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Cape fur seals can nurse their pups well into adulthoodhttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=7575Cape fur seals can nurse their pups well into adulthoodMedia & Communication, Faculty of Science<p>​Some Cape fur seal (<em>Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus</em>) mothers may nurse their young for several years longer than previously thought, thereby potentially improving their offspring's chances of survival.</p><p>The observations of this unusual behaviour has now been published in the journal <em>African Zoology</em> in an article entitled “<a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15627020.2020.1768144">Prolonged nursing in Cape fur seals (<em>arctocephalus pusillus pusillus</em>) at Cape Cross colony, Namibia</a>". </p><p>Researchers from the <a href="http://www.namibiandolphinproject.org/">Namibian Dolphin Project</a>, a research project run by <a href="http://seasearch.co.za/">Sea Search Africa</a>, made the observation at the Cape Cross colony in Namibia. Cape Cross is one of the world's largest breeding colonies of Cape fur seals, hosting up to 210 000 animals. While adult males are only present during the breeding season, females stay at Cape Cross all year long with their offspring, hunting in the nearby waters.</p><p>Dr Anna Osiecka, lead author, says Cape fur seals normally wean their young within a year: “It appears that some may choose to keep the bond with their pups or even feed unrelated pups. As seal milk is very rich in fat and protein, this extra 'free' food can give their offspring an upper hand by allowing the young to grow larger and improve their chances of survival. </p><p>“For male pups, this can translate into better chances to defend a harem and father offspring when they grow up, as larger males tend to be more successful," she explains.</p><p><strong>What we know about maternal care in Cape fur seals</strong></p><p>Cape fur seals are the only seals which breed in southern Africa, with a range from southern Angola to the Port Elizabeth, in South Africa. “These animals were hunted to the brink of extinction in the last century, but with appropriate protection measures they have recovered and became numerous throughout their range", says Dr Simon Elwen, a marine mammal expert and director of Sea Search.</p><p>When they reach maturity, Cape fur seal females give birth to a single pup annually. Pups are weaned at 10-12 months and getting separated from their mother earlier often results in death. To sustain this long period of nursing, mothers spend about half of the time out at sea feeding, leaving their young alone onshore in big nursery groups. </p><p>According to Dr Tess Gridley, a postdoctoral fellow at Stellenbosch University's Department of Botany and Zoology, Cape fur seals are a fascinating species. She is leading the research project on their biology and behaviour in South Africa and Namibia.</p><p>Dr Osiecka says the observations prove that mother-and-pup relations are not as simple as previously thought. “Mothers can continue nursing their older offspring if the year's pup dies or is lost as a still birth. This is a great advantage to the older pups: they can grow larger faster, and this will ultimately increase their chances of survival and reproduction when they grow up." </p><p>This also implies that seals can recognise their family members over many years and maintain their bonds.</p><p>While physically costly, prolonged nursing may also benefit the mother. Removing excess milk helps to prevent mastitis, and in some cases it may be simply be more efficient to support older, healthy offspring, e.g. if the new pup is very sickly or lost.</p><p>“In some species nursing inhibits future pregnancies – we don't know yet if this is the case with Cape fur seals, but if so, prolonged nursing could also provide a year without a pregnancy, allowing the mother to recover her physical condition," says Osiecka. </p><p>Prolonged suckling has been observed in other fur seals, though it is often attributed to milk theft or mistaken identity with females nursing an unrelated pup. </p><p>“This is not the case in our observations. In all of the cases, the females were aware and allowing of the situation, and sniffed the sucklers. This is how these animals recognise each other, and it implies that the females know and accept the sucklers."</p><p>However, Dr Osiecka points out that there is still much to learn. “Our observations, and in fact all descriptions of unusual nursing in fur seals, are based on opportunistic sightings. We are still not sure how females decide on whether to extend nursing their young, or whether adoption takes place in this species. Longer, dedicated studies are needed to better understand the social dynamics of these animals." <br></p><p><strong>On the photos above:</strong> A Cape fur seal mother nurses a year's pup (right) and a two-year-old juvenile simultaneously.<em>  </em>The Cape Cross colony in Namibia hosts up to 210 000 seals. <em>Photo: ©Anna N Osiecka/Sea Search</em><br></p><blockquote style="margin:0px 0px 0px 40px;padding:0px;border:medium;"><p>​​Full report: Osiecka, A. N., Fearey, J., Elwen, S., & Gridley, T. (2020). Prolonged nursing in Cape fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus) at Cape Cross colony, Namibia. <em>African Zoology</em>, 1-7. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/15627020.2020.1768144">https://doi.org/10.1080/15627020.2020.1768144</a></p></blockquote><p><strong>Media interviews only</strong></p><p>Dr Anna Osiecka - ​E-mail: <a href="mailto:ann.osiecka@gmail.com">ann.osiecka@gmail.com</a></p><p>Dr Tess Gridley - <a href="mailto:nam.dolphin.project@gmail.com">nam.dolphin.project@gmail.com</a><br></p><p><br> </p>
