wildfires in California and Australia, flooding in Kenya and the drought in Zimbabwe this year, resulting from the recent El Niño and many more. He noted that a Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Extraordinary <a href="https://eur03.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https://reliefweb.int/attachments/18cf2c6d-9b4a-49a4-9e5d-dc308ad0dbb0/ROSEA_20240520_KeyMessages_SouthernAfrica_El-Nino.pdf&data=05%7c02%7c%7c78a9364c76ba42c2dba608dc7a6376dc%7ca6fa3b030a3c42588433a120dffcd348%7c0%7c0%7c638519815004525169%7cUnknown%7cTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7c0%7c%7c%7c&sdata=eMpoQqRLC35GgLCvTvHxU3YA5qKil0skbrWZYFwDZWM%3D&reserved=0">Summit</a> was held on 20 May in Luanda, Angola to launch the SADC Humanitarian Appeal. The SADC plan is seeking $5.5 billion to assist more than 56.6 million people with urgent multi-sector humanitarian assistance, due to the effects of the 2023/24 El Niño.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">“The International Panel on Climate Change, in its latest Assessment Report 6 '' dedicated an entire chapter to focus on this issue and noted that the trends are that these events are set to intensify under various climate change scenarios," said Sweijd. “This is a particular problem in developing countries where there are large under-serviced and poorer sectors of the population that are more vulnerable to the impact of extreme events and is an area where governments need to quickly improve their capacity to save lives and livelihoods."</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Dr Johan Stander, Director at the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said the WMO recognises that extreme climate events are a key impact of a changing climate. The organisation is working with member states on several programmes and projects to equip counterparts with the knowledge and frameworks to implement actions for developing early warning systems and mitigating these events. He notes that this conference was a welcome initiative which set a standard for other regions to consider.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Dr Dawn Mahlobo from the South African Weather Service (SAWS) said that the SAWS has several mechanisms and early warning systems in place for extreme weather, which have worked well in various instances. However, specific information for specific users – for the various sectors such as shipping, aviation, agriculture and housing – needs to be developed, and for this, SAWS is implementing the National Framework for Climate Services. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">The meeting included presentations on work related to the aspects of extreme events, including climate science, risk and vulnerability, early warning systems and policy and finance. Participants from almost 50 organisations are involved in the work, including delegates from Egypt, India, Kenya, Malaysia, Myanmar, Norway, Namibia, the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe, among others. The meeting seeks to learn from the work already underway and derive an end-to-end strategy that can be applied to all states as a means of managing extreme climate events.</p><p style="text-align:justify;"><strong><em>Group photo by </em><em>Peliwe Jubase</em></strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;"><strong>Issued by CSIR Strategic Communications</strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Contact Details: Phetolo Phatsibi</p><p style="text-align:justify;">CSIR Media Relations Practitioner</p><p style="text-align:justify;"><a href="mailto:PPhatsibi@csir.co.za">PPhatsibi@csir.co.za</a></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Contact: +27 81 396 88 71<br></p><p>​<br></p>
African scientists call for equitable research partnerships to advance microbiome researchhttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=10667African scientists call for equitable research partnerships to advance microbiome researchFaculty of Science (media & communication)<p></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Leading African scientists have issued a compelling call for more equitable research partnerships in a new paper published in <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-024-03026-2"><strong><em>Nature Medicine</em></strong></a>. The paper underscores the critical need for fair and collaborative research efforts to explore the unique and diverse microbiomes found in African populations and environments. Historically, these microbiomes have been underrepresented in global studies.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">​Over the past two decades, our understanding of the role played by the microbiome in different ecosystems has significantly expanded. For example, recent studies have provided important insights regarding the role of the microbiome in human health and disease. These studies suggest that the microbiome is highly diverse, in terms of its composition, and varies considerably across different scales. However, generalizing findings across different populations remains challenging due to these compositional differences. Moreover, the lack of comprehensive studies in low- and middle-income countries has resulted in a substantial knowledge deficit, particularly on the <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41579-023-00925-y">African continent</a>. There is strong evidence that Africans harbour highly diverse and distinct microbial communities. Despite this, few microbiome studies have been conducted on the continent. The few studies on African microbiomes are typically conducted without the participation of African scientists, raising concerns about scientific equity and "scientific colonialism."