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Earth Sciences students on board the ocean's red Ferrarihttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=1137Earth Sciences students on board the ocean's red FerrariWiida Fourie-Basson<p>​​​Two Stellenbosch University postgraduate students in the Department of Earth Sciences – Natasha van Horsten and Raimund Rentel – left this week on the SA Agulhas II for a three-month return voyage to Antarctica. The SA Agulhas II is South Africa's state-of-the-art polar research vessel, and is managed by the Department of Environmental Affairs.</p><p>They will be working with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research's (CSIR) Dr Thato Mtshali to sample iron from the Southern Ocean in order to study its role in the photosynthesis of phytoplankton. This will shed light on how the Southern Ocean is taking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.</p><p>According to Prof Alakendra Roychoudhury, their study leader and head of the Department of Earth Sciences, this is one of the single most important opportunities for South African scientists to study the geochemistry of an ocean as vast as the Southern Ocean.</p><p>"Because the Southern hemisphere is dominated by the Southern Ocean, it plays a crucial role in how large-scale climate systems are going to respond to changes in the geochemistry of the ocean. The SA Agulhas II is our only opportunity to sample along one trajectory of the Southern Ocean," he explains.</p><p>This will be Natasha's first trip to Antarctica and she is excited about being one of the privileged few to visit Antarctica: "The set-up for this trip is extensive and can be stressful. But it is definitely a great experience."</p><p>Natasha's research for her Master's degree is on the photosynthetic response of phytoplankton under different conditions, with light and iron as the main variables.</p><p>For Raimund, this trip is especially important as he will be collecting data in order to complete his MSc thesis. But there is much more to the process than just taking water samples from the ocean. He carries the solemn responsibility for ensuring the cleanliness of the GO-FLO bottles used for sampling iron. He furthermore faces a challenge for the on-board analyses of iron to infinitesimal levels.</p><p>"On the trip down there we will have time off, but as soon as the ship reaches the sampling location, we will do sampling more or less once every day for about 10 days straight. We will be using a Rosette, which has GO-FLO bottles mounted on it, plus a CTD (measuring conductivity, temperature and density). This rosette will be lowered to the seafloor or a depth of 4000 metres, whichever comes first," he explains.</p><p>Once the bottles are back on board, they are covered immediately and then transported to a clean container lab. From there the researchers can take samples for analysis on board or for use later on shore.</p><p>According to Raimund the best thing about the trip is sitting on the monkey deck, enjoying the sunset: "Spotting the first iceberg is also a great experience, even if you have seen it before."</p><p>If all goes well, the ship will be back in the Cape Town harbour on 13 February 2014.</p><p><em>On the photo, from the left, Dr Thato Mtshali, Natasha van Horsten, Prof Alakendra Roychoudhury and Raimund Rentel. </em></p><p><em>Issued by Wiida Fourie-Basson, media: Faculty of Science, Stellenbosch University, 021 808-2684, science@sun.ac.za</em></p><p><em><br></em></p>
Top researchers honouredhttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=3682Top researchers honouredMedia & Communication, Faculty of Science<p>Four of the Faculty of Science's top researchers were honoured with Chancellor's Awards for research excellence during Stellenbosch University's graduation ceremonies recently.</p><p>Prof. Dave Richardson, a world leader in invasion biology, and Prof. Helmut Prodinger, one of the founding fathers of the modern analysis of algorithms and analytic combinatorics, received their awards during the March 2016 graduation ceremony. </p><p>On Wednesday 16 March 2016 Prof. Prodinger was also awarded a Doctor of Science-degree for his significant contribution to the analysis of approximate counting over several decades. Approximate counting is a classical technique in computer science to handle large quantities of data with limited capacities. The Doctor of Science degree follows after a PhD and is awarded for published work of an exceptional standard, containing original contributions to the advancement of knowledge and learning which has given the candidate international distinction in their field.</p><p>The physicist, Prof. Hendrik Geyer, and the chemist Prof. Harald Pasch, received their Chancellor's Awards during the December 2015 graduation ceremony.</p><p>Another special mention is the achievement of Dr Ronalda Benjamins, who received her Phd in Mathematics op 16 March 2016. This former learner from Breërivier High School in Worcester registered for a BSc in Mathematics in 2007 with the dream of obtaining her PhD and become an academic, despite difficult financial and domestic circumstances. In 2015 she realised both dreams. Apart from receiving her PhD, she was also appointed as a lecturer in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at SU.</p><p>For 2015, the Faculty of Science boasts with a record number of 50 PhD degrees and the most honours degrees over the past five years – 150 in comparison with 136 in 2012.