SU researchers discover new species of lice, chigger miteshttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=7563SU researchers discover new species of lice, chigger mitesEngela Duvenage<p>Two new lice species and six new chigger mite species, collected by a postgraduate student and a researcher from Stellenbosch University (SU) respectively, have been named and their discovery announced. It just goes to show how rich the diversity of parasites in South Africa are, and how many are still waiting to be discovered, says Prof Sonja Matthee of the SU Faculty of AgriSciences' Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology, who collected and named the chigger mites.<br></p><p>The two new lice species were discovered by JC Bothma from Bellville, during his MSc studies in Zoology. At the time, he was researching the evolutionary relationship between parasites and their hosts in terms of the lice found on four South African mouse species. Bothma, who obtained his degree cum laude last year, sampled mice and lice from more than twenty localities in the country and discovered the two new species in the Fraserburg area.<br></p><p>News about the new lice species recently appeared in the <em>Journal of Parasitology</em>. Lice expert Prof Lance Durden from Georgia Southern University in the USA conducted the technical investigations and description of the new species. </p><p>He has been working regularly with Prof Sonja Matthee on various projects since 2003. He was visiting Stellenbosch University in 2018 to present a lice identification course for her students when Bothma showed him some of the lice he found during a fieldtrip in the Karoo. <br></p><p>Among them were two unknown species, barely larger than 1 mm each, which Bothma had removed from a pair of Grant's rock mice (<em>Micaelamys granti</em>). At this stage, the Stellenbosch team already knew that the lice were genetically distinct from any other known louse species found on rodents in South Africa. Durden took them back to the USA, where he went through the step-by-step process of analysing and describing the new species. </p><p>The species are named <em>Hoplopleura granti</em> and <em>Polyplax megacephalus</em>. The two blood-sucking parasites spend their whole lifecycle - from the egg stage to adulthood - only on the body of a Grant's rock mouse.</p><p><em>Hoplopleura granti</em> is so named because of its host, Grant's rock mice. <em>Polyplax megacephalus</em> was named for its fairly large ("mega" in Latin) head ("cephalus"), compared to most of the other 550 lice species found worldwide.</p><p>Bothma conducted his studies under the guidance of molecular ecologist Prof Conrad Matthee from the Department of Botany and Zoology in the SU Faculty of Science, and Prof Sonja Matthee of the SU Faculty of AgriSciences.<br></p><p>Prof Sonja Matthee also recently collaborated with a Russian colleague, Prof Alexandr Stekolnikov of the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, to identify six new chigger mite species. She found the mites on field mice near Hoedspruit in Mpumalanga. The announcement about the new species was made in the journal <em>Systematic and Applied Acarology</em>.</p><p>Chigger mites are at less than a millimetre by no means easy to spot or to identify. They fall into the larger Arachnida class to which spiders, ticks and scorpions also belong.<br></p><p>Chigger mites are to be found on hosts during their larval stage, and then fall off the host to continue developing through their different live stages in the vegetation. Larvae that feed on hosts such as humans, livestock and pets can cause irritating, itchy bites.<br></p><p>Most of the 80 South African chigger mite species described (there are 440 known species worldwide) are to be found in KwaZulu-Natal, but few surveys elsewhere in the country have been done. <br></p><p>Two of Prof Matthee's mentors were honoured in the naming of the new species, <em>Ascoschoengastia ueckermanni</em> and <em>Schoutedenichia horaki</em>. They are the South African acarologists (mite and tick experts) Prof Eddie Ueckermann from North-West University and Professor Ivan Horak from the University of Pretoria. Both have been retired for several years (currently Ueckermann is 69 years old and Horak 86) but are still engaged in research in their respective fields. A third species, <em>Trombicula walkerae</em>, was named after the late Dr Jane Walker, who was an expert on Africa's tick species, and among others helped write guides on tick species to be found in Botswana and Kenya.</p><p>Fleas, lice, mites and ticks are all external parasites that occur on the bodies of host animals and feed on their blood at some point during their life cycle. Internal parasites include tapeworms, flatworms and roundworms. For every animal species, there is usually a specific set of parasites that are very unique to them.<br></p><p>Prof Matthee believes more effort should be made with surveys on the distribution of parasite species and their description, as each plays a unique role in ecosystems. Further, parasites make up a significant part of biodiversity on earth as more that 50% of all animal species are either parasites or exhibit some form of parasitism as part of their lifecycle. Because some can also transmit diseases to humans and animals, it is therefore necessary to know where in the country different species occur.<br></p><p>"Parasite research is a very neglected field of study in South Africa," says Prof Matthee, who has been involved in such work for the past two decades. "There is a shortage of local experts and that is why we regularly use overseas colleagues to help us describe new species."<br></p><p>One of Prof Matthee's former doctoral students, Dr Andrea Spickett of the Agricultural Research Council's Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute, surveyed the internal parasites found in 13 mice species across South Africa as part of her studies. In the process she found at least 13 unknown species of worms. These must first be formally studied to confirm whether they are perhaps new species. <br></p><p><strong>Photo</strong>:<br></p><p>Prof Sonja Matthee from Stellenbosch University collected six new species of chigger mites and helped name them. JC Bothma, who discovered two new lice species near Fraserburg. <em>Polyplax megacephalus </em>is one of the new lice species that were discovered by JC Bothma. <br></p><p> </p><p><br></p><p><br></p>