</p><p style="text-align:justify;"><strong>Key points from the paper:</strong></p><ol style="list-style-type:decimal;"><li><strong>Need for local leadership:</strong> Empowering African scientists to lead research initiatives ensures culturally relevant and impactful studies. The paper highlights the importance of local research leadership in shaping and guiding microbiome research.</li><li><strong>Ethical and equitable partnerships:</strong> The authors advocate for partnerships based on mutual respect and shared goals. This includes clear guidelines on data ownership and fair distribution of research benefits.</li><li><strong>Government involvement:</strong> National governments play a crucial role in supporting research through policy development, funding, and creating a conducive regulatory environment.</li><li><strong>Standardized protocols:</strong> Establishing standardized procedures for microbiome research will enhance the reproducibility and consistency of findings, facilitating global collaboration and knowledge sharing.</li></ol><p style="text-align:justify;"><strong>Quotes from the authors:</strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">"Investment in local research infrastructure and capacity building will not only advance microbiome science but also contribute to health equity and precision medicine on a global scale," added Dr. Ovokeraye H Oduaran, lead-author and microbiome expert.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">"We previously highlighted the need for increasing studies on <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41579-023-00925-y#Ack1">African microbiomes</a>. As Africans, we must be at the forefront of these studies because they directly impact on our own communities and ecosystems. We need equitable partnerships for achieving meaningful and sustainable research outcomes," said Professor Thulani Makhalanyane, co-author and microbiome scientist. </p><p style="text-align:justify;"><strong>Proposed implementation framework:</strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">The paper presents a detailed implementation framework to guide equitable research practices. This framework emphasizes ethical considerations, community involvement, capacity building, multidisciplinary collaboration, knowledge translation, and standardized workflows. Key pillars of this framework include:</p><ul style="list-style-type:disc;"><li>Local Research Leadership: Empowering local scientists to ensure research is culturally and contextually relevant.</li><li>Contextualized Global Research: Addressing local public health priorities while aiming for globally applicable solutions.</li><li>Ethical Partnerships: Establishing fair engagement practices with shared goals and clear guidelines on data and sample ownership.</li><li>Standardized Protocols: Implementing standardized procedures for sample collection, storage, and analysis.</li><li>Government Involvement: Encouraging active participation of national governments in research initiatives.</li></ul><p style="text-align:justify;"><strong>About the authors:</strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">This call to action is authored by a diverse group of African scientists from leading universities and research institutions across the continent. Their expertise spans computational biology, human and environmental microbiomes. The authors are committed to advancing scientific knowledge and improving health outcomes through equitable and collaborative research practices.<br></p><p>​<br></p>
SU’s Prof Kanshukan Rajaratnam to bring an ‘African voice’ to UN’s global summit on AI for Goodhttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=10644SU’s Prof Kanshukan Rajaratnam to bring an ‘African voice’ to UN’s global summit on AI for Good Corporate Communication & Marketing / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie & Bemarking [Anél Lewis]<p>​Prof Kanshukan Rajaratnam, Director of Stellenbosch University's School for Data Science and Computational Thinking, has been invited to participate in an esteemed panel of international speakers taking part in the <b class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style="text-decoration:underline;"><a href="https://aiforgood.itu.int/summit24/" target="_blank">AI for Good Summit</a></b> in Geneva, Switzerland later this month.<br></p><p>Organised by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the United Nations (UN), the Summit is an action-orientated platform intent on promoting AI to advance health, climate, gender, inclusive prosperity, sustainable infrastructure and other global development priorities. The ITU is​ the specialised UN agency for information and communication technology. <br></p><p>This year's focus is on AI's role in advancing many of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) within the 10-year target. According to the Summit website, “The AI community is increasingly focused on harnessing AI to support crucial global objectives including enhancing education quality, alleviating poverty, and combating climate change. Despite these noble intentions, the actual impact of AI for Good initiatives remains modest regarding its potential."</p><p>It also notes: “Collaboration among academia, technology corporations, nonprofits, and government entities is crucial for the Public Good. However, these sectors often operate in isolation, driven by divergent goals, leading to AI for Social Good projects that, while commendable, lack integration with the communities they aim to assist, undermining sustainability."