</p><p><strong>More about Prof. Helmut Prodinger</strong></p><p>Prof. Prodinger is described as one of the founding fathers of the modern analysis of algorithms and analytic combinatorics. He has made fundamental contributions to virtually every aspect of this relatively young research area. Prof. Prodinger's work has also greatly improved understanding of the asymptotic properties of digital systems by introducing novel techniques such as the Mellin transform to the subject. His fundamental paper on applications of the Mellin transforms to digital sums has already been cited more than 100 times and is still the main reference in its field. He has published over 300 articles in peer-reviewed journals with over 60 co-authors worldwide. He has supervised 6 PhD-students in Austria and about 15 MSc students in Austria and South Africa. Prof. Prodinger has held an A-rating from the National Research Foundation (NRF) since 1999 and has received numerous awards. More at </p><p><strong>More about Prof. Dave Richardson</strong></p><p>Professor David Richardson is a world leader in the field of invasion science and Director of the NRF/DST Centre of Excellence in Invasion Biology (C•I•B) based at Stellenbosch University. He has published 335 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters, including numerous game-changing contributions. In 2009 S<em>cientometrics</em> rated Prof. Richardson the most influential researcher in this field worldwide. Since 2014 he has also been on Thomson Reuter's list of most cited researchers in the field of invasion biology.</p><p>One of his major contributions to invasion science, and to ecology in general, has been the thorough development and exploitation of new model systems for the elucidation of all the diverse perspectives that need to be considered to understand and manage invasive species.</p><p>Professor Richardson is also one of the pioneers of the field of "conservation biogeography" which seeks to apply biogeographical principles, theories, and analyses to diverse problems related to the conservation of biodiversity. Since 1998 he has been Editor-in-Chief of the premier journal in this field, <em>Diversity and Distributions</em>. </p><p>His work has been recognised through the Hans Sigrist Prize for 2006, an award made annually by the University of Berne in Switzerland; in 2007 and again in 2013 he was awarded A1 ratings by the National Research Foundation. He has received several awards in South Africa, notably the 2012 John F.W. Herschel Medal, the top award of the Royal Society of South Africa, and the 2013 Havenga Prize for Life Sciences from the South African Academy for Science and Arts. He serves on several international committees, including the IUCN (World Conservation Union) Species Survival Commission's specialist group on Invasive Species (since 1996). In 2015 he was elected Vice President of the Royal Society of South Africa.</p><p><span style="line-height:1.6;"></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="color:#333333;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:12px;line-height:20px;background-color:#ffffff;"><strong>More about Prof. Hendrik Geyer</strong></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="color:#333333;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:12px;line-height:20px;background-color:#ffffff;">Prof. Hendrik Geyer was recognised for his outstanding contributions to the community, leadership in the university environment and professional bodies, and excellent research. He served as chair of the Department of Physics, director of the Institute for Theoretical Physics, chair of the Organisation of Theoretical Physicists, as well as board member of the South African Institute of Physics (SAIP). His dedicated efforts led to the establishment of the National Institute for Theoretical Physics (NITHeP) in 2008, where he served as interim director. Since 2008, he has also been director of the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Studies (STIAS), where he champions interdisciplinary research. Accolades recognising his research include the Alexander von Humboldt fellowship and the SAIP silver medal.<br></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="color:#333333;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:12px;line-height:20px;background-color:#ffffff;"><strong>More about Prof. Harald Pasch</strong></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="color:#333333;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:12px;line-height:20px;background-color:#ffffff;">Prof. Pasch joined SU in 2008 as holder of the SASOL research chair and head of the Polymer section. Over the next seven years he developed the analytical chemistry group in the Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science into an internationally recognised centre of excellence for advanced polymer analysis. With more than 300 peer-reviewed articles behind his name, his present research focuses on multidimensional liquid chromatography, advanced spectroscopy, the development of analytical methods for nanomaterial, and high-throughput experimentation. He has supervised more than 50 postgraduate students in Germany and South Africa.<span style="line-height:1.6;color:#444444;font-family:'segoe ui', segoe, tahoma, helvetica, arial, sans-serif;font-size:13px;background-color:rgba(255, 255, 255, 0.85098);">​</span></p>