First DeepMind Postgraduate Scholarships in Africa coming to Stellenbosch Universityhttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=7568First DeepMind Postgraduate Scholarships in Africa coming to Stellenbosch UniversityDevelopment & Alumni / Ontwikkeling & Alumni<p>Artificial intelligence and machine learning expertise on the African continent is set to get a major boost, thanks to prestigious scholarships to be awarded for postgraduate studies in the fields of applied mathematics, statistics, electrical and electronic engineering and computer science at Stellenbosch University (SU).<br></p><p>SU is the first African university to be awarded these scholarships by DeepMind, a London-based world leader in artificial intelligence research and its application in the real world. DeepMind was established in London in 2010 and its DeepMind Scholarships are part of a wider initiative by the company to broaden participation in science and support the wider research ecosystem, including in Africa.</p><p>Five scholarships will go to SU students who wish to pursue a two-year MSc in Applied Mathematics or Computer Science or an MEng in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. Three further scholarships will go to SU students who have been accepted to study towards a PhD in Applied Mathematics, Computer Science, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Mathematical Statistics or Statistics.</p><p>These scholarships will be available to students from all over sub-Saharan Africa who wish to pursue research related to machine learning, with recipients selected by the University to commence their courses in 2021. The DeepMind Scholarship programme gives talented students from      groups currently underrepresented in machine learning, including women, the support that they need to study at leading universities. Fees are paid in full and recipients are provided with guidance and support from DeepMind mentors.</p><p>“DeepMind was one of the major sponsors of the Deep Learning Indaba hosted by Stellenbosch University in 2018 and we have been building a relationship with DeepMind ever since," says Willie Brink, Associate Professor of Applied Mathematics and coordinator of the DeepMind Scholarships at SU.</p><p>“These scholarships are evidence of both DeepMind and the University's commitment towards growing machine learning and AI expertise in Africa and increasing diversity in these fields. I have seen tremendous talent and passion for machine learning and AI research from students all across our continent and we look forward to welcoming the DeepMind Scholarship recipients to postgraduate studies at Stellenbosch University."</p><p>According to Prof Wim de Villiers, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of SU, the DeepMind Scholarship Programme will help the University to cement its reputation as a world-class institution.</p><p>“This is an endorsement of the quality of SU's offering on machine learning and artificial intelligence. I have no doubt that these scholarships will help us deliver sought-after graduates equipped to help our country, our continent and the rest of the world meet future challenges." </p><p>“I'm absolutely delighted to announce DeepMind's first scholarship programme on the African continent. Despite the wealth of talented students in Africa, relatively few pursue advanced study or research-focused careers in AI and machine learning. To ensure that AI is a technology of global benefit, increasing African participation is vital," says Obum Ekeke, University Relations and Education Lead at DeepMind.</p><p>“In addition to financial support, scholarship recipients will have opportunities to attend global conferences and industry events and learn directly from mentors within DeepMind. In doing so, we hope to complement the brilliant efforts of the Deep Learning Indaba and others to create lasting connections and support the development of machine learning and artificial intelligence across Africa. We look forward to welcoming the first cohort of DeepMind scholars at Stellenbosch University very soon."<br></p><p><br></p>
Mathematics and gender, nanofibres and immunity against COVID-19http://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=7559Mathematics and gender, nanofibres and immunity against COVID-19Media & Communication, Faculty of Science<p>The Faculty of Science has a number of events planned for National Science Week which this year is taking place from 27 July to 31 August.<br></p><p><a href="https://www.gov.za/NationalScienceWeek2020">South Africa's National Science Week</a> (NSW) is an annual celebration of science, engineering and technology, attracting thousands of learners and members of the public to workshops, science shows and lectures, which are held at universities, schools, science centres and public facilities countrywide, led by the Department of Science and Technology. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most of these events will take place online.</p><p>Here is a summary of the Faculty of Science's events:</p><h3>Rethinking gender in mathematics – Monday 10 August 2020, 12:00-13:00</h3><p>Dr <a href="https://www.ted.com/speakers/eugenia_cheng">Eugenia Cheng</a> will be the guest speaker at the African Women in Mathematics (AWI) seminar on 10 August. Dr Cheng is an accomplished mathematician, pianist and writer of several books, including <em>A Mathematician's manifesto for rethinking gender</em>, <em>How to bake Pi</em> (2015), <em>Beyond Infinity</em> (2017) and <em>The Art of Logic in an Illogical World</em> (2018). Cheng is scientist in residence at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and is honorary fellow at the University of Sheffield and honorary visiting fellow at City University, London. Learn more about her in this in-depth biographic interview on the <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09nvrcn">BBC's Life Scientific</a>. The aim of the online African Women in Mathematics seminar is to showcase African women mathematicians, while featuring international speakers of interest. It provides a forum for women mathematicians from across Africa to meet regularly, be inspired, and to meet peers from across the world. The annual seminar is hosted by Stellenbosch University's Department of Mathematical Sciences.