</p><p>Summit speakers include <a href="https://aiforgood.itu.int/speaker/antonio-guterres/" style="text-decoration:underline;"><strong>António Guterres</strong></a>, the Secretary General of the UN; Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI; and Gita Gopinath, First Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). </p><p>Rajaratnam will bring his knowledge and experience to a workshop that will discuss opportunities and obstacles in AI design for the public good and design incentives for a collaborative approach. The workshop will accelerate the development and implementation of joint impactful, scalable and sustainable AI research for public good projects.</p><p>“It is an honour to take part in the AI for Good workshops at the Summit. The theme of the workshop – <em>Acting together where it matters: Breaking the silos for impactful solutions on AI for good</em> – is particularly pertinent to the School. The School's ethos is to break silos between different environments and the workshop, Collective AI for Impact, will provide an opportunity to share ideas and best practices. I hope to bring the African voice to the session in which I will participate," says Rajaratnam.​<br></p><p><strong>Photo: Stefan Els</strong><br><br></p><p>​<br></p>
Celebrating the fascinating world of plantshttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=10636Celebrating the fascinating world of plantsFaculty of Science (media & communication)<p><span style="text-align:justify;">The</span><span style="text-align:justify;"> fascinating world of plants will be in the global spotlight when plant lovers from all over the world celebrate the seventh International </span><a href="http://www.plantday18may.org/" style="text-align:justify;">Fascination of Plants Day</a><span style="text-align:justify;"> on Saturday 18 May 2024.</span><br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">The Fascination of Plants Day is hosted annually under the umbrella of the European Plant Science Organisation (<a href="http://www.epsoweb.org/">EPSO</a>) and the <a href="https://globalplantcouncil.org/">Global Plant Council</a>.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Dr Itumeleng Moroenyane, a botanist from Stellenbosch University (SU) and national coordinator for events in South Africa, says it is important to acknowledge the significant contributions that South African plants have made to our cultural identity and traditional knowledge systems.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">“From the healing properties of indigenous medicinal plants to the culinary delights of our edible flora, our flora is incredibly diverse and valuable. From the iconic fynbos of the Cape to the majestic baobabs of the Limpopo Province, South Africa's plants captivate the imagination and sustain life in countless ways. The plants in South Africa enrich our lives in myriad ways, reminding us of the deep connections between people and plants that have endured for centuries."</p><p style="text-align:justify;">This is the first time that South Africa is participating in this global event. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">At SU's Department of Botany and Zoology, Dr Moroenyane organised a programme for learners from local schools. It will consist of a microscope workshop, tours of the laboratories, a walking food tour and discussions.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">On Saturday 18 May, the Department of Botany and Zoology and the Stellenbosch University Botanical Garden are hosting a public event with guided food garden tours, interactive workshops, creative crafts, live music, and food trucks. Click here for more information and bookings - <a href="/english/entities/botanical-garden/events">Events (sun.ac.za)</a>  </p><p style="text-align:justify;"><strong>More about plants</strong></p><ul><li>Plants are unique organisms. They can produce sugars just from sunlight, carbon dioxide and water. This ability to directly synthesize their own food has enabled plants to successfully colonize, adapt to, and diversify within almost every niche on the planet. Biologists estimate the total number of plant species to be about 250,000. </li><li>These abilities make plants the primary producers of biomass providing animals and mankind with food, feed, paper, medicine, chemicals, energy, and an enjoyable landscape.</li><li>Worldwide, anyone who would like to contribute to the Fascination of Plants Day (FoPD) is welcome to join in. Just contact your National Coordinator (click on "countries" at <a href="http://www.plantday18may.org/">www.plantday18may.org</a>) to discuss and get access to all the supporting materials.</li><li>The Fascination of Plants Day covers all plant related topics including basic plant science, agriculture, horticulture and gardening, forestry, plant breeding, plant protection, food and nutrition, environmental conservation, climate change mitigation, smart bioproducts, biodiversity, sustainability, renewable resources, plant science education and art. </li></ul><p><em>Images freely available at </em><a href="https://plantday18may.org/pr-toolbox/"><em>https://plantday18may.org/pr-toolbox/</em></a></p><p>​<br></p>
