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Don’t take good-quality drinking water for granted’t take good-quality drinking water for grantedGideon Wolfaardt and Marlene de Witt<p>Sunday (22 March) was World Water Day. In an opinion piece for <em>News24</em>, Gideon Wolfaardt and Marlene de Witt of the Stellenbosch University Water Institute call on all South Africans not to take good-quality drinking water for granted.</p><ul><li>Read the article below or click <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style="">here</strong></a> for the piece as published.</li></ul><p><strong>Don't take good-quality drinking water for granted</strong></p><p><strong>Gideon Wolfaardt & Marlene de Witt*</strong></p><p>The drought that we experienced in the Western Cape and other parts of the country has entrenched an awareness of water availability in our minds, with most of us unlikely to return to the “old normal" of water use in the coming years. It took a severe crisis to get us to the point where we think differently about something that we have accepted as a given for most of our lives. </p><p>As people across the globe celebrate World Water Day on 22 March, it is important to reflect on the fact that there is another side to water availability, which many of us have not yet been compelled to think about, which we take for granted every time we open our taps: access to good-quality drinking water that matches global standards. Ironically, we drive past polluted rivers every day without even noticing their poor health any more. Even when we are disgusted by the sight and smell, or saddened by the fact that we cannot use many of our streams and rivers for recreational activities, we're not driven to action and change, because the state of those streams and rivers do not directly impact on our lives; it's not what comes out of our taps. <br></p><p>Water quality has a much more direct and far-reaching impact on our everyday lives than what we realise. Most notably, it impacts on water quantity as it reduces the amount of water available for consumption without extensive and costly treatment, a problem exacerbated during drought. Producers relying on river water for irrigation increasingly face pushback from the export market, or the additional costs of treatment before irrigation. Routine maintenance and upgrades to treatment plants and direct discharge as surface runoff becomes a challenge to an increasing number of financially-constrained municipalities, leading to a growing concern that micro-pollutants such as endocrine disruptors, and micro-organisms pass through poorly-maintained treatment facilities. And with water from the polluted stream or river we drive past every day seeping into the ground, these pollutants are transferred to the groundwater, which supplies our boreholes and increasingly also our bulk water resources for drinking water. Of course our rural and poorer communities are probably most affected by these problems. <br></p><p>Deteriorating water quality has become a major issue and necessitates actions such as identifying sources of pollution, behavioural changes to stop the pollution, innovative technologies that may include nature-based solutions to rectify the situation, with increasing emphasis on socially acceptable approaches. We recognise the value of international experience, technology and management skills in our efforts to address the complex challenges associated with providing water of sufficient quantity and quality. <br></p><p>However, we are also aware of the wealth of traditional and cutting-edge technologies amongst South Africans that can make a contribution in this regard. We need to embrace opportunities to forge partnerships that combine local and international expertise. This should help reduce the instances where efforts to apply international technological advances fail under local conditions, whether it is due to not being appropriate for local conditions, shortage for replacement parts, or due to a lack of local skills for routine maintenance. Co-designing of interventions also helps to overcome social barriers to uptake of new technologies and to mitigate conflict. <br></p><p>Universities, in particular, are spaces where partnerships need to be forged to find optimal and lasting solutions for complex water-related challenges. It was with this in mind that Stellenbosch University (SU) formed a partnership with Germany's Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, one of Europe's leading applied research organisations, to establish the Fraunhofer Innovation Platform in Stellenbosch. The Engineering, Sciences and AgriSciences faculties at SU and four institutes that are part of the Fraunhofer Water Systems Alliance (SysWasser), in cooperation with the Fraunhofer Energy Alliance, will work together in the fields of water and energy to develop and implement technologies that are appropriate to Southern Africa. Through the Stellenbosch University Water Institute (SUWI), which acts as the local coordinator of this platform, this network will be extended to other disciplines such as community health and social sciences.  <br></p><p>This newly-established Innovation Platform is the result of previous projects on water quality and energy between SU and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. One such project, SafeWaterAfrica, is a good example of how local and international technology and expertise can be combined into workable solutions. It led to the development of a decentralised water treatment system for rural and peri-urban areas. A modular water system was developed in collaboration with two local companies, Virtual Consulting Engineers and Advance Call, for pre-treatment of polluted water before final treatment with a carbon-based electrochemical oxidation technology developed by our Fraunhofer partners. Ekurhuleni Water Care Company (ERWAT) provided the site for a demonstration unit, which is now used for further development towards water-reuse, with the potential to be also utilized as a facility to train technical staff. <br></p><p>While we continue to look for innovative solutions through partnerships between universities, research institutes and companies, it is essential that public perception over water quality changes. We need to increase awareness to stop the “day zero" of water quality creeping closer. This requires significant education efforts in all our communities and the best place to start urgently is in our homes. <br></p><p><strong><em>* Gideon Wolfaardt and Marlene de Witt are affiliated with the Stellenbosch University Water Institute.</em></strong></p><p><strong><em> ​</em></strong></p><p><br></p>
Top performers in computer science rewarded performers in computer science rewardedMedia & Communication, Faculty of Science<p>​Jacobie Mouton received the Faculty of Science's Van der Walt-medal as the best final year student in Computer Science in 2019.<br></p><p>Mrs Nettie van der Walt (83), widow of the mathematician and computer scientist, the late Prof Andries van der Walt, presented her with the medal during a special awards function on 12 March 2020. Jacobie also received a money prize from the software company <a href="">Entersekt</a>.<br></p><p>The other prizewinners were Brendan Watling (best first year student), Caleb Zeeman (best second year student) and Johannes Coetzee (best BScHons-student). Three BScHons students also received prize money for their projects: David Baker Effendi (best honours project), Heinrich Cilliers (best data science project) and Ryan Lang (best machine learning project). Their prizes were sponsored by technology companies <a href="">Techairos</a>, <a href="">Epi-Use Labs</a>, <a href="">Alphawave </a>and <a href="">Praelexis</a> and <a href="">Capitec Bank</a>.</p><p>Jacobie says she decided to register for a BSc in Mathematical Sciences with computer science as main subject without any previous exposure to computer science or coding: “It was a bit of a shot in the dark. I suppose I was attracted to the idea of solving problems in a creative and mathematical way."</p><p>For her BScHons project she will be working on a problem in the field of computer vision and image processing, building an identification system to distinguish leopards from each other, based on photos of their spots.</p><p>Notwithstanding her good performance, she admits that she is still a bit intimidated by this field and the large amount of underlying knowledge associated with it: “With each new problem or project, it usually takes me a few days to figure out where to start," she adds.</p><p>In 2016 Jacobie was the top performing learner in her school, and third in the Western Cape. She was also the best second year student in applied mathematics in 2018, with an average of 99.5%.<br></p><p><br></p>