Hard work pays off for Actuarial Science studenthttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=4172Hard work pays off for Actuarial Science studentPia Nänny<p>The recipe to achieve great academic success includes five ingredients: Dedication, dedication, dedication, discipline and dedication.</p><p>This is how Charl du Plessis, the 2016 recipient of the CGW Schumann medal for the best postgraduate student in the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences explains his outstanding results. "Nothing can replace hard work," he adds.</p><p>Prof Stan du Plessis, Dean of the Faculty, presented the medal to him at a function held in Stellenbosch on Wednesday, 17 August. The medal is named after the Faculty's first dean and has been awarded annually since 1986.</p><p>Du Plessis' academic performance in his four years of study at Stellenbosch University, where he completed an undergraduate and postgraduate degree in Actuarial Science, was truly exceptional.</p><p>Prof Garrett Slattery, head of Actuarial Science, wrote in his motivation that while it is not uncommon for exceptional students to score over 90% for some modules, Du Plessis scored over 90% for virtually every module in his Bachelor's degree (including his additional modules), with several module marks of 100%.</p><p>"Not only were his marks magnificent in these very demanding degrees, but he also managed to fit in several additional subjects, demonstrating a thirst for knowledge rather than a desire to simply keep his marks high by taking the lightest permissible load."</p><p>Du Plessis registered for an additional (40-credit) Master's level module (during his honours degree) – General Insurance Fellowship Principles, which covers the application of actuarial principles to short-term insurance. The final examination of the Actuarial Society of South Africa in this subject was written by over 50 students and he scored the top examination mark.</p><p>"He will be recommended for all of the available exemptions from the examinations of the Actuarial Society of South Africa based on performance in equivalent university modules taken in his Bachelors and Honours degrees," added Prof Slattery.</p><p>"While we always have very good students in our honours degree the difficulty of the work means that we do not generally award high marks. In the past 10 years we have only had two other students who performed at a level comparable to that of Mr du Plessis, both of whom were recipients of the Chancellor's Medal."</p><p>It has always been Du Plessis' goal to do well and he is very happy about this award.</p><p>He values the problem-solving and critical-thinking skills he developed during his studies and believes a culture of self-learning and continuous hard work are important for success.</p><p>Du Plessis, who matriculated from Stellenberg High School and achieved second place in the Western Cape for the National Senior Certificate examinations in 2011, is continuing his process of learning at Ernst & Young in Cape Town.</p><p>"I'm enjoying it and I'm gaining valuable experience about and exposure to the financial industry."</p><p>When he is not working, he enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with family and friends and visiting spots in and around Cape Town.</p><p><span style="line-height:20.8px;"><strong>Photo: Prof Willie Conradie, chairperson of the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science, Prof Garrett Slattery, </strong><span style="line-height:20.8px;"><strong>head of Actuarial Science</strong></span><strong>, medal winner Charl du Plessis, and Prof Stan du Plessis, Dean of the </strong><span style="line-height:20.8px;"><strong>Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences. Photographer: Hennie Rudman, SCPS.</strong></span></span><br></p>
New Oxalis species named after SU botanisthttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=4468New Oxalis species named after SU botanistWiida Fourie-Basson<p>A botanist from Stellenbosch University, Prof. Léanne Dreyer, has been honoured for her significant contributions to the study of the genus <em>Oxalis</em> by having a newly described species named after her.</p><p><em></em><a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/309392121_Oxalis_dreyerae_Oxalidaceae_a_new_species_from_South_Africa">Oxalis dreyerae </a>is one of <a href="http://biotaxa.org/Phytotaxa/article/view/phytotaxa.181.2.2">ten new Oxalis species</a> recently discovered in the arid Richtersveld – an area that was previously assumed to be relatively poor in diversity.</p><p><img src="/english/PublishingImages/Lists/dualnews/My%20Items%20View/B_Leanne%20Dreyer_Oxalis%20003%20(2).jpg" alt="B_Leanne Dreyer_Oxalis 003 (2).jpg" class="ms-rtePosition-2 ms-rteImage-1" style="margin:5px;" /></p><p>Better known as sorrel or 'surinkies' in Afrikaans, these plants are native to South America and South Africa, with about 500 different species in the genus. The genus was first described by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1753, but the last major work on the genus in South Africa was done 70 years ago, in 1944.</p><p>Prof. Dreyer was part of the field trip to the Richtersveld in 2011 and again 2012 to look for new <em>Oxalis</em> species: "We got wind that the area received good winter rains. So we packed up and for two weeks surveyed the area as far and wide as possible." </p><p>It was during the second trip that Prof. Dreyer had to return home after a break-in at her home in Stellenbosch. Her colleagues, Dr Francois Roets and Dr Kenneth Oberlander, then made use of the opportunity to name a new species after her after they collected it in her absence.