Maties lecturer tackling up-hill Comrades for students in need AND healthy brain cellshttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=10637Maties lecturer tackling up-hill Comrades for students in need AND healthy brain cellsFaculty of Science (media and communication)<p>​​Prof Ben Loos, head of the Department of Physiological Sciences at Stellenbosch University (SU), will use the challenge posed by the Comrades Marathon – also called “the ultimate human race" – to raise funds for science students in need.<br></p><p>This will be his second Comrades Marathon, but his first time tackling the uphill race.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">“I know it sounds a bit mad to run almost 90 km, for fun. The run from Durban to Pietermaritzburg is going to be a tough run, almost a whole marathon length up-hill. I am quite worried, and that is probably a good thing!" he commented this week. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">But besides running for students in need, he has another reason for keeping fit! His research group in the Department of Physiological Sciences at SU studies the biology and physiology of the cell, using advanced microscopy and biochemistry tools to understand what goes wrong in our brain cells in the case of neurodegenerative diseases and cancer.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">“We know that exercise increases the levels of autophagy, a cellular process during which brain cells get rid of damaged proteins, thereby decreasing the risk for the onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's. This is where my research interest and the running come together," he explains. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">He hopes to raise at least R20 000: “It has been a hard beginning of the year for the students, with many struggling financially, often because funding has been tight and delayed. Their resilience and grit are inspiring and wants you to do more," he says.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">“We are proud of our students, and we look to them for new ideas and solutions. They do the tough work, and often push past what is possible, for a better blot, a better micrograph, another repeat, a novel approach, and that often under immense personal pressure and financial vulnerability. This deserves celebration." </p><p style="text-align:justify;">While he enjoys the Comrades Marathon's incredible spirit of togetherness, it is for him also a celebration of life and conquering that which at first seemed unachievable.</p><p>Please support Prof Loos' initiative at the <a href="https://eur03.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https://www.givengain.com/project/ben-raising-funds-for-stellenbosch-university-south-africa-78574&data=05%7c02%7c%7c95884a6ed7a947e5f5c608dc75ac867a%7ca6fa3b030a3c42588433a120dffcd348%7c0%7c0%7c638514631063788613%7cUnknown%7cTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7c0%7c%7c%7c&sdata=GUVPyj44jnbj6HLD/o0mBnDdE3BjKte17ihCzU2mvc8%3D&reserved=0">GivenGain platform</a>, where he will be joining a growing number of SU staff, students and alumni running the #Move4Maties Comrades Marathon for students in need. </p><p>Click <a href="https://eur03.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https://chat.whatsapp.com/DD9JPhA0eky01q0E5tw0rF&data=05%7c02%7c%7c95884a6ed7a947e5f5c608dc75ac867a%7ca6fa3b030a3c42588433a120dffcd348%7c0%7c0%7c638514631063800000%7cUnknown%7cTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7c0%7c%7c%7c&sdata=Iab0Qxzg/EFEfo311cI6epJlwwah2OW5zLmpSJrUVF4%3D&reserved=0">here</a> to join the #Move4Maties Comrades Marathon WhatsApp group.</p><p>In April this year, <a href="/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=10583">Dr Marietjie Lutz</a> raised over R60 000 for BSc chemistry students in need when she cycled a gruelling 600 kilometres in six days.</p><p>On the image above - Cells undergoing the process of autophagy: The green vesicles in the image are so-called autophagosomes – small vesicles that are responsible for the engulfment of cargo to be degraded. Here, the cell is very active and in the process of removing old and damaged proteins. These proteins are broken down into their separate molecules, which are then available again for the cell to build new ones or to generate energy. A very efficient recycling system at play. Images: Ben Loos<br></p><p>​<br></p>
Polymer innovator helps to transform world of medicinehttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=10616Polymer innovator helps to transform world of medicineCorporate Communication and Marketing/Korporatiewe Kommunikasie en Bemarking [Alec Basson]<p>​Although she was encouraged from a young age to become a medical doctor, Dr Gestél Kuyler, from the Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science at Stellenbosch University (SU), decided to follow a different path where her passion for improving lives converges with cutting-edge research and innovation. <br></p><p>Driven by curiosity, guided by mentors, and fuelled by a desire to contribute to medical health research, Kuyler recently obtained a dual-award PhD in the disciplines of polymer science (SU) and molecular pharmacology (Coventry University in the United Kingdom) at SU's March graduation. She was co-supervised by academics at SU and Coventry University, conducted research at both institutions, and will also be awarded the degree by Coventry University in July this year. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Hailing from George on the Garden Route, Kuyler has an entrepreneurial spirit and an inquisitive mind. “While I was busy with my master's degree, two friends and I started a successful chemistry tutoring business," says this member of the Golden Key International Honours Society – the world's premier collegiate honour society that recognises outstanding academic achievement.<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">“As the Research Manager of the Klumperman Research Group at SU, I enjoy the daily dose of novelty and discovery. I also enjoy experimenting in the lab and interacting with my peers and colleagues. This role offers an exciting chance to actively participate in ongoing research and contribute to new project development, particularly with commercial potential.