Students design concept packaging for Politics of Nature™ board game design concept packaging for Politics of Nature™ board gameMedia & Communication, Faculty of Science<p>A Danish PhD student's project to encapsulate the ideas of the French philosopher Bruno Latour  in a board game, have kept the third-year Visual Communication and Design students at Stellenbosch University up until the wee hours of the night recently.<br></p><p>They had to come up with concept packaging ideas for the <a href="">Politics of Nature (PoN) board game</a> – a serious table top game that is being used to explore new ways of democracy whilst at the same time addressing urgent societal and environmental challenges. </p><p>The board game was originally conceived by Jakob Raffn and his collaborator, Frederik Lassen. Jakob is currently a PhD student in agricultural systems and sustainability at Aarhus University, Denmark. The aim of PoN is to explore how Latour's political philosophy, <a href="">the Politics of Nature</a>, could work in practice.</p><p>According to Jakob, it was Cape Town's water crises in 2018 that led him to collaborate with Dr Charon Büchner-Marais at the Stellenbosch University Water Institute (SUWI), and co-founder of the Stellenbosch River Collaborative.</p><p>“I hoped that the crises would give me an opportunity to experiment with this new take on governance," Jacob explains.</p><p>This led to another collaboration with Corbin Raymond, a lecturer in the Visual Arts Department. In March 2019, under the auspices of SUWI and supervised by Corbin, visual arts student Nadia Stroh designed a local version of the Politics of Nature game to be played by stakeholders in the Eerste River catchment.</p><p>This year, Corbin and Jakob again worked with the third year students to design concept packaging for the game. This included briefing sessions, physically playing the game themselves, and individual discussion and feedback sessions.</p><p>Jakob says these interactions are part of his project of “making science matter": “There are people who cannot imagine a different world. In this game, we are combining a myriad of disciplines to provide people with the tools to start imagining and building a new common world. We cannot do it with the current governance tools at our disposal."</p><p>According to Corbin, the design project has given students a valuable opportunity to interact directly with Jacob, and to work with him to come up with design ideas for a real-world product.<br></p><p><br></p>
At least wash your hands better, asks microbiologist least wash your hands better, asks microbiologistEngela Duvenage<p>Ten spyte van al die tegnologiese vooruitgang van die afgelope jare is daar een basiese ding wat die mense net nog nooit leer goed doen het nie: om hande te was. As ons dit kan leer beter doen, sal daar heelwat minder siektes en kieme in die wêreld versprei. <br></p><p>Dit was die boodskap van prof Stephen Forsythe, 'n afgetrede professor in mikrobiologie aan Nottingham Trent Universiteit in die VK, en skrywer van die handboek “The Microbiology of Safe Food" wat wyd voorgeskryf word aan universiteitstudente. Hy was die openingspreker by 'n middagsessie oor die toekomstige rol van wetenskap in die handhawing van voedselveiligheid. Die geleentheid, wat deur die Sentrum vir Voedselveiligheid aan die Universiteit Stellenbosch se Departement Voedselwetenskap aangebied is, het 'n vol saal van belangstellendes uit die plaaslike voedselbedryf gelok.</p><p>Forsythe het 'n oorsig gegee oor toekomstige tendense wat die voedselbedryf te wagte kan wees in die toekoms. Dit sluit die invloed van klimaatsverandering en 'n groei in insekboerdery en verwante produkte in. Verbruikers is ook toenemend op soek na meer plantgebaseerde proteien-produkte, en kosse wat minder bymiddels bevat. Antimikrobiese weerstandigheid, waardeur kieme aangepas het om nie meer vatbaar vir sommige middels van behandeling te wees nie, strek ook die voedselbedryf tot kommer.  </p><p>“Ons moet eenvoudig aanpas volgens hierdie tendense, want hulle is hier om te bly," het hy genoem.</p><p>Forsythe sê dat die oorgrote hoeveelheid van die 8914 voedselprodukte wat wêreldwyd tussen 2008 en 2018 van die mark onttrek is, rou vis, reeds voorbereide voedsel en neute en vrugte was. Dis meestal gedoen weens die voorkoms van onverklaarde bestanddele wat allergiese reaksies by mense kan veroorsaak, en die voorkoms van kieme soos E.coli en Salmonella wat verband hou met voedselvergiftiging.</p><p>Volgens Forsythe word daar tot vier gevalle van voedselvergiftiging daagliks in die VSA aangemeld. Hy sê soos wat bevolkings al ouer raak, sal hulle meer vatbaar raak vir infeksies, en daarom moet standaarde rondom voedselveiligheid verskerp word.