</p><p><em>O. dreyerae</em> is described as a striking species with large funnel-shaped white flowers. It typically grows in rock crevices between granite boulders on the south-facing slopes of the Richtersveld Conservancy.</p><p>Prof. Dreyer says the Richtersveld probably harbours many more secrets and surprises in terms of its flora: "<em>Oxalis</em> plants are difficult to find. The bulbs are underneath the ground and the plant only flowers after sufficient rain. The Richtersveld is also not the easiest of terrains to explore. This has led to the assumption that the region does not harbour many <em>Oxalis</em> species." </p><p>During the two field trips they literally went off the beaten track to look for these small plants: "Our trips have revealed a wealth of <em>Oxalis</em> species, including at least ten undescribed species. Nine of the ten new species are endemic to the Richtersveld, and seven of them are extremely scarce". </p><p>"This means the levels of endemism for <em>Oxalis</em> in the Richtersveld are higher than the relatively well-explored Namaqualand," she adds.</p><p><strong>On the photo above, </strong>Prof. Léanne Dreyer with a plate of the newly-found <em>Oxalis</em> species named after her, <em>O. dreyerae</em>. The plate was presented to her as a surprise by fellow researchers Dr Kenneth Oberlander and Dr Francois Roets in honour of her significant contributions to the study of the genus <em>Oxalis</em>. </p><p><strong>Contact details:</strong></p><p>Prof. Léanne Dreyer</p><p>Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University</p><p>Tel: 021 808 3070</p><p>E-mail: <a href="mailto:ld@sun.ac.za">ld@sun.ac.za</a></p><p><br></p>
Africa must pay more attention to its orphan cropshttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=4926Africa must pay more attention to its orphan cropsEthel Phiri & Natasha Mothapo<p>Research networks within African academic and research institutions are important to understand the agricultural and economic value of orphan crops as well as the impact invasive species can have on them, writes Dr Ethel Phiri (Department of Genetics) and Dr Natasha Mothapo (Department of Botany and Zoology) in an article published on The Conversation website on Tuesday (30 May 2017).</p><ul><li><p>Click <a href="https://theconversation.com/africa-must-re-adopt-its-orphan-crops-in-the-face-of-a-changing-environment-78197" style="text-decoration:underline;"><span class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0"><strong>here</strong></span></a> to read the article.<br></p></li></ul><p> </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/_8mV_GdPwUo" frameborder="0"></iframe> </div><p><br></p><p><br></p>
Saving the paintbrush lily from extinctionhttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=5011Saving the paintbrush lily from extinctionWiida Fourie-Basson<p>A major effort is underway to conserve the last remaining 60 individual paintbrush lilies (<em>Haemanthus pumilio</em>) in the Duthie Nature Reserve in Stellenbosch, as well as increase the population through micropropagation.</p><p>Martin Smit, curator of the Stellenbosch University Botanical Garden, says more than a thousand of the paintbrush lilies once grew in the Duthie reserve. But the reserve is now less than a third of its original size, and the lilies have all but disappeared from previously known locations including Wellington and Klapmuts.</p><p>“The main reasons for its decline are the destruction of its original habitat (rhenosterveld) and invasives like Port Jackson (<em>Acacia saligna</em>). But the species is also dependent on fire to induce flowering and requires very specific conditions for the seedlings to survive. For various reasons the Duthie Reserve was last burned in 2004. For this type of vegetation, it is long overdue for another controlled burn," he says.</p><p>“Apart from being fire-dependent, <em>Haemanthus pumilio</em> also prefer ground that is dry in summer but waterlogged and marshy in winter. That is why the Duthie Reserve still remains the most suitable habitat to ensure the survival of this rare and critically endangered plant," he adds.</p><p>While Smit has developed a management plant for the Duthie Reserve, two biologists from Stellenbosch University have obtained funding to employ tissue culture as a means of exponentially increasing the population.</p><p>Plant biotechnologist Dr Paul Hills and botanist Dr Gary Stafford have already collected leaf samples and seed from the existing paintbrush lily population in the Duthie Reserve, as well as from seven individuals from a now extinct population from Newton Commanage, Wellington, currently under the care of the Botanical Garden. </p><p>“Firstly, we are following a non-destructive strategy to mass propagate individuals from a variety of genotypes to allow for potential repopulation of dwindling populations in the Duthie Reserve and elsewhere," Dr Hills explains.</p><p>At the same time, BSc Honours student Dominique West will use phylogenetic analysis to determine the genetic diversity within and between populations. This will allow for informed decisions to be made with regard to the use of genetic lines derived from micropropagation when it comes to repopulating and conserving the plants.</p><p>While the tissue culture samples and several seeds have already started growing in the tissue culture lab, the first seedlings will only be viable by the end of 2018.