<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">“We're in an environment that fosters growth, especially if you make the most of available resources and opportunities."<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;"><strong>PhD research</strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Kuyler's doctoral study focused on designing, synthesising and characterising several novel polymers (these polymers are very large synthetic molecules) that can be used to isolate and investigate membrane proteins (MPs). These proteins are attached to or embedded within a cell's membrane and are involved in a plethora of key cellular processes. She says MPs almost function like “locks" that are specific to certain keys (e.g. drug molecules) to be activated to enter the cell and/or induce a response.<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Due to the important role of MPs, they serve as crucial drug targets, which explains why 70% of the drugs approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration target these proteins. It is, therefore, important to maintain the structural integrity of these MPs for accurate drug design to treat cancer, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, migraines, and asthma, among others. These and other conditions develop because of irregularities in the function or structure of MPs.<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">“However, it's not easy to study MPs due to the complexities of extracting them from the lipid (fatty compounds) environment which makes up the cell membrane. The difficulties arise from the amphiphilic nature of MPs (including parts that interact with water and parts that don't) and extracting them in a way that stabilises both the hydrophobic (water-repelling) and hydrophilic (water-attracting) parts. If this is not achieved, the protein can lose its true structure and function which is required for the accurate development of therapeutics. <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">“Despite these hurdles, researchers and drug developers must understand the structure and function of these drug targets to design and create new, efficient therapeutics. This understanding can not only reduce the time and cost of drug development but holds the potential to enhance the efficacy of drugs, ultimately minimising side effects and reducing the cost thereof."<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Kuyler says the development of novel polymers offers several advantages over currently commercially available polymers due to the way that they are produced. “The synthetic approach we employ provides several customisation possibilities, providing a great platform for further development in our research group." <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;"><strong>Nanosene</strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Kuyler's PhD research not only led to the development of novel polymers, but also to the filing of an international patent that formed the core technology of <a href="https://nanosene.com/"><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">Nanosene</strong></a>, a SU spin-out company that she co-founded with Prof Bert Klumperman from SU's Department of Polymer Science in 2022. She leads Nanosene as its CEO.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">In 2021, Kuyler participated in an idea validation (testing and assessing the feasibility, viability, and potential of a business idea) programme at the LaunchLab (SU's technology and entrepreneurship incubator). Here the concept of Nanosene emerged and was validated through interactions with potential customers, industries, and stakeholders. <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">“This experience fuelled my enthusiasm for commercialising polymeric materials for molecular drug target identification and research. Nanosene was established to advance the development and commercialisation of innovative polymers and is now the official platform for translating interesting and commercially viable intellectual property (IP) originating from our research group."<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Nanosene is the first bespoke polymer innovator and supplier from Africa that currently focuses on developing and producing amphiphilic polymers to isolate molecular drug targets. <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">“This breakthrough technology can transform the world of medicine by empowering researchers and drug developers to explore new avenues for treating various diseases," says Kuyler.<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">“We have successfully commercialised our first polymers through Nanosene, along with a strategic manufacturing and distribution collaboration with Cube Biotech, a leading biotechnology company in Germany."<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Kuyler mentions that in February this year, Nanosene emerged as the overall winner at the Academia-Industry Training (AIT) Swiss African Science and Business Innovators (SASBI) Conference in Lagos, Nigeria. It was the first time that Nanosene was pitched at the event. Nanosene has been selected as one of the top 12 African startups to attend the Swiss Residency Week in Switzerland in May 2024. It was also recently selected as one of the eight South African startups to join the country's delegation at VivaTechnology 2024, Europe's premier event for technology and innovation in Paris in May 2024.<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">“This experience has energised the team and reiterates the great potential of what we have to offer," says Kuyler.