</p><p>Forsythe sê die tegnologie het die afgelope jare sporadies verbeter waarmee daar vir die voorkoms van siekteveroorsakende organismes getoets kan word. As basiese riglyne van higiëne egter net in huise, fabrieke en op plase gevolg kan word, sal dit heelwat probleme uitsny. </p><p>Ook by die gespreksessie vir die bedryf was prof Mieke Uyttendaele van die Departement Voedelveiligheid—en Voedselkwaliteit aan die Universiteit van Ghent in België, en prof Wilhelm Holtzapfel, president van die Internasionale Komitee oor Voedselmikrobiologie en -higiëne (ICFMH), wat teenwoordiges toegespreek het oor onderskeidelik die waarde daarvan om besluite oor voedselveiligheid te maak op grond van goeie bewyse en bevindinge, en die rol wat ICFMH in die handhawing van standaarde rondom voedselveiligheid. Me Isabelle Desforges van Biomerieux in Frankryk het oor die waarde van mikrobiese standaarde soos ISO en ander mikrobiologiese toetsmetodes gepraat.</p><p><strong>Sentrum vir Voedselveiligheid</strong><br><strong> </strong>Die sprekers was op Stellenbosch vir die jaarlikse advieskomiteevergadering van die Sentrum vir Voedselveiligheid in die US Departement Voedselwetenskap. Dié is danksy ondersteuning vanaf die Suid-Afrikaanse voedselbedryf in November 2018 op die been gebring is na afloop van die listeriose-krisis, en is steeds die enigste van sy soort in die land. Sedertdien werk navorsers aan die US, kollegas en lede uit die voedselbedryf saam om spesifieke kwessies oor voedselveiligheid te ondersoek, raad daaroor te gee, bewusmaking te kweek en waar moontlik beleid te verander.</p><p>“Dis 'n voorreg om 'n mense van hul kaliber op ons advieskomitee te hê, en ook terselfdertyd die kans te gebruik dat hulle hul kennis met die bedryf en ook gedurende spesiale lesings met ons studente deel," het voedselmikrobioloog prof Pieter Gouws, direkteur van die US Sentrum vir Voedselveiligheid, gesê. </p><p>Prof Gouws sê hy is dankbaar vir die vordering wat oor die afgelope jaar of wat reeds gemaak is, en die goeie samewerking tussen vennote in die akademie en voedselbedryf. </p><p>“Ons leer wedersyds by mekaar," het hy benadruk. “Nie verniet is ons leuse “innovation through collaboration" nie. </p><p>Studies is onder meer reeds voltooi oor die voorkoms van antimikrobies weerstandighede bakterieë onder vee en wildlewe in Suid-Afrika. 'n Opname is gedoen oor die voorkoms van Campylobacter and Arcobacter spesies in volstruise. 'n One Health-benadering is gevolg om <em>Listeria monocytogenes</em>, die bakterie wat in 2018 die ongekende listeriose-uitbraak in Suid-Afrika, uit te ken en om vas te stel of dit algemeen in voedsel, die omgewing of kliniese isolate in die Wes-Kaap voorkom. <br></p><p><strong>Foto onderskrif</strong></p><p>'n Inligtingsessie oor tendense rondom voedselveiligheid is aan lede van die bedryf aangebied deur die Sentrum vir Voedselveiligheid by die Universiteit Stellenbosch. Die internasionale sprekers was (van links) prof Stephen Forsythe, 'n professor in mikrobioloog, voorheen van Nottingham Trent Universiteit in die VK, prof Wilhelm Holtzapfel, president van die Internasionale Komitee oor Voedselmikrobiologie en -higiëne (ICFMH), prof Mieke Uyttendaele van die Universiteit van Ghent in België, en me Isabelle Desforges van Biomerieux in Frankryk. Saam met hulle is (voor) prof Pieter Gouws van die US Departement Voedselwetenskap en direkteur van die Sentrum vir Voedselveiligheid. Foto: Marco Oosthuizen<br></p><p><br></p><p><br></p>
New collaboration will boost water and energy research in Africa collaboration will boost water and energy research in AfricaMedia & Communication, Faculty of Science<p>​​Germany's <a href="">Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft</a>, one of Europe's leading applied research organisations, have joined forces with Stellenbosch University (SU) to address the water, energy and food security challenges facing southern Africa.</p><p>The newly established Fraunhofer Innovation Platform (FIP) involves SU's <a href="">Faculties of Engineering</a>, <a href="/english/faculty/science/">Science </a>and <a href="/english/faculty/agri">AgriSciences</a>, under the auspices of the <a href="/english/entities/SUWI/Pages/default.aspx">SU Water Institute</a> and the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies, as well as four Fraunhofer Institutes. While the agreement was signed in February 2020, the official launch will take place later this year</p><p>The Fraunhofer Innovation Platform (FIP) will address the entire spectrum of water and energy security challenges in the region, from academic research to technology development, transfer and implementation. The platform will complement existing efforts in the context of the Water-Energy-Food Nexus, including that of the <a href="">ARUA Centre of Excellence in Energy</a>, hosted at SU's Faculty of Engineering, and part of the <a href="">African Research Universities Alliance</a> (ARUA) framework.