</p><p>Anybody with an interest in mathematics and gender are welcome to attend the online seminar. Register at <a href="https://forms.gle/ZSHRuYyqNVukCM7i9">https://forms.gle/ZSHRuYyqNVukCM7i9</a></p><h3>From Invention to commercialisation: an entrepreneurial journey with nanofibers – Tuesday 11 August, 17:30-18:30</h3><p>Dr Eugene Smit, CEO of the Stellenbosch Nanofiber Com pany, will share his journey from scientist and inventor to entrepreneur and businessman. The webinar is co-hosted by the Stellenbosch University Launchlab and the Faculty of Science.</p><p>Register at<em>: </em><a href="https://eur03.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https://bit.ly/2PgtYjm&data=02%7c01%7c%7c97a46fca2c3c43f313c808d838804905%7ca6fa3b030a3c42588433a120dffcd348%7c0%7c0%7c637321470964980365&sdata=jdT8Pt4J7y4zGX5DjzwvL%2BPqKt6QmjyciBbWcwzoPcU%3D&reserved=0"><em>https://bit.ly/2PgtYjm</em></a></p><h3>Building long-term immunity against COVID-19</h3><p>Are antibodies our body's only defence for building immunity against re-infection with COVID-19? Not at all, argues emeritus professor Dirk Bellstedt, a biochemist and immunologist from Stellenbosch University. In this online Science Café, he talks about the different strategies our immune system can employ against infections, as well as recent research which shows that there is indeed a good indication of building up of cellular immunity after a COVID-19 infection. Contrary to prior reports, this means that our immune system is capable of fighting off the virus, and that these mechanisms will offer protection against re-infection. It is therefore time to put the prophets of doom and gloom to rest, and augers well for those working against time to develop a new vaccine.</p><p><strong>More about the speaker</strong></p><p>Dirk Uwe Bellstedt is an emeritus professor in the Department of Biochemistry at Stellenbosch University. For the past 35 years he worked in the field of evolutionary biology, including viral evolution. His research into the development of  methods for the detection of immune responses to vaccines in experimental animals and ostriches have led to optimal vaccination schedules again Newcastle Disease Virus and a vaccine against mycoplasma infections. This research field is continued under the leadership of one of his former doctoral students, Dr Annelise Botes. Since the 1980s, immunology as a field expanded massively, with Nobel Prizes awarded in 1984, 1987, 1996 and 2018 for breakthroughs in the field. These developments have given immunologists significant insights into the current COVID-19 epidemic.</p><p><strong>Format: </strong>MS Teams Meeting</p><p><strong>Register here: </strong> <a href="https://teams.microsoft.com/l/meetup-join/19:meeting_Mjc1MzEyZmQtMTkzMi00ZDVjLTg5ZjctMTgzMjcxNWZiYjhj%40thread.v2/0?context=%7b%22Tid%22:%22a6fa3b03-0a3c-4258-8433-a120dffcd348%22%2c%22Oid%22:%22bcc69cf7-d97f-4bf6-ba3b-96b31caf7fdb%22%7d">Join Microsoft Teams Meeting</a></p><p style="text-align:center;"><em>Science Café Stellenbosch is an initiative of SU's Faculty of Science to promote the discussion of scientific issues in the public sphere. Follow us on </em><a href="https://www.facebook.com/ScienceCafeStellenbosch/"><em>Facebook </em></a><em>or join our mailing lis​t science@sun.ac.za</em> </p><p><br></p>
International recognition for research on penguins’ parasiteshttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=7552International recognition for research on penguins’ parasitesMedia & Communication, Faculty of Science<p>​​Dr Marcela Espinaze, a postdoctoral fellow in biomathematics at Stellenbosch University, has been selected by Cambridge University Press' journal<em> Parasitology</em> for the 2020 <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/parasitology/early-career-researcher-awards/early-career-research-awards-2020">Early Career Researcher award</a> for the best paper published in the journal during 2019.</p><p>The paper, entitled “<a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/blog/2019/03/26/parasite-diversity-associated-with-african-penguins-spheniscus-demersus-and-the-effect-of-host-and-environmental-factors/">Parasite diversity associated with African penguins (<em>Spheniscus demersus</em>) and the effect of host and environmental factors</a>", was the first of its kind to record parasites living both in and on African penguins from five different colonies. The findings indicated that parasites were particularly infesting chicks in high-density mainland colonies during spring-time, and have made a valuable contribution to colony management in the region.</p><p>The article formed part of Dr Espinaze's PhD project under supervision of Prof Sonja Matthee from the Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology, Prof Cang Hui from the Department of Mathematical Sciences, and Dr Lauren Waller, at the time from Cape Nature. The paper was also recognised as Paper of the Month by the journal in March 2019.</p><p>Dr Espinaze, who obtained her PhD in Conservation Ecology at Stellenbosch University in 2019, says she would like to keep working at the interface of disease ecology and wild life conservation: “I think it is crucial to understand the transmission of diseases in a holistic context, taking into account the pathogens, and the health of the host and the environment. With my work I hope to make a contribution to the conservation of endangered wildlife, as well as environmental education."</p><p>She also has an MSc in Conservation Biology from the University of Cape Town, and a degree in Veterinary Medicine from the Austral University of Chile. Before coming to South Africa, she worked as a conservation project coordinator in Patagonia.</p><p>With regards to the award, she says it is always very encouraging to have her work recognized: “It makes me feel that I am on the right path, and that people appreciate all the effort and love that we as a team have put into this research project."</p><p>The prize includes prize money of £1 000, three months' free access to the article, and social media exposure from Cambridge University Press.<br></p>