<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">She adds that researchers, academic collaborators, pharmaceutical companies, biotech companies, and protein manufacturers will benefit from the work being done at Nanosene.<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">With a PhD under her belt, Kuyler says she is eager to dedicate more time to the growth and advancement of Nanosene and the team as they strive for greater heights.<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">She describes herself as a nature lover who enjoys the outdoors. <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">“I take every opportunity to be outside. I have a keen interest in plants and have recently delved into wild mushroom foraging. Exploring through hiking is another passion, and we've completed several multi-day hikes, including a memorable journey through the northern part of Kruger National Park.<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">“I also love to spend time with friends and family, travelling, and enjoying good food and wine." ​<br></p><ul><li>​​<strong>Photo</strong>: Dr Gestél Kuyler in the laboratory. <strong>Photgrapher</strong>: Stefan Els</li></ul><br>
Science, AgriSciences, Health Sciences students victorious at SU’s FameLab heathttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=10611Science, AgriSciences, Health Sciences students victorious at SU’s FameLab heatCorporate Communication and Marketing/Korporatiewe Kommunikasie en Bemarking [Alec Basson]<p>​​Tallulah Glasby, a master's student in microecology at Stellenbosch University (SU), has won the SU heat of the 2024 national <a href="https://www.saasta.ac.za/competitions/famelab/"><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">FameLab</strong></a><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0"> </strong>competition.</p><p>The event took place on Wednesday (8 May) at the SU LaunchLab. Eduard Zehrt, a master's student in food science, and Carene Ndong Sima, a doctoral student in human genetics, finished second and third respectively. Glasby walked away with R4 000, while Zehrt and Ndong Sima both pocketed R3 000. Ndong Sima also received an extra R1 500 after also being named as the audience choice winner. The prize money was co-sponsored by the Postgraduate Office at SU and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies Prof Sibusiso Moyo.</p><p>Considered to be one of the biggest science communication and public speaking competitions in the world, FameLab, which is also a development initiative, creates a platform for young emerging scientists to speak to public audiences about their work.</p><p>Glasby, Zehrt and Ndong Sima were among 17 master's and doctoral students who were given only three minutes to share their research with the audience. As the winner of the heat, Glasby will represent SU at the national semi-finals in September where she will compete against the winners of heats at other universities in South Africa.<br></p><div class="ms-rtestate-read ms-rte-embedcode ms-rte-embedil ms-rtestate-notify"><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/LVS7CjmejGU?si=Gl3LfWDDQbQUYU53" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0"></iframe> </div><ul><li>​Cellphone users click <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVS7CjmejGU"><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">here </strong></a>for video.<br></li></ul><p><strong>Glasby</strong> won the heat for her talk on the community of organisms living at the surface of soils called biological soil crusts. “These microorganisms produce essential nutrients for the environment and for life, enrich the soil, and allow other organisms to inhabit these areas. They also act as a sponge by absorbing and retaining moisture in the soil and creating tiny oases for other soil organisms."</p><p>Commenting on her win, Glasby said that even though her victory was unexpected, it was an amazing experience to share her work with the public. She was also grateful for the science communication skills she gained at the pre-event workshop.</p><p>In his presentation, <strong>Zehrt</strong> shared how he is using hyperspectral cameras – they work exactly like the cameras in cellphones – to analyse what is inside food and to combat food fraud. Focusing on chicken, he said this allows him to determine how fresh and tender the meat is and to even check if bacteria are growing on the surface. “With my research, I'm able to distinguish between free range and conventional chicken with 80% accuracy."</p><p>Zehrt said it was an enjoyable experience to talk about his research in this way. He encouraged other students to take part in the FameLab heat.</p><p>In her talk, <strong>Ndong Sima </strong>emphasised the need for a patient-centred approach to treat Tuberculosis. She said it is important to look at our genes because they can tell us how people would respond to treatment. “Having people's genetic profile, we can then predict which patient would be more at risk of treatment failure before treatment initiation. That would be a game changer."</p><p>Ndong Sima said she was surprised to be among the winners. She commended the judges and instructors for helping her to be comfortable in front of an audience and to share her research.</p><p>In her welcoming speech, Prof Moyo touched on the importance of science communication and said researchers need to show how their work benefits society. “We want the next generation of scientists, masters and doctoral students who can share their research strategically and impactfully with a wider audience." </p><p>The SU FameLab heat was organised by Jive Media Africa and the Postgraduate Office, which forms part of the Division for Research Development. The judges were Wiida Fourie-Basson (Faculty of Science), Maambele Khosa (Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation), Marina Joubert (Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology) and Fumani Jwara (South African Research Chair in Science Communication).</p><p>A masterclass in science communication and public speaking will be presented prior to the national semi-finals by a trainer brought in from the United Kingdom (UK) by the British Council. The top ten from the semi-finals will compete at the national finals and the winner of FameLab SA will represent South Africa at the international finals in the UK.</p><ul><li><strong>Photo</strong>: Carene Ndong Sima, Tallulah Glasby and Eduard Zehrt at the FameLab heat. <strong>Photographer</strong>: Stefan Els​<br></li><li><strong>Video of FameLab heat by Stefan Els</strong><br></li></ul><p>​<br></p>