</p><p>Prof Reimund Neugebauer, President of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, says the newly-established FIP is unique in the sense that four Fraunhofer Institutes, and not just one, are involved in the platform: “All partners are active members of the <a href="">Fraunhofer Water Systems Alliance</a> and have an extensive history of delivering projects in international cooperation and more specifically in African countries. The FIP will also involve cooperation with the <a href="">Fraunhofer Energy Alliance</a>, one of the largest energy research networks in Europe."</p><p>The four Fraunhofer Institutes involved in the FIP are the Institutes for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology; for Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation; for Solar Energy Systems; and for Surface Engineering and Thin Films.</p><p>Prof Gideon Wolfaardt, director of the SU Water Institute (SUWI), says water research is one of SU's strategic focus areas: “The SU Water Institute offers a virtual umbrella where teams can be assembled with unique combinations of expertise as required by the challenge. We have been working on several water-related projects with the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft since 2016, and look forward to explore the many new opportunities offered by a long-term relationship with the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft."</p><p>The establishment of the FIP will be coordinated by Prof Wolfaardt as interim Director, Dr Marelize Botes from SUWI and Karin Kritzinger from the Faculty of Engineering, as well as Fraunhofer's Dr Ursula Schließmann, who will serve as Vice-Director.</p><p>Prof Wikus van Niekerk, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, says the newly-established platform “provides a wonderful opportunity for Stellenbosch University to work with our colleagues of the Fraunhofer Institutes to develop projects to transfer technology into the broader African context".</p><p>Prof Louise Warnich, Dean of the Faculty of Science, says the initiative will greatly enhance the impact of current and future research efforts; “With this large pool of scientists, engineers and technicians combining expertise from different fields, the FIP has great potential for knowledge transfer and capacity building in the region." <br></p>
Stellenbosch Dean attends ‘indaba’ on education and cooperation with leading forestry representatives Dean attends ‘indaba’ on education and cooperation with leading forestry representativesDr Pierre Ackerman<p><span lang="EN-GB">Agrisciences Dean Prof. Danie Brink participated in a meeting with key industry players as well as staff from Dept. of Forestry and Wood Sciences earlier this month.<span>  </span>The purpose of the meeting, which was hosted by York Timbers at Jessievale in Mpumalanga, was to discuss education needs as well as avenues for continued cooperation between some of the leading forestry companies (Mondi, Sappi, and York) and the department of forest and wood science. <span> </span>In this case, the focus was mainly in the area of forest operations, where the company representations were headed up by Dr. Dirk Laengin (Head of Forest Technical, Mondi), Mr. Giovanni Sale (General manager Research, Planning and Nurseries, Sappi) and Mr. Piet van Zyl (CEO, York Timbers). <span> </span>As part of the experience, an excursion was arranged where vegetation management, site preparation, planting, thinning and final cutting was demonstrated and discussed at length amongst participants. <span> </span>The ‘indaba’ ended on a positive and enthusiastic note, with general agreement on future areas of opportunity and continued cooperation. </span></p> <p>​<br></p>