Top honours for SharkSafe Barrier http://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=7542Top honours for SharkSafe Barrier Media & Communication, Faculty of Science<p>Three researchers from Stellenbosch University walked away with top honours at the annual <a href="http://www.nstf.org.za/awards/about/"><strong>National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)/ South32Awards</strong></a>. Dr Richard Walls and Profs Christine Lochner and Conrad Matthee were announced winners in their respective categories during a live-streamed gala event on Thursday, 30 July 2020.</p><p>The prestigious NSTF/South32 Awards recognise, celebrate and reward the outstanding contributions of individuals, teams and organisations to science, engineering and technology in South Africa.<br></p><p>The NSTF-Lewis Foundation Green Economy Award went to Matthee (Department of Botany and Zoology) and his team for inventing the first eco-friendly shark specific barrier <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ypqj7zraPc4&feature=emb_logo"><strong>SharkSafe</strong><strong><sup>TM</sup></strong></a>, which can protect beachgoers without harming the marine life. This innovative novel technology solves international problems associated with shark attacks including loss of lives, loss of income for local businesses, loss of recreational opportunities and loss of biodiversity in marine ecosystems. SharkSafe Barrier<sup>TM</sup> contributes to the preservation of a healthy ocean ecosystem while it also promotes sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth and in turn will improve livelihoods of local communities. Since patenting the locally manufactured SharkSafe Barrier<sup>TM</sup>, a privately owned company, SharkSafe PTY LTD, was created during 2014. This invention has also attracted international attention with interest coming from <a href="/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=6686"><strong>La Réunion Island</strong></a>, Australia and Saudi Arabia.<br></p><p>“The inventors of SharkSafe Barrier<sup>TM</sup> by name, Mike Rutzen, Dr Sara Andreotti, Dr Craig O'Connell and myself are indeed honoured to receive this award," said Matthee.</p><p>“We want to give credit to many role players who showed trust in our technology and assisted us in a long path to commercialization, specifically to Anita Nel and her team at Innovus, and Marius Ungerer from the SU Business School who assist with strategic planning, and also Laurie Barwell and Rory Bruins for endless product development and logistical support." </p><p>Through this award, we hope to make people aware that this technology has the potential to permanently solve the global conservation and socioeconomic tribulations associated with human-shark conflicts, added Matthee.<br></p><p>Walls (Fire Engineering Research Unit at Stellenbosch University or FireSUN) received the TW Kambule-NSTF Award in the Emerging Researcher Category for establishing FireSUN, a dynamic research group pursuing methods to improve informal settlement fire safety as well as structural fire design – both crucial to ensuring safety in our communities. A leading expert on fire safety engineering, Walls played a key role in the analysis of the Knysna fire disaster in 2017, in which almost 1 000 homes were destroyed, and has contributed to the United Nations “Global Assessment Repot on Disaster Risk Reduction" which looks at how to mitigate the effect of disasters on society. He has been involved with the roll-out of smoke alarms in informal settlements in South Africa. More than 5 000 smoke alarms have been installed in low-income homes, with the alarms typically being sponsored by industry or government. Walls also established the first fire safety engineering qualification in Africa.</p><p>Commenting on the award, Walls said “not only do we get paid a salary to burn stuff down, now our team is being recognised for advancing science and engineering. Our PhD & MEng students, postdocs and undergrads have worked extremely hard, and we hope we are making an impact. I appreciate that all of their contributions are being recognised in this award."<br></p><p>Lochner (South African Medical Research Council Unit on Risk and Resilience in Mental Disorders and the Department of Psychiatry) was honoured with a TW Kambule-NSTF Award in the Researcher Category for raising awareness about obsessive-compulsive disorder, a common and debilitating d condition that contributes to individual and societal suffering and massive economic costs. <br></p><p>Since 2001, Lochner has launched several awareness campaigns and comprehensively collected clinical and genetics data from almost 1 000 patients with these conditions and MRI data from a subset, culminating in an extensive database that has facilitated collaborations with leading scientists worldwide, and resulted in numerous publications. Her research contributes to current knowledge of these impairing conditions which may translate into increased accuracy of diagnosis and better care – of the individual as well as society. The burden of disease associated with these conditions – i.e. on a personal/emotional level, as well as the financial burden – is thus ultimately decreased by work of this nature and scale.<br></p><p><strong>Photo</strong>: Dr Richard Walls, Prof Christine Lochner and Prof Conrad Matthee with members of his team.<br></p>