</p><p>“Because it so rare, <em>Haemanthus pumileo</em> is highly sought after by plant collectors locally and internationally. If we can get a viable population going, these will be spread to other botanical gardens and then some plants might be sold," Smit adds.</p><p style="text-align:center;">​ <img src="/english/faculty/science/PublishingImages/News%20items/Small_Guardians.jpg" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br></p><p style="text-align:center;"><em>The Stellenbosch University Botanical Garden is driving a major effort to conserve the last remaining paintbrush lilies (</em><em>Haemanthus pumilio</em><em>) in the Duthie Nature Reserve. Curator Martin Smit (middle) is also working with Stellenbosch University biologists Dr Paul Hills (left) and Dr Gary Stafford (right) to increase the population through tissue culture cultivation techniques. BScHons student Dominique West will conduct the micropropagation and systematic analysis.  </em><em>Photo: Stefan Els</em></p><p> </p><p style="text-align:center;"><em>On the photo at the top: Only 10-15 centimetres high, </em><em>Haemanthus pumilio</em><em> is one of the smallest paintbrush lilies. The plants usually flower during March and April, before the leaves develop. This species prefers to flower after fire, when there is less competition from other vegetation. </em><em>Photo: Gary Stafford</em></p><p><strong> </strong></p><p><strong>More about </strong><strong><em>Haemanthus</em></strong></p><p>All 22 species of <em>Haemanthus </em>are endemic to South and Southern Africa, but of these at least 12 are listed in the South African Red Data List. However, <em>Haemanthus pumilio</em>'s status urgently needs revision as it is under the greatest risk of extinction. Since the 1990s, the Duthie Reserve is home to the only remaining viable population.</p><p><strong>More about the Duthie Reserve</strong></p><p>The Duthie Reserve in Banhoekweg, Stellenbosch, is named after Dr Augusta Vera Duthie, founder of the Department of Botany at SU in 1902. In 1912 she obtained a PhD from the University of South Africa for her thesis entitled <em>The vegetation and flora of the Stellenbosch flats</em>. She is regarded as the founder of the SU Botanical Garden and grew plants for student practicals and research in glasshouses at the former location of the SU Botanical Garden next to the Old Hoofgebou. <br></p><p><strong><br></strong></p><p><strong>Contact details</strong></p><p>Mr Martin Smit<br></p><p>Curator: SU Botanical Garden</p><p>E-mail: <a href="mailto:mfsmit@sun.ac.za">mfsmit@sun.ac.za</a></p><p>Tel: +27 _21 808 9209</p><p> </p><p>Dr Paul Hills</p><p>Institute for Plant Biotechnology, Department of Genetics, Stellenbosch University</p><p>E-mail: <a href="mailto:phills@sun.ac.za">phills@sun.ac.za</a></p><p>Tel: +27 _21 808 3066</p><p> </p><p>Dr Gary Stafford</p><p>Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University</p><p>E-mail: <a href="mailto:gistafford@sun.ac.za">gistafford@sun.ac.za</a></p><p>Tel: +27 _76 896 1987</p><p style="text-align:center;"><em>Issued by Wiida Fourie-Basson, Media: Faculty of Science, Stellenbosch University</em></p><p style="text-align:center;"><a href="mailto:science@sun.ac.za"><em>science@sun.ac.za</em></a><em>   021 808 2684</em></p>
First multimedia dictionary for South African Sign Languagehttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=3632First multimedia dictionary for South African Sign LanguageWiida Fourie-Basson<p>A lexicographer and a computer science student from Stellenbosch University (SU) combined forces to develop the first prototype of a multimedia electronic dictionary for South African Sign Language.</p><p>Dr Hanelle Fourie Blair, assistant-editor of the Dictionary of the Afrikaans Language (WAT), developed a theoretical model of an electronic sign language dictionary for foundation phase learners for her doctoral thesis in lexicography in 2013.</p><p>Two years later, Hanno Schreiber developed the software for a multimedia electronic dictionary, based on her theoretical model, for his final year honours project in Computer Science at SU.</p><p><strong>Why do we need a multimedia sign language dictionary?</strong></p><p>Dr Fourie Blair says few people realise that sign language, just like any other spoken language, has its own distinctive linguistics (science of language) and grammar.</p><p>"I want to establish a culture where Deaf people and especially children have ease of access to user-friendly dictionaries, thereby developing a deeper reading culture. It is truly disheartening that most Deaf people do not read and therefore remain mostly illiterate. It does not have to be that way."</p><p>Up to now most text books for sign language in South Africa were written in such a way to assist hearing people to communicate with the Deaf, and not the other way round. There is also a glaring lack of language text books and dictionaries for Deaf children, compared to what are available for hearing children.</p><p>Dr Fourie Blair says Deaf children should also spend more time acquiring language skills than on speech therapy: "Why spend hours teaching a Deaf child to form and speak certain sounds, while they could have used that time to acquire the necessary language skills to discover the world of science and literature?</p><p>"The most natural and accessible language for a Deaf child is sign language. First establish their language skills. Then you can teach them all the other things," she says.</p><p><strong>How does a multimedia sign language dictionary works?