Tribute to the late Prof Klaus Koch to the late Prof Klaus KochMedia & Communication, Faculty of Science<p>​It is with great sadness that the Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science and the Faculty of Science learned about the passing of Prof Klaus Koch (66) on 2 January this year.<br></p><p>Prof Koch was a world-renowned analytical chemist in the field of platinum group chemistry and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, with over 160 publications and more than 3 000 citations to his name. He retired at the end of 2018 after a career of 21 years at the University of Cape Town (UCT), and since 2000 another 19 years at Stellenbosch University (SU). Over the course of his academic career, he supervised over 70 postgraduate students, including 24 MSc and 30 PhD students at SU.</p><p>He has received numerous awards, most recently the South African Chemistry Institute's prestigious Gold Medal for his outstanding contribution to chemistry in South Africa. During his acceptance speech on 27 November 2019, Prof Koch quoted a passage from E.O. Wilson's <em>Consilience: the unity of Knowledge</em>, and made a plea for the development and preservation of the value of scientific analytical thinking. He concluded his speech with the following words: “In an increasingly rudderless, chaotic and fake-news infested populist world, the acquired reasonable 'truths' are continuously undermined and flaunted. We must do everything possible to bridge the chasm that separates scientific from pre-scientific cultures. Not science for science's sake, not for scientific stamp collecting, but to develop and preserve the value of scientific analytical thinking and its skills for the sake of our continued sustainable and agreeable future survival".</p><p>During a celebration of life memorial on 6 February 2020, Prof Peter Mallon described his former colleague as someone with an unbridled passion for his subject: “Somehow Klaus always found a way to squeeze in an extra few hours of NMR into the module. When confronted about this, he was absolutely adamant that he had already cut down as much as he possibly could and that it would be immoral and irresponsible for us so send out an Honours student who did not have the required level of understanding of NMR spectroscopy".</p><p>Prof Koch's passion for teaching will live on in the form of a bursary for a BScHons student in chemistry: “Shortly before his death last year, Prof Koch came to see me to make sure that his remaining research funds be used to create a bursary. I believe the Klaus Koch Chemistry Honours Bursary is a fitting way to acknowledge his legacy and enormous contribution to our department. He will be remembered by colleagues and students as an outstanding researcher, scientist and teacher," he concluded.</p><p>Prof Louise Warnich, dean of the Faculty of Science, said Prof Koch's legacy will also live on in the Department's flagship outreach initiative, <a href="">SUNCOI</a>, which he established in 2013 with Dr Rehana Malgas-Enus. The initiative helps learners from under-resourced schools with their prescribed chemistry practicals in the Department's labs over weekends.</p><p>Dr Stephen Woollam, manager of refining technology and technical solution at Anglo American, wrote in an e-mail that they had a lasting relationship with Prof Koch over many years: “Klaus touched so many people's lives in such a meaningful way and we mourn with you the loss of a brilliant mind."<br></p>
SU Food scientist recognised as a rising researcher thanks to food fraud studies Food scientist recognised as a rising researcher thanks to food fraud studiesEngela Duvenage<p>​​​​Food scientist Dr Paul Williams is among 13 distinguished young professionals recognised by <a href=""><span class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0"><strong>SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics</strong></span></a>, as one of it is 2020 DCS Rising Researchers. Dr Williams is a lecturer and researcher in the Department of Food Science in Stellenbosch University's Faculty of AgriSciences. </p><p>He is the only academic among the thirteen in the 2020 DCS Rising Researcher group not associated with an American university. They will be recognised on 27 April 2020 at the SPIE Defence + Commercial Sensing (DCS) 2020 conference in California in the USA.</p><p>According to a press release by SPIE, its Rising Researcher initiative is now in its fourth year. It recognises early-career professionals who are conducting outstanding work in product development or research in the areas of defence, commercial, and scientific sensing, imaging, optics, or related fields such as astronomy and food science.</p><p>At SPIE DCS 2020, he will present some preliminary findings on the use of near infrared (NIR) hyperspectral imaging to distinguish between different types of game meat and game meat cuts. This work, together with his postgraduate students on its use as an ID method for South African game species such as springbok and blesbok, follows on those done by other researchers on kangaroo and reindeer meat.