New book on building knowledge in higher education in South Africahttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=7543New book on building knowledge in higher education in South AfricaWiida Fourie-Basson<p>What does it mean to decolonize the science curriculum at a higher education institution? How can lecturers help students to bridge the gap between abstract and applied knowledge of chemistry, specifically in the case of first year medicine and engineering students?<br></p><p>These are only two of the topics covered in a new book on <a href="https://www.routledge.com/Building-Knowledge-in-Higher-Education-Enhancing-Teaching-and-Learning/Winberg-McKenna-Wilmot/p/book/9780367463335"><em>Building Knowledge in Higher Education</em></a>, published by Routledge as part of a series on the use of <a href="https://legitimationcodetheory.com/theory/introducinglct/">Legitimation Code Theory</a> to enhance teaching and learning in higher education. Legitimation Code Theory (LCT) is a sophisticated framework, comprising several distinct tools, which enables scholars to shape their research and teaching practice within the context of social justice and knowledge-building.</p><p>Prof Ingrid Rewitzky, Vice-Dean for teaching and learning in the Faculty of Science, says since the establishment of the Faculty's teaching and learning hub in 2013, several lecturers have been engaging with Legitimation Code Theory and presenting their research at international LCT conferences.</p><p>In the chapter “Decolonizing the science curriculum: When good intentions are not enough", Dr Mags Blackie, from the Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science, and Dr Hanelie Adendorff, senior adviser at SU's Centre for Teaching and Learning, investigate the “Sciencemustfall incident during the #Feesmustfall student protests in 2015. Using Legitimation Code Theory's concept of specialization codes, they show how current decolonization attempts might be perceived as perpetuating past injustices, despite every intention to respond positively and effectively: “We explore the relations between the actors, ideas and objects in the field of science to reveal what is at stake and what needs to be addressed," they write in the abstract to the chapter.</p><p>They argue that it is “almost impossible" to find common ground in this debate, and that to equate indigenous knowledge systems with scientific knowledge would be to “completely eviscerate science". They then suggest an alternative approach and rephrase the question in terms of autonomy. In other words, simply adding indigenous knowledge to the existing curriculum, as in bringing traditional beer making into the microbiology curriculum as an example of how it is practiced in Africa, still serves the purpose of science as a western concept. But when science is placed in the hands of students as a tool to explore their own lived circumstances, they argue, “it still has the feel of science, but a science that is starting to look beyond itself to some extent".</p><p>In the chapter “Missing the target? How semantics can reveal the (mis)alignments in assessments", Dr Blackie and Dr Ilse Rootman-le Grange, blended learning coordinator for the Faculty of Science, explored the gap between first year students' theoretical understanding of key concepts in chemistry and their ability to transfer that knowledge into other domains, such as medicine and engineering. </p><p>“Chemistry is a hidden science," they write, “As a subject in its own right, it took far longer to emerge than the closely related disciplines of physics and biology. This is precisely because the molecular and atomic understanding of matter is neither intuitive nor obvious to the casual observer. Precisely because of this profoundly abstract nature of the subject, students have no real life context, or frame of reference for Chemistry".</p><p>Using the semantics concept from Legitimation Code Theory, called LCT(Semantics), their assessment of the questions asked in the final chemistry exam for first year health science students showed that the questions primarily assessed students' grasp of the language of chemistry, but failed to adequately test the depth of their conceptual understanding of the subject.</p><p>Other chapters in the book from SU lecturers are “From principle to practice: enabling theory-practice bridging in engineering education" by Karin Wolff; “Building the knowledge base of blended learning: implications for educational technology and academic development" by J.P. Bosman and Sonja Strydom; and “Legitimate participation in program renewal: the role of academic development units" by Gert Young and Cecilia Jacobs. </p><p>Two more books in the series will feature authors from the Faculty of Science: <em>Decolonising knowledge and knowers: struggles for university transformation in South Africa</em> and <em>Enhancing Science Education:</em> <em>Exploring knowledge practices with Legitimation Code Theory</em>, to be published in 2021.<br></p>
Three SU researchers receive top honourshttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=7539Three SU researchers receive top honoursCorporate Communication / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie [Alec Basson]<p>​Three researchers from Stellenbosch University (SU) walked away with top honours at the annual <a href="http://www.nstf.org.za/awards/about/"><span class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0"><strong>National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)/ South32Award</strong><span><strong>s</strong></span></span></a>. Dr Richard Walls and Profs Christine Lochner and Conrad Matthee were announced winners in their respective categories during a live-streamed gala event on Thursday, 30 July 2020.</p><p>The prestigious NSTF/South32 Awards recognise, celebrate and reward the outstanding contributions of individuals, teams and organisations to science, engineering and technology in South Africa.<br></p><p>Walls (Fire Engineering Research Unit at SU or FireSUN) received the TW Kambule-NSTF Award in the Emerging Researcher Category for establishing FireSUN, a dynamic research group pursuing methods to improve informal settlement fire safety as well as structural fire design – both crucial to ensuring safety in our communities. A leading expert on fire safety engineering, Walls played a key role in the analysis of the Knysna fire disaster in 2017, in which almost 1 000 homes were destroyed, and has contributed to the United Nations “Global Assessment Repot on Disaster Risk Reduction" which looks at how to mitigate the effect of disasters on society. He has been involved with the roll-out of smoke alarms in informal settlements in South Africa. More than 5 000 smoke alarms have been installed in low-income homes, with the alarms typically being sponsored by industry or government. Walls also established the first fire safety engineering qualification in Africa.