</strong></p><p>The multimedia electronic dictionary functions without the principle of a specific source language or target language. In other words, users can search the dictionary by means of a picture, a sign or a word – each search method will lead to exactly the same result. The picture search method also implies that the user does not have to be literate in sign or written language to be able to use the dictionary.</p><p>Hanno says he was surprised at how well two completely different disciplines could work together: "Hanelle was the ideal study leader for such a software project. She explained concepts in her thesis that were unclear to me. We sat down and drew pictures until we were both on the same page. I kept her informed of my progress, and she gave feedback about what she liked and what she wanted to change. Her insight, patience and passion with this project made it a pleasure to work with her."</p><p>Dr Fourie Blair says it was wonderful to work with someone who could give life to her ideas: "Thanks to Hanno's project I can now demonstrate my idea to people. But there is still a lot of work ahead."</p><p>Institutions such as the <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DeafSA-271471837806/">Deaf Federation of South Africa</a> has already expressed their interest in the project: "They are actually disappointed that the dictionary is not yet complete!" she laughs.</p><p>The next step is to gather the necessary content to transform the prototype into a usable multimedia dictionary. This includes decisions regarding content and material, followed by the writing of definitions and sample sentences, with accompanying pictures and videos of the signs, as well as videos of definitions and sample sentences in sign language.</p><p>Hanno will receive his Honours degree in Computer Science at SU's March 2016 graduation ceremony. He is currently working at the CSIR in Pretoria and plans to continue with an MSc in 2017.</p><p>"To me, the project was an opportunity to develop a system that will fill a gap and help the Deaf community. At the same time it was wonderful to be able to develop a comprehensive prototype of Hanelle's wonderful theoretical model," he adds.</p><p><strong>For editors</strong></p><p>Deaf versus deaf: In the literature a distinction is made between Deaf and deaf. People who are deaf have an audiological hearing problem but they do not use sign language (this is often people who became deaf later in life). People who are Deaf belong to a cultural and linguistic minority that uses sign language as their first language.</p><p><img src="/english/PublishingImages/Lists/dualnews/My%20Items%20View/screenshot.JPG" alt="screenshot.JPG" style="margin:5px;" /> </p><p><em>Above: After a search for the concept, word or sign "apple", the user will see a picture of an apple, the written word "apple" and a video of APPLE in sign language on the results page. A finger spelling of the word connects the written form and the visual form with the concept in sign language. Then follows a parallel structure where a definition and a sample sentence is given in written as well as sign language. This means that the dictionary is fully bilingual and bidirectional.</em></p><p><strong>Contact details</strong></p><p>Dr Hanelle Fourie Blair</p><p>E: <a href="mailto:hfourie@sun.ac.za">hfourie@sun.ac.za</a></p><p>S: 082 725 3631</p><p> </p><p>Hanno Schreiber</p><p>E: <a href="mailto:hanno.schreiber@gmail.com">hanno.schreiber@gmail.com</a></p><p style="text-align:center;"><em><br></em></p><p style="text-align:center;"><em>Media release issued by Wiida Fourie-Basson, Media: Faculty of Science, science@sun.ac.za, 021 808 2684</em></p><p><br></p>
nGAP position allocated to Food Science brings reliefhttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=4084nGAP position allocated to Food Science brings reliefPia Nänny<p>The Department of Food Science within the Faculty of AgriSciences received one of four nGap positions allocated to Stellenbosch University (SU). A total of 79 allocations were made to universities across South Africa.</p><p>The New Generation of Academics Programme (nGap) initiated by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) is intended to support universities to recruit new academics in line with their staffing and development plans. Applicants must be younger then 40.</p><p>The DHET carries the costs of the position for the first three years, after which the university starts to contribute to the young academic's cost to company. The nGAP will also enable the newly-recruited lecturers to benefit from teaching and research development opportunities.</p><p>Prof Gunnar Sigge, Head of the Department of Food Science, said he is very relieved and happy about the nGap position allocated to his department as staff member capacity has been a challenge for the past few years. Although the new appointee will not be expected to handle a full workload in his/her first three years, this appointment will assist in easing the teaching and supervisory load of the current staff members.</p><p>Student numbers in the Department of Food Science have increased by 54% since 2008 but the academic staff complement only increased by one from five to six, even though an external evaluation suggested that the academic staff contingent should be doubled by 2013.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">"Furthermore, students from other degree courses, for example BSc Agric (Aquaculture) and BSc Agricultural Economics also follow certain food science modules, further increasing the class sizes," added Prof Sigge.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">"Undergraduate BSc Food Science numbers totalled 231 in 2015, while 30 MSc students and 22 PhD students were enrolled at the same time. Thus, it is clear that the academic staff have a high undergraduate teaching load, as well as a high postgraduate supervisory load. Applications to the undergraduate BSc Food Science degree are still increasing with over 100 applications for admission in 2016. There is also an increasing trend in applications to the postgraduate programmes in food science (MSc and PhD).</p><p style="text-align:justify;">"An additional academic staff member will thus benefit the undergraduate programme, broaden the expertise base, increase research outputs and strengthen postgraduate supervisory capacity."</p><p>He believes everyone will benefit from this arrangement. "The new employee receives the opportunity to enter the academic world and has time to establish him- or herself, while the department gets an extra staff member and has time to ensure that this post is economically viable."</p><p>The importance of food science in food and nutrition security, alleviating hunger and contributing to health and well-being is recognised by the fact that food science has been declared a "scarce skill" in South Africa. </p><p>"Well trained, skilled, creative and dynamic food scientists with a multitude of different areas of specialisation are thus a critical requirement in addressing these challenges," said Prof Sigge.</p>
SU’s top postgraduate students in Physics awardedhttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=1369SU’s top postgraduate students in Physics awardedWiida Fourie-Basson<p>The Faculty of Science's top awards in physics and mathematical sciences for 2013 was presented to Farooq Kyeyune and Janusz Meylahn during a special occasion on Friday 15 March 2014.</p><p>The <a href="file:///D:/Departemente/Fisika/Toekennings/Aminat/Physics%20department%20rewards%20top%20achievers_ER.docx#Morrison">John Todd Morrison Research Medal</a> for the best MSc student (<em>cum laude</em>) in Physics or Mathematical Sciences was awarded to Farooq Kyeyune. Farooq, who comes from Uganda, joined the Department of Physics in 2011 as part of the <a href="http://www.aims.ac.za/">African Institute for Mathematical Studies</a> (AIMS) programme for African students. His research, with Prof Hubertus von Bergmann as supervisor and Prof Erich Rohwer as co-supervisor, focused on "Optimized discharge excitation techniques for short pulse gas lasers".</p><p>Farooq will return to Stellenbosch University later this year to pursue his doctoral studies in the same field.</p><p>Janusz Meylahn, originally from Port Elizabeth, was awarded the <a href="file:///D:/Departemente/Fisika/Toekennings/Aminat/Physics%20department%20rewards%20top%20achievers_ER.docx#Naude">Meiring Naudé Medal</a> for achieving an average of above 80% in the BScHonns programme in Physics, as well as maintaining a mark of at least 60% in each module of the programme. He did a project on differential geometry with Dr J.N. Kriel as study leader, as well as a project on how the elasticity of a polymer network changes if one introduces cross-links (with Prof Kristian Müller-Nedebock as study leader).</p><p>During the occasion Prof Erich Rohwer, head of the Department of Physics, made two more departmental awards. The first one went to Paul Williams, a BScHonns student in theoretical physics, for also managing to achieve an average of 80% and higher. The second award went to Aminat Oyiza Suleiman, an MSc student working on femtosecond electron diffraction. During a recent workshop for international students in Italy, she received the best poster and oral presentation award from <a href="http://spie.org/x106568.xml">SPIE</a>, the international society for optics and photonics.   </p><p><strong>More about the </strong><strong>John Todd Morrison </strong><strong>Research Medal</strong></p><p>Prof J.T Morrison (1863 – 1944) was Professor of Physics and Chemistry at Victoria College and later Stellenbosch University from 1891 until his retirement in 1934. During this time he played a significant role in the establishment of the university. He is mostly known for his work on terrestrial magnetism. In 1909 he obtained a year's leave to make observations in South West Africa, Rhodesia and as far north as Egypt. A solid silver, gold-plated medal, donated by the late Mrs JT Morrison on behalf of her husband, is presented annually to the best student who obtains the MSc degree in Physics and Applied Mathematics <em>cum laude</em>.</p><p><strong>More about the Meiring Naudé Medal</strong></p><p>Dr Stef Meiring Naudé (1904 – 1985) completed his MSc (<em>cum laude</em>) at Stellenbosch University. He continued his studies in Berlin where he was a student of the Nobel prize winners Albert Einstein, Max Planck, Nerpst and Max von Laue. In 1932 he gained world-wide recognition for the discovery of the isotope N15. He was professor of physics at Stellenbosch University from 1934 until 1945. In 1946 he joined the CSIR and became President of the CSIR from 1952 to 1971. Donated by the late Dr Stef Meiring Naudé, a gilded silver medal is presented annually to the best candidate who scores a mark of at least 80% in an approved BScHons programme in Physics and also maintains a mark of at least 60% in each module of the programme. </p>
Bumper crop of doctoral degrees in Physicshttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=2110Bumper crop of doctoral degrees in PhysicsWiida Fourie-Basson<p>The Faculty of Science delivered a bumper crop of doctoral degrees in Physics at Stellenbosch University's December graduation ceremony.</p><p>Five students obtained their Phds in Physics and four in Mathematics, while another eight doctoral degrees were awarded in the fields of Botany and Zoology, Chemistry and Polymer Science, Geology and Microbiology.</p><p>A total of 500 BSc students were capped during two graduation ceremonies at the Coetzenburg Stadion on Thursday 11 December 2014. This incluces 300 BSc students, 137 BSc honours students, and 63 MSc students. </p><p><strong>Physics dominate</strong></p><p>In a first for South Africa, <strong>Dr Melanie McLaren</strong> (29) produced the first quantum entanglement experiment in Africa as part of her research into quantum optics. Entanglement is one of the most perplexing phenomenon in the quantum world where subatomic particles behave in ways even Einstein called "spooky". Once two particles are entangled, they share information such that a measurement on one particle will immediately affect the other, regardless of the distance between them.</p><p>"This means that information can be processed quickly and securely. In the field of quantum communication and cryptography, it may thus one day become possible to manage large amounts of information very quickly without the threat of eavesdropping," Melanie explains.</p><p>Melanie's research investigated novel ways in which to measure entanglement: "We showed that entanglement can recover after encountering an obstacle. This is an important step towards free-space quantum communication, as the entangled particles will be affected by atmospheric turbulence, which can destroy the entanglement. Using these novel measurement techniques, it may be possible to mitigate these effects for efficient communication," she adds.</p><p>Melanie is a former pupil of St Mary's Anglican School for Girls in Johannesburg. Her work has been published in several high ranking academic journals, including the prestigious journal <em>Nature Communication</em>.</p><p>For his PhD in nuclear physics, <strong>Dr Etienne Vermeulen</strong> developed new production methods for isotopes for use in nuclear medicine. Based on the innovative nature of his research, he was offered a position at the world famous Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland.</p><p><strong>Dr Jacob Mateyisi</strong>, who hails from Lesotho and came to SU for postgraduate studies after he completed a post-graduate diploma at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences(AIMS), works on statistical physics. He addressed the physics of molecular machines in networks and the diffusion of particles in pores. These are highly relevant issues in the physics of biological systems and materials used for filtering. He is currently employed as a teaching and information technology assistant at AIMS in Muizenberg.</p><p><strong>Dr Gashaw Adera</strong> left Ethiopia in 2006 to study at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Cape Town. He then pursued postgraduate studies in theoretical nuclear physics at Stellenbosch University. Since 2007 he has obtained an MSc (cum laude) in this field, published a paper in one of the top physical journals in the world (<em>Physical Review C)</em>, and received the John Todd Morrison Research Medal for the best MSc student. The title of his PhD is 'Relativistic Distorted Wave Analysis of Neutrino-induced Strange Particle Production on Nuclei'<strong>.</strong></p><p>As part of his PhD studies, <strong>Dr Vincent Kheswa</strong> participated in a six month training program organised by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at the University of Oslo, as part of a technical non-proliferation and disarmament studies scholarship. The purpose of the scholarship was to encourage technical research in the field of non-proliferation and disarmament, in particular in relation to the verification of the dismantlement of nuclear warheads.</p><p><strong>Another DSc for the Faculty of Science</strong></p><p><strong>Prof Doug Rawlings</strong>, a leading international researcher in the field of molecular biology, obtained a Doctor of Science (DSc) degree. A DSc is awarded for published work of an exceptional standard, containing original contributions to the advancement of knowledge and learning which has given the candidate international distinction in their field. This is the sixth DSc to be awarded in the Faculty of Science since 1974.</p><p><em>On the photo, in front from left to right: Dr Melanie McLaren, Dr Jacob Mateyisi and Dr Gashaw Adera. At the back are their supervisors and co-supervisors Prof Erich Rohwer, Prof Kristian Müller-Nedebock and Prof Brandon van der Ventel. Photo: Anton Jordaan</em><em></em></p><p><span lang="AF" style="font-size:12pt;font-family:"times new roman","serif";"></span>Visit <a href="/graduation">www.sun.ac.za/graduation</a> for more information.</p><ul><li>The ceremonies are streamed live at <a href="/streaming">www.sun.ac.za/streaming</a>.</li><li>Visit <a href="https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152032960177421.1073741852.87257252420&type=1"><strong>Stellenbosch University's Facebook page</strong></a> and tag yourself in photographs.</li><li>Tweet using the hashtag #SUgraduation and mention @Matiesstudents and @StellenboschUni in your tweet. </li></ul>