</p><p>Dr Williams says he received the good news about his inclusion late December whilst on honeymoon. At the time, he was checking emails because an urgent funding application was due. “Funders do not care about honeymoons," he dropped.</p><p>His field is all about how light interacts with a product, and how the highly sensitive camera within imaging instruments picks up on the different chemical signals and converts it into images. “With NIR we can see chemical differences or similarities on the computer that we cannot see with our eyes. It allows us to visualise the potential differences or similarities between different materials or objects, from food to minerals. Each have their own chemical 'signal'," he explains. </p><p>Dr Williams says the issue of food fraud was top of mind when he started this work. “Once it is cut, you cannot really distinguish kudu from springbok meat, for instance, and therefore we need methods that can do so."</p><p>Current DNA identification methods can be quite costly, and time-consuming.</p><p>“Our NIR studies have already shown that there are definite chemical differences between the meat of species, such as blesbok and springbok and between different muscles in their bodies," he explains. </p><p>Dr Williams specializes in the use of vibrational spectroscopy and imaging techniques, such as NIR spectroscopy and hyperspectral and multispectral imaging. He is also interested in data analysis. To this end he has this year returned to student life. He is part of the first intake of students to follow a new postgraduate industrial engineering diploma with a focus on data science at Stellenbosch University. </p><p>Dr Williams has been using imaging techniques in his research since his masters degree years under supervision of now colleague Prof Marena Manley of the Department of Food Science.</p><p>One word was all it took to interest him in the field. “While I once was chatting with Prof Manley about possible postgraduate options, she mentioned the word 'chemometrics'. It intrigued me, although I did not know what it meant," he remembers how he became interested in the science of extracting information from chemical systems by data-driven means.</p><p>When he googled chemometrics he found that it involves a lot of maths, statistics and potentially also computer programming. </p><p>“I just knew I wanted to do that," emphasises Williams, who over the years has taught himself some coding.</p><p>In 2007, the year that he started his masters' degree studies in food science, he attended his first conference on NIR in Sweden – and was hooked for life. </p><p>He used this technique during his PhD studies to work on a non-destructive way to grade and evaluate the quality and safety of maize kernels. </p><p>A doctoral student, Kate Sendin, has since built upon his initial work, to develop what could be a “lite" version of a NIR hyperspectral imaging system to easily do relevant testing on site. “The next step would be to involve engineers and designers to develop a cheaper, more specific system that can be commercialised and used in industry by silo managers and the likes," he says. </p><ul><li>To date, Dr Williams has published 19 papers in peer-reviewed journals and has supervised, to completion, 2 PhD students and 10 MSc students. </li></ul><p><br> </p>
Join the discussion at this year's science cafés at Woordfees the discussion at this year's science cafés at WoordfeesMedia & Communication, Faculty of Science<p>​Jannie Hofmeyr will be leading the Science Cafe Stellenbosch conversations at Woordfees 2020. With a wide interest in the natural and social sciences, this distinguished emeritus professor in biochemistry and bio-complexity brings a new dimension to this year's topics – from the soul of the ant and swarm intelligence to honey bush tea, genetic testing and the normalisation of informality.<br></p><p>Science Café Stellenbosch is an initiative of the Faculty of Science at Stellenbosch University to promote the discussion of scientific issues in a language that everyone can understand. Since 2015, Science Café Stellenbosch has presented a number of talks during Woordfees at Die Plataan. Entrance is free, but arrive early to ensure a good seat.