</p><p>Commenting on the award, Walls said “not only do we get paid a salary to burn stuff down, now our team is being recognised for advancing science and engineering. Our PhD & MEng students, postdocs and undergrads have worked extremely hard, and we hope we are making an impact. I appreciate that all of their contributions are being recognised in this award."<br></p><p>Lochner (South African Medical Research Council Unit on Risk and Resilience in Mental Disorders and the Department of Psychiatry) was honoured with a TW Kambule-NSTF Award in the Researcher Category for raising awareness about obsessive-compulsive disorder, a common and debilitating d condition that contributes to individual and societal suffering and massive economic costs. <br></p><p>Since 2001, Lochner has launched several awareness campaigns and comprehensively collected clinical and genetics data from almost 1 000 patients with these conditions and MRI data from a subset, culminating in an extensive database that has facilitated collaborations with leading scientists worldwide, and resulted in numerous publications. Her research contributes to current knowledge of these impairing conditions which may translate into increased accuracy of diagnosis and better care – of the individual as well as society. The burden of disease associated with these conditions – i.e. on a personal/emotional level, as well as the financial burden – is thus ultimately decreased by work of this nature and scale.<br></p><p>Locher said it was a lovely surprise to be the recipient of one of the so-called NSTF 'Science Oscars' of South Africa.</p><p>“I am thankful for the recognition and encouragement by this important forum.  It is a privilege and a blessing to have a career which I find meaningful and love, and be rewarded for it.  Contributing to efforts that highlight the importance of scientific research in the field of mental health and how this can benefit society, is a priority."  <br></p><p>The NSTF-Lewis Foundation Green Economy Award went to Matthee (Department of Botany and Zoology) and his team for inventing the first eco-friendly shark specific barrier <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ypqj7zraPc4&feature=emb_logo"><span class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0"><strong>SharkSafe</strong><sup><strong>TM</strong></sup></span></a>, which can protect beachgoers without harming the marine life. This innovative novel technology solves international problems associated with shark attacks including loss of lives, loss of income for local businesses, loss of recreational opportunities and loss of biodiversity in marine ecosystems. SharkSafe<sup>TM</sup> contributes to the preservation of a healthy ocean ecosystem while it also promotes sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth and in turn will improve livelihoods of local communities. Since patenting the locally manufactured SharkSafe<sup>TM</sup> barrier, a privately owned company, SharkSafe PTY LTD, was created during 2014. This invention has also attracted international attention with interest coming from <a href="/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=6686"><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">La Réunion Island</strong></a>, Australia and Saudi Arabia.<br></p><p>“The inventors of SharkSafe Barrier<sup>TM</sup> by name, Mike Rutzen, Dr Sara Andreotti, Dr Craig O'Connell and myself are indeed honoured to receive this award," said Matthee.<br></p><p>“We want to give credit to the many role players who showed trust in our technology and assisted us on the long path to commercialization, specifically to Anita Nel and her team at Innovus, and Marius Ungerer from SU's Business School for assistance with strategic planning, and Laurie Barwell and Rory Bruins for endless product development and logistical support."  <br></p><p>Through this award, we hope to make people aware that this technology has the potential to permanently solve the global conservation and socioeconomic tribulations associated with human-shark conflicts, added Matthee.<br></p><ul><li><strong>​Photo</strong>: Dr Richard Walls, Prof Christine Lochner, and Prof Conrad Matthee with members of his team.</li></ul><p> </p><p><br></p>
Maties computer science students ace Investec hackathonhttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=7533Maties computer science students ace Investec hackathonMedia & Communication, Faculty of Science<p>​A team of computer science students from Stellenbosch University walked away with the first place in <a href="https://www.investec.com/en_za/welcome-to-investec/Careers/grads/exposure-programme/it-explore.html">Investec's Programmable Banking hackathon</a>, which took place from 23 to 24 July.</p><p>The team of BScHons students, consisting of Jaco Swart, Hendrik van Heerden, Marie-Louise Steenkamp, Annika Nel en Aidan Elias, competed against four other teams. The challenge was to add new features to an existing banking card and banking platform. </p><p>“Our approach was to try and incorporate Investec's existing insurance service with their online payments to automatically prompt users for if they want insurance when they make certain purchases, for example to offer travel insurance when they purchase plane tickets," explains Jaco Swart.</p><p>Each team had to present their solution to the other teams and to a panel from Investec.<br></p><p>Mr Leonard Mahlangu, from Investec Limited's people, organisation and careers division, says the panel was impressed with the SU team's resilience and ability to understand the company: “As this was the first virtual hackathon we hosted, there were countless glitches along the way which made the task even more challenging. This team, however, wasn't fazed by it at all. I believe their success formula, other than their resilience, was taking the time to understand the company and the products we offered as well as the technology landscape they were dealing with. This formed the pillar on which their winning solution was built, using technology to advance the business offering whilst improving client experience. This is the cornerstone of what we do hence their solution resonated with the judging panel."<br></p><p>He says Investec manages these hackathons under the “IT explore" banner: “It is an opportunity for students to explore the real world and simulate what their jobs might look like after leaving university. For us, as an organisation, the hackathons provide an opportunity to build a relationship with students as they may become part of our Tech Grad Programme after their studies, or even to come and work for us."<br></p><p>Prof Bernd Fischer, head of <a href="http://www.cs.sun.ac.za/">SU's Computer Science Division</a>, says hackathons such as those organised by Investec provide students with invaluable exposure to the industry: “We appreciate Investec for providing this opportunity, as it complements our academic education and shows that we are preparing our students for the work place."</p><p>For their efforts, the winning team received a pair of Beoplay H9 Generation 3 headphones each, and a participation goodie bag with snacks.<br></p>
New water and soil facility opening soon http://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=7535New water and soil facility opening soon Dr J Colling<h4 style="text-align:left;"><span class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-3-4" style="font-size:15pt;">​A new national facility for water and soil analysis is currently being set up at Stellenbosch University.  The new facility will form one of the nodes of BIOGRIP,  a national research infrastructure platform hosted by UCT and with nodes at several South African institutions. The Stellenbosch BIOGRIP Node for Water and Soil Biogeochemistry will focus on the interdisciplinary study of the chemical, physical, geological and biological processes that influence the environment.</span><br></h4><div style="text-align:justify;"><br></div><div style="text-align:justify;">The BIOGeochemistry Research Infrastructure Platform (BIOGRIP) is a new initiative to promote South Africa’s biogeochemistry research by providing access to world class analytical facilities, various training opportunities and generating meaningful datasets by monitoring various biogeochemical environmental variables. BIOGRIP will consist of four nodes based at four universities across South Africa.  Each node will focus on a different aspect of biogeochemistry including Stellenbosch University (Water and Soil Node), University of the Free State (Mineral Node), North-West University (Atmospheric Node) and the University of Cape Town (Isotope Node).<br></div><div style="text-align:justify;"><br></div><div style="text-align:justify;">Funding for this initiative was provided by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) as part of the South African Research Infrastructure Roadmap (SARIR). The main goal of SARIR is to support the development of advanced infrastructure and cutting-edge analytical facilities to promote high quality and innovative research. BIOGRIP will enable researchers to gain a deeper insight into how human activities in the past have impacted the environment and will also enable us to evaluate the impact of current practices on these areas, in the future. The study of earth and the environment was listed as one of the national research priorities and strategic goals for SARIR. Prof Sarah Fawcett (Department of Oceanography) at UCT and Prof Jodie Miller (Department of Earth Science) at SU were the co-champions of the BIOGRIP proposal. The BIOGRIP hub, which will coordinate and manage the platform, will be based at UCT with Prof Judith Sealy as the Director.</div><div style="text-align:justify;"><br></div><div style="text-align:justify;"><strong>Expanding Analytical Services </strong></div><div style="text-align:justify;"><br></div><div style="text-align:justify;">Currently, a selection of water and soil analytical services are offered by CAF units such as the ICP and XRF unit. </div><div style="text-align:justify;">The water and soil facility will focus on providing standard analytical services and access to new state-of-the-art equip­ment. The unit will house an Ion Chromatography (IC) system from Metrohm. The unit will also feature advanced instruments for conducting the analysis of hydrogen and oxygen stable isotopes.</div><div style="text-align:justify;"><br></div><div style="text-align:justify;"><strong>Training and research opportunities</strong><br></div><div style="text-align:justify;"><br></div><div style="text-align:justify;">The unit will focus on providing researchers and post-graduate students with technical support to perform research projects. Clients from higher education institutes and the private and public sector will be able to submit samples for routine analysis. Students will have the option to receive hands-on training on all instruments during various training opportunities. This will empower them with the necessary advanced skills to operate instruments, conduct experiments and to develop new analytical methods that are not currently available in South Africa. </div><div style="text-align:justify;"><br></div><div style="text-align:justify;">We invite anyone interested to follow the <a href="/caf" style="text-decoration:underline;"><span class="ms-rteForeColor-1">CAF website</span></a> or <a href="https://www.facebook.com/cafstellenbosch" style="text-decoration:underline;"><span class="ms-rteForeColor-1" style="text-decoration:underline;">Facebook page</span></a> or send an email to<a href="mailto:jcolling@sun.ac.za" style="text-decoration:underline;"> <span class="ms-rteForeColor-1" style="text-decoration:underline;">jcolling@sun.ac.za</span></a> to receive updates and relevant information. We look forward to develop the new facility into an excellent training and research facility, which will enable world-class research that can compete and contribute on the global arena and advance our knowledge of biogeochemistry.<br></div><div style="text-align:justify;"><br></div><div style="text-align:justify;">For more information view the story in the CAF Annual Report page 7<a href="/english/faculty/science/CAF/Documents/CAF%202020%20Annual%20Report_FINAL_29%20July%202020.pdf"> <span style="text-decoration-line:underline;">(click here)​</span></a><br></div><div><br></div><div><em style="font-size:12px;">photo by Datamax https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3694084​</em><br></div><p><br></p>