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African scientists secure major grants to accelerate drug discovery scientists secure major grants to accelerate drug discoveryWiida Fourie-Basson (Media: Faculty of Science)<p><span style="text-align:justify;">​​A network of world-class scientists across Africa has entered the global drug discovery arena following a US$7.2 million joint investment by the medical research charity </span><a href="" style="text-align:justify;">LifeArc</a><span style="text-align:justify;"> and the </span><a href="" style="text-align:justify;">Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation</a><span style="text-align:justify;"> in the Grand Challenges Africa Drug Discovery Accelerator (GC ADDA) programme.</span><br></p><p style="text-align:justify;"><a href="">Grand Challenges</a> is a family of initiatives fostering innovation to solve key global health and development problems.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">GC ADDA will leverage US$4.7 million (about R85 million) of the funding to develop new drugs in the fight against malaria and Tuberculosis (TB) – two of the top killers that disproportionally affect Africans – by supporting two teams led by scientists from the Universities of Ghana (UG) and Pretoria (UP) and Stellenbosch University (SU).</p><p style="text-align:justify;">While African countries have made remarkable progress in the fight against malaria and TB, the continent still bears the brunt of infectious diseases burden, with these two age-old diseases killing almost one million people on the continent each year. According to the World Health Organisation, of these, about 600 000 deaths are due to <a href="">malaria</a> and 400 000 due to <a href="">Tuberculosis</a>. The continued development of treatment-resistant forms of these diseases means that there is a critical need for innovative tools to eliminate them. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">GC ADDA has two main objectives: to support exciting drug discovery projects in Africa and create a project-driven virtual African drug discovery network that advances Global Health. GC ADDA brings together and leverages on partnerships that support strategic and scientific leadership.</p><p style="text-align:justify;"><strong>Leading research efforts on malaria and TB in Africa</strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Leading the drive to deliver novel malaria drug candidates are <a href="">Dr Richard Amewu</a>, head of the Drug Innovations Group at the University of Ghana, and <a href="">Prof. Lyn-Marié Birkholtz</a> from the University of Pretoria <a href="">Institute for Sustainable Malaria Control</a> (UP ISMC) in South Africa. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Prof. Birkholtz says the need for antimalarial drugs in Africa is critical since malaria cases are increasing. “We have to propel existing discoveries forward by building on our existing capacity and expertise."</p><p style="text-align:justify;">According to Dr Amewu, this funding will support ongoing efforts by African scientist in contributing to the global efforts to address this problem," he says. These efforts will expand the capabilities on the content and build on the leading contributions in drug discovery that stemmed from the <a href="">Holistic Drug Discovery and Development Centre (H3D)</a> based at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">The network of scientists working on malaria also includes <a href="">Prof. Fabrice Boyom</a> at the University of Yaoundé in Cameroon; <a href="">Prof. Amanda Rousseau</a> at the University of the Witwatersrand; <a href="">Dr Winston Nxumalo</a> from the University of Limpopo; <a href="">Prof. Laurent Dembele</a> and <a href="">Dr Dinkorma Ouloguem</a> from the Université des Sciences, des Techniques et des Technologies de Bamako in Mali. They will interact closely with experts from the University of Dundee's <a href="">Drug Discovery Unit</a> in Scotland, the biotech company <a href="">Lgenia</a> (USA), <a href="">the Malaria Drug Accelerator</a>, and the <a href="">Medicines for Malaria Venture</a> (MMV) as well as the H3D.  </p><p style="text-align:justify;">In reaction to the announcement, Dr James Duffy, senior director of drug discovery at MMV, said it is going to be a game changer for African scientists and drug development on the continent: “A unique environment and opportunity has been created where world-class scientists from disease endemic countries can collaborate to discover new drugs to address unmet patient needs on their doorstep."