Tulio de Oliveira selected for TIME100 Health 2024http://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=10596Tulio de Oliveira selected for TIME100 Health 2024Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI) [Maambele Khosa]<em>​TIME Magazine</em> has recognized Prof Tulio de Oliveira in its inaugural 2024 TIME100 Health list, a new annual compilation that celebrates 100 individuals who have had the most impact on global health this year.<p>This recognition, determined by TIME's international network of editors, thought leaders, and previous honourees, marks De Oliveira's second appearance in TIME's influential rankings, following his previous inclusion in the 2022 TIME100 list of the world's most influential people. The full 2024 TIME100 Health list is available at <a href="https://eur03.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http://time.com/time100health&data=05%7c02%7c%7cbaf987ea35e94a45d32e08dc6879c2cf%7ca6fa3b030a3c42588433a120dffcd348%7c0%7c0%7c638500119383472822%7cUnknown%7cTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7c0%7c%7c%7c&sdata=jkM1cC7hzHl1C1%2BlxnT%2Be9Uz6d/5zAPT3FQ6c%2BHKOIE%3D&reserved=0">time.com/time100health</a> </p><p>De Oliveira is a world-renowned scientist on the field of genomics. He is the Director of the Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI) at SU, Director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and Deputy Director of the Genomic Surveillance Unit at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in the UK.</p><p>In 2021, De Oliveira led a groundbreaking multidisciplinary team of researchers and scientists in the discovery of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, which swiftly emerged as the dominant global variant of the virus. In 2020, he led the team that discovered the SARS-CoV-2 Beta variant. In the last decades, De Oliveira has led multiple networks of scientists in South Africa and Africa and in 2023, he launched the Climate Amplified Diseases and Epidemics (CLIMADE) consortium, a global consortium to characterize diseases and pathogens that are amplified by climate change.</p><p>Commenting on this remarkable achievement, Prof Sibusiso Moyo, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies at SU, said: “Prof Tulio de Oliveira's tireless dedication to advancing scientific knowledge and his exceptional leadership in the field of genomics and bioinformatics exemplify the spirit of innovation and collaboration that defines our institution."</p><p>"I am deeply honoured to be recognised once again by <em>TIME Magazine</em> and to be included in the distinguished TIME100 Health list of 2024. This acknowledgment underscores the importance of collaborative research efforts in addressing global health challenges." De Oliveira expressed his gratitude, and added: “Once I saw that the COVID-19 pandemic was receding, I decided to work with our team of over 100 scientists in South Africa and with the largest genomics facility in the world, the Wellcome Sanger Institute, to create a new programme of work, this time to fight the multiple diseases that are being amplified by climate change, such as dengue, chikungunya, the Zika virus, influenza and cholera." </p><p>Throughout his career, De Oliveira has garnered numerous accolades for his contributions to public health and infectious disease research. In addition to him being listed in Nature as one of the top ten people who helped to shape science in 2021, he was also included in the MIT Technology Review list as one of the leaders of the ten breakthrough technologies in 2022. He was the recipient of the Lifetime Leadership Award from Discovery Health and has received the Order of Merit medal from the Portuguese President, the Gold Medal Award from the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), the Batho Pele Award from the South African government for his contributions to society and was winner of the German Africa prize in 2022. His commitment to excellence and innovation continues to inspire colleagues and researchers worldwide.</p><ul><li>​De Oliveira is also Professor of Bioinformatics in the SU <a href="/english/data-science-and-computational-thinking">School for Data Science and Computational Thinking</a> and associated with the Faculties of Science and Medicine and Health Sciences at SU.​ </li></ul><p>ABOUT<br></p><ul><li><a href="file:///C:/Users/viljoenm/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/INetCache/Content.Outlook/0P8C1GUV/CERI">CERI</a> at <a href="/english/">Stellenbosch University</a></li><li><a href="https://www.krisp.org.za/">KRISP</a> at <a href="https://ww2.ukzn.ac.za/">University of Kwazulu-Natal</a></li><li><a href="https://www.sanger.ac.uk/collaboration/genomic-surveillance-unit/">GSU</a> at the <a href="https://www.sanger.ac.uk/">Wellcome Sanger Institute</a></li></ul><p>​ </p><p><br></p>