</p><p>During the rest of the year Science Café Stellenbosch events are presented at various locations in town. Follow us on <a href="">Facebook </a>to stay up to date with future talks, or join our mailing list by sending an email to</p><p>Below is a list of the talks for March 2020:</p><p>Eugene Marais' <em>Soul of the White Ant</em>: forerunner of modern machine learning - <em>Monday 9 March, 18:30-19:30, Die Plataan</em></p><p><a href="/english/Lists/Events/DispForm.aspx?ID=4606">What's life like under the microscope</a>? - <em>Tuesday 10 March 2020, 13:00-14:00, SU Library Auditorium</em></p><p><a href="/english/Lists/Events/DispForm.aspx?ID=4607">Informal is the new formal: integration of informal settlements into cities</a> - <em>Tuesday 10 March 2020, 18:30-19:30, Die Plataan</em></p><p>The story of honeybush: from the Langkloof to world class tea - <em>Wednesday 11 March 2020, 18:30-19:30, Die Plataan I </em><em>Click here for more information - <a href="/english/Lists/Events/DispForm.aspx?ID=4604"></a></em></p><p>Genetic testing: valuable self-knowledge or snake-oil trick - <em>Thursday 12 March 2020, 18:30-19:30, Die Plataan  I </em><em>Click here for more information - <a href="/english/Lists/Events/DispForm.aspx?ID=4608"></a></em></p><p> <em>Photos: Stefan Els</em></p>
Arrival of Covid-19 in Africa only a matter of time, warns epidemiologist of Covid-19 in Africa only a matter of time, warns epidemiologistMedia & Communication, Faculty of Science<p>We can expect to know within the next month whether the novel corona virus has found its way to Africa. In the meantime, all efforts to halt or slow the spread of the virus are still our best line of defense. </p><p>So says <a href="">Prof Juliet Pulliam</a>, an expert in the modeling of infectious diseases in resource-limited countries. She is also director of the <a href="">South African Centre of Excellence for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis</a>, hosted at Stellenbosch University (SU).</p><p>During a public lecture at the Wallenberg Research Centre in Stellenbosch last night (13 February 2010), she gave an overview of how epidemiological models are being used to understand the scope and spread of the novel 2019 coronavirus outbreak, and particularly why no cases have so far been confirmed in Africa.</p><p>She says recent studies show that while fever screenings at airports are unlikely to be sufficient to prevent the spread to new locations, it will help to slow the spread of the virus outside of China.</p><p>Once a case of infection is confirmed, it is paramount that measures such as isolation of sick patients and tracing their contacts be put in place immediately, in order to prevent further infections. This is, however, going to be a challenge in countries with insufficient screening and testing facilities, combined with weak health systems. The World Health Organisation (WHO) is currently in the process of establishing testing facilities in 29 African countries.</p><p>She says there are three possible scenarios for why the virus have not yet been detected in Africa. The first scenario, that the virus has not yet arrived on our shores, she believes to be unlikely. The second scenario is slightly more plausible, namely that there have been a low number of imported cases, but there is a low level of spread due to local environmental conditions. Here she referred to a <a href="">1985-study</a> that showed that coronavirus degrades quickly at high temperatures, such as found in tropical Africa and during the summer.</p><p>But this is an unlikely scenario, she believes, as cases have been confirmed for other sub-tropical countries such as Thailand. Scientists also do not as yet have sufficient information about the virus to be able to make these kinds of predictions.</p><p>The third scenario, while it is the most likely is also the most alarming, namely that the virus is spreading undetected, comparable to how it is behaving elsewhere. In a number of articles published in February on <a href="">the medical platform medrxiv</a>, researchers warn that the virus is probably spreading undetected in several African countries.</p><p> “I am particularly concerned about people with compromised immune systems, and those countries with weak health systems," Prof Pulliam warns.</p><p>On 31 January, the South African Department of Health activated an emergency operations center to deal with the outbreak. In the meantime, anyone who experiences flu-like symptoms with a travel history or contact with someone who has travelled, particularly to China, should call their nearest clinic, GP or hospital to seek guidance, or the National Institute for Communicable Diseases' public hotline at 0800 029 999.<br></p><p><em>Photo: Anton Jordaan</em><br></p>