</p><p style="text-align:justify;">In the fight against multi-drug resistant TB, the effort will be led by <a href="/english/faculty/science/biochemistry/research/strauss-group">Prof. Erick Strauss</a> from the <a href="/english/faculty/science/biochemistry/research/strauss-group">Department of Biochemistry</a> at Stellenbosch University (SU), in partnership with <a href="">Dr Gabriel Mashabela</a> at the South African Medical Research Centre for TB Research, (also at SU), and teams led by <a href="">Prof. Adrienne Edkins</a> at Rhodes University and by <a href="">Prof. Rajshekar Kapoormath</a> at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, as well as <a href="">Dr Elizabeth Kigondu</a> and <a href="">Dr Edwin Murungi</a> at the Kenya Medical Research Institute. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">According to Prof. Strauss, the aim is to pursue new, previously unexplored avenues for discovering effective treatments against TB. These efforts will complement the many existing drug development efforts led by other international consortia, such as the <a href="">Tuberculosis Drug Discovery Accelerator (TBDA)</a>. </p><p style="text-align:justify;"><a href="">Dr Clif Barry</a>, chief of the Tuberculosis Research Section at the National Institutes of Health in the United States, says TB and especially multidrug-resistant TB, continue to be a significant health burden in African countries: “It is only fitting that an investment of this scale should be made to support scientists on the continent who are working to develop new antituberculosis treatments." </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Both the malaria and TB projects will be supported by the Pan Africa DMPK (Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics) Centre of Excellence led by Professor Collen Masimirembwa, <a href="">African Institute of Biomedical Science and Technology (AiBST) </a>in Zimbabwe, and a funded member of the GC ADDA. The remainder of the funding will go to <a href="">Dr Fidele Ntie-Kang</a> from the University of Buea in Cameroon. He will be creating a set of 400 natural products found in Africa for screening against a range of diseases, including TB and malaria.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">H3D director <a href="">Prof. Kelly Chibale</a> said the grant is a major leap forward towards building a critical mass of scientists fighting these diseases on the African continent. H3D plays a leading role along with <a href="">H3D Foundation</a> and <a href="">Science for Africa Foundation</a> in the <a href="">Grand Challenges Africa (GC Africa)</a> initiative.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Prof. Sibusiso Moyo, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation, and Postgraduate Studies at SU, said the three universities have a long history of collaboration through the African Research University Alliance (ARUA) together with other African partners: “I want to congratulate the lead scientists for successfully securing the grant and demonstrating the role that universities can play in innovation and accelerating drug discovery."</p><p style="text-align:justify;"><strong>Background for editors</strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;"><strong>What is Malaria?</strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Malaria is a disease caused by parasites (<em>Plasmodium</em>) that can infect people after being bitten by an <em>Anopheles</em> mosquito that carries these parasites. Symptoms occur about two weeks after a person is bitten. In Africa, however, people can get bitten tens of times a night, thereby significantly increasing the risk of malaria disease. Moreover, the most lethal form of the parasite (<em>Plasmodium falciparum</em>) occurs in Africa. If treatment is left too late, it can cause death within 24 hours. Unfortunately, both the parasite and the mosquito have adapted to current control tools by developing resistance and the mosquito even changing its behavior. This makes control of the disease very difficult. New antimalarials must be developed continuously to prevent the disease, save lives, and stop the spread of the parasite. </p><p style="text-align:justify;"><strong>What is Tuberculosis?</strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by a bacterium (<em>Mycobacterium tuberculosis</em>) that is typically spread by the cough of infected individuals, releasing droplets containing the bacteria in the air. Once infected, the bacterium can remain dormant in carriers for years, causing no active disease symptoms. However, prior infection with HIV predisposes individuals to the disease to progress to lung-based TB. In such populations, the prevalence is nearly double that in those living without HIV. South Africa currently has one of the highest prevalence rates of TB infection, with almost 1 in every 100 of the population infected. While TB is treatable with a course of antibiotics, the standard course of treatment lasts for six months. The high disease burden, coupled with the difficulty many people face in completing treatment, has led to the development of new forms of TB that are resistant to nearly all forms of currently available treatments.<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;"><em style="text-align:justify;">On the photo above, from left to right: Prof. Erick Strauss, Prof. Lyn-Marié Birkholtz, and Dr. Richard Amewu. Photo: Stefan Els</em><br></p><p>​<br></p>
CHPC/NITheCS Coding Summer School unlocks ‘a realm of possibilities’ Coding Summer School unlocks ‘a realm of possibilities’NITheCS (media and communication)<p>​From discovering a secret weapon to newly found superpowers, liberating and a game-changer. This is how students who attended the recent Coding Summer School described their introduction to programming languages such as Python, Gitbash and Spyder.<br></p><p>The <a href="">14th annual Coding Summer School</a>, hosted by the <a href="">Centre for High Performance Computing</a> (CHPC) and the <a href="">National Institute for Theoretical and Computational Sciences</a> (NITheCS) from 29 January to 9 February 2024, was attended by 580 students from more than 30 higher education institutions in South Africa and Kenya.</p><p>Mr Binjamin Barsch, Lead Software Engineer at the CHPC and lead coordinator for the Coding Summer School, said 297 of them qualified for a certificate – an increase of 18% from the previous year's number of graduates. </p><p>“It was great to see so many students participating. On our interactive communication medium on the Slack workspace, we had over 6500 messages posted throughout the two weeks," he said.</p><p>Barsch also provided some interesting statistics from this year's summer school: Of the 580 students attending 57% was male and 43% female, and 40% MSc students versus 25% PhD students. Most were from the fields of physics (21.6%), chemistry (17%), and biology (16.9%), followed by engineering (9.6%), environmental sciences and geography (9.5%) and the medical sciences (7.23%). </p><p>This year students from Northwest University's Vanderbijlpark Campus and Walter Sisulu University also joined for the first time. </p><p>Prof. Francesco Pettrucione, interim director of NITHeCS, said the growth of the school is a testament to the hard work of the champions and the keen interest of participants in pursuing excellence in their academic endeavours: “Looking ahead, we are committed to broadening the reach of the Coding Summer School. For the upcoming year, we aim to involve even more students from neighbouring countries, thereby fostering a richer, more diverse educational environment."</p><p>Thuthukile Khumalo, data analyst and part-time administrative assistant at NITheCS, says the success of the Coding Summer School depends largely on the support of the 45 champions at each of the participating institutions who organised venues, catering and handled registration. Some of them also gave lectures and presentations.</p><p>According to Barsch the Coding Summer School will continue in hybrid format. This means that students can attend the two-week long workshop online or in person at an institution of their choice where they then also have access to online lectures and in-person tutoring.</p><p>“The majority of the students found attending in-person to be more effective," he added.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">During week one participants learned the fundamentals of Python and data science to enable them to analyse and manipulate various datasets, including an introduction to Linux and Bash. Notes for these lectures were made available in isiXhosa, isiZulu, and Sepedi.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">During the second week they were introduced to the software solutions that they might need in their research, with examples ranging from machine learning to bioinformatics, the simulation of chemical systems and the application of Monte Carlo methods.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Below is a selection of quotes from the student's anonymous feedback:</p><ul><li>"Learning Python felt like unlocking a new realm of possibilities for my research. I'm excited to delve deeper into data manipulation and analysis using the skills gained in week 1."</li><li>"The introduction to bash scripting was a game-changer for me. It's like I found a secret weapon to tackle repetitive tasks efficiently in my work."</li><li>"Python and Gitbash have become my dynamic duo for data analysis. I can now navigate through datasets without the hassle of Excel, thanks to the coding summer school."</li><li>"The guest lectures provided insights that I could immediately share with fellow data science majors in the industry. The centralized learning approach made it all the more impactful."</li><li>"I never thought I'd appreciate plotting graphs in Python so much! It adds a creative dimension to data visualization that I was missing out on."</li><li>"The sessions on Linux and Github have expanded my toolkit for efficient research data processing. Now, I feel more comfortable and confident in managing my projects."</li><li>“Becoming comfortable with Bash and Spyder feels like gaining new superpowers. The integration with Gitbash has streamlined my file management, making my workflow smoother." </li><li>"The quizzes were a great touch. They challenged me to apply what I learned actively, reinforcing my understanding of Python and Gitbash commands."</li><li>"I used to rely heavily on Excel for data analysis, but now, after week 1, Python has become my go-to tool. The shift is not just practical; it's liberating."</li><li>"The coding summer school has turned me into a Python enthusiast. I can't wait to implement what I've learned, especially in the upcoming Streamlit project. Python/Bash is, indeed, awesome!"</li></ul><p style="text-align:justify;">The 15th Coding Summer School will take place again next year, same date and same format. Click here for the NITheCS weekly calendar to stay up to date with training and other public events - <a href="">NITheCS calendar: 26 Feb-3 Mar 2024 (</a> </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Click here for a YouTube video with images of participants from the various campuses - <a href="">Coding Summer School 2024 (</a><br></p><p>​<br></p>
The 400-year-old story of oaks: from cultural icons to invaders and victims 400-year-old story of oaks: from cultural icons to invaders and victimsFaculty of Science (media and communication)<p><span style="text-align:justify;">The</span><span style="text-align:justify;"> nearly 400-year-old history of oaks in South Africa may be coming to an end, forever changing the treescape of towns and cities such as Cape Town, George, Paarl, Stellenbosch and Swellendam.</span><br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">In a <a href="">research paper</a> published in the <em>South African Journal of Botany</em>, ecologists from the <a href="">Centre for Invasion Biology</a> (CIB) at Stellenbosch University's <a href="">School for Climate Studies</a>, traced the history of the introduction of the genus <em>Quercus</em> into South Africa, as well as its current status and the factors that are changing its distribution across our landscapes.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Christiaan Gildenhuys, a postgraduate student in SU's Department of Botany and Zoology and first author on the article, says the first written record of English oak (<em>Quercus robur</em>), dates to 1656, reportedly introduced under the authority of Jan van Riebeek himself: “Dozens of other oak species were introduced to the Cape of Good Hope by early Dutch settlers and the British colonial government. Many oaks were subsequently widely cultivated across the country and have since become one of the most widespread and recognised tree genera in South Africa today," he explains. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">But now the species may have arrived at a crossroads.     </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Gildenhuys found that three oak species – English oak, Pin oak,<em> </em>and Cork oak – have become invasive along riverbanks and the urban-wildland interface in Stellenbosch and Cape Town. These oaks do not cause major problems as invaders now but may do so in the future.     </p><p style="text-align:justify;">At the same time, many species (including the most widespread species, <em>Q. robur</em> or English oak) are highly susceptible to diseases and invasive beetles such as the <a href="/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=10438">polyphagous shot hole borer</a>: “Not only does this mean that many century-old oaks are at risk, but it also means that infected trees must be removed before the infestation spreads further," says Gildenhuys.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Prof. Dave Richardson, an ecologist at CIB and co-author, says the story of oaks in South Africa is a classic example of how global change is rapidly changing the roles and perspectives of species in urban areas.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">“We must accept that the potential impact of the polyphagous shot hole borer is a game changer. As a result of this invasion, the treescapes of many towns in South Africa are going to change rather radically. Landowners and authorities who may decide to replace infected <em>Q. robur</em> trees with less susceptible tree species must also consider the potential negative impacts of these species," he explains</p><p style="text-align:justify;">The ideal would be to replace the infected trees with indigenous species which are less susceptible to pests and diseases such as the PSHB. However, people's attachments to their oak-lined streets may inhibit replacement efforts and induce conflicts between management and stakeholders, he warns.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Prof. Guy Midgley, interim director of the School for Climate Studies, says trees make a vital contribution to lessening the impact of climate change by reducing heat stress in urban areas. On the other hand, the way thousands of diseased trees are disposed of may significantly impact carbon emissions. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Adding fuel to the fire is the debate about the cultural value of oaks in general. In one sector of South African society these centuries-old trees are celebrated as part of our cultural heritage. In another sector they are regarded as unwanted relics from a colonial past.</p><ul><li>​​​The article “<a href=""><em>The genus Quercus (Fagaceae) in South Africa: Introduction history, current status, and invasion ecology</em></a>" was authored by Christiaan Gildenhuys, Luke Potgieter and David Richardson and was published in the <em>South African Journal of Botany</em>.</li></ul><br> <strong>​​Interesting historical facts about oak trees in South Africa</strong><br><ul><li>1656: Earliest written record of <em>Quercus</em> species (<em>Q.robur</em>) in South Africa.</li><li>1795: Planting of historical oak avenue between Company Gardens and Parliament in Cape Town.</li><li>1868: First oaks planted in Potchefstroom.</li><li>1910: Planting of historical oak avenue in Potchefstroom (declared a national monument in 1977).</li><li>2012: First record of polyphagous shot hole borer in South Africa, reported from KwaZulu-Natal.</li></ul><br><strong>On the photo's above:​ </strong><em>Quercus robur </em>was first introduced into South Africa in 1656. Today it is one of the most widespread and recognised trees in the South African landscape, such as the centuries old oak trees lining the streets of Stellenbosch (also known as <em>Eikestad</em> or Oak City). But these centuries old trees are also the most susceptible to infections and pests such as the polyphagous shot hole borer. <em>Photos: Christiaan Gildenhuys</em><br><br> <br><b>Media enquiries</b><br><br>Christiaan Gildenhuys<br><br>E-mail:<br><br>Mobile: 079-0188751​<br><p>​<br></p>
Closing the gender gap in science – Prof Sibusiso Moyo the gender gap in science – Prof Sibusiso Moyo Prof Sibusiso Moyo<p>​The International Day of Women and Girls in Science was celebrated on Sunday 11 February. In an opinion piece for the <em>Mail & Guardian</em>, Prof Sibusiso Moyo (Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies) writes that we must invest in educational opportunities, provide mentorship and support networks, and actively promote gender diversity in scientific research and innovation to harness the full potential of women in science.</p><p></p><ul><li>​Read the article below or click <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">here</strong></a><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0"> </strong>for the piece as published.<br></li></ul> <p></p><p><strong>Prof Sibusiso Moyo*</strong> </p><p>As we celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11 February, it's imperative to reflect on the progress made and the challenges that still persist in ensuring gender equality in STEM – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – fields. This day serves as a global celebration of the invaluable contributions women make to STEM disciplines, while also highlighting the disparities that hinder their full participation. <br></p><p>I urge us all to redouble our efforts in encouraging and supporting more women to pursue careers in science.<br></p><p>Despite strides in education, the gender gap remains glaringly evident, with millions of girls still facing barriers to accessing quality education, particularly in conflict-affected regions. The suspension of educational opportunities for women, as witnessed across the world, underscores the urgent need to address systemic barriers hindering girls' education globally. Furthermore, women and girls are disproportionately excluded from opportunities to build essential skills, perpetuating the cycle of inequality.<br></p><p>In the realm of science and innovation, gender disparities persist, limiting women's roles and contributions. As technology continues to advance, it is crucial that women are not left behind. The emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) presents both opportunities and challenges, yet women remain underrepresented in this field. The consequences of this imbalance are stark, as AI technologies often reflect biases that can exacerbate inequalities, particularly for women of colour. <br></p><p>However, amidst these challenges, there are beacons of hope that inspire us to strive for greater gender parity in STEM. This year Stellenbosch University (SU) is elated to have Melissa Muller, South Africa's top-performing matric learner in 2023, as a shining example of the potential that lies within young women interested in science. Her decision to study Mechatronics Engineering at SU exemplifies the importance of nurturing and supporting women's ambitions in STEM fields. We congratulate many other women and girls who continue to excel and enter STEM fields traditionally underrepresented by women.  <br></p><p>At SU, we have seen the share of female doctoral graduates steadily increased between 2018 and 2021 to 48% of doctoral graduates being female. This compares well with the 46% recorded for the South African higher education sector. <br></p><p>Moreover, the recent launch of the Paarl Africa Underground Laboratory (Paul) project represents a groundbreaking initiative that underscores Africa's potential in scientific research. As we embark on this pioneering endeavour to study dark matter and neutrinos, let us ensure that women are actively involved and represented in this scientific pursuit.<br></p><p>On this International Day of Women and Girls in Science, let us reaffirm our commitment to dismantling barriers and creating inclusive environments where women can thrive in STEM. We must invest in educational opportunities, provide mentorship and support networks, and actively promote gender diversity in scientific research and innovation. By harnessing the full potential of women in science, we can drive meaningful progress towards a more equitable and prosperous future for all. <br></p><p>We acknowledge the women scientists at SU who continue to make a great impact and continue mentoring future generations, for example, Prof Michele Miller, who heads up the Animal TB Research Group at SU and holds the DSI-NRF South African Research Chair in Animal TB and Prof Quinette Louw, the Executive head of the Department of Health and Rehabilitation Studies at SU, and South African Research Chair in Innovative Rehabilitation. <br></p><p>As we celebrate the achievements of women in science, let us also recognise the work that lies ahead in realising true gender equality in STEM fields. Together, let us pave the way for a future where every girl and woman has the opportunity to pursue her passion and contribute her talents to shaping the world through science and innovation.<br></p><p><strong>*Prof Sibusiso Moyo is Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies at Stellenbosch University.</strong></p><p>​<br></p>
World Cancer Day: Genetic testing, better healthcare can help improve cancer treatment Cancer Day: Genetic testing, better healthcare can help improve cancer treatmentCorporate Communication & Marketing / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie & Bemarking<p>​​World Cancer Day was observed on Sunday 4 February. In opinion pieces for the media, experts at Stellenbosch University suggest ways to close the global cancer care gap. Click on the links below to read the articles as published.<br></p><ul><li>Dr Yuri Munsamy (<a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">Mail & Guardian</strong></a>)<br></li><li>Prof Maritha Kotze (<a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">Daily Maverick</strong></a>)</li></ul><p><em>Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán from </em><a href=""><span class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0"><strong><em>Pixabay</em></strong></span></a>​<br></p><p>​<br></p>
Muon detector from IP2I will kick-start cosmic-ray research at SU and UWC detector from IP2I will kick-start cosmic-ray research at SU and UWCWiida Fourie-Basson (Media: Faculty of Science)<p><span style="text-align:justify;">​Cu</span><span style="text-align:justify;">tting edge technology in the form of a muon detector on loan from the Institute of Physics of the Two Infinities (IP2I) in Lyon, France, will kick-start cosmic-ray research at Stellenbosch University (SU) and the University of the Western Cape (UWC).</span><br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">The exchange forms part of a series of scientific studies to determine the merits of constructing a <a href="/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=10432">deep underground laboratory</a> north to the Huguenot tunnel in the Du Toitskloof Mountain pass between Worcester and Paarl. South Africa's Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) recently allocated seed funding of R5 million for scientific and engineering studies to determine the feasibility of the proposed <a href="">Paarl Africa Underground Laboratory</a> (PAUL). If it goes ahead, it will be a first for Africa and only the second such laboratory in the southern hemisphere.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">The muon detector was developed by <a href="">Dr Jacques Marteau</a>, a particle physicist at IP2I, a joint research unit of France's National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and Claude Bernard University Lyon 1. Martineau will be working closely with Dr JJ van Zyl, an experimental physicist at SU's Department of Physics, and Prof. Robbie Lindsay from UWC's Department of Physics and Astronomy and their postgraduate students.</p><p style="text-align:justify;"><strong>What are muons?</strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Muons are fast moving, heavy electron-like particles that are naturally produced in the atmosphere when energetic cosmic rays from interstellar space interact with atoms and molecules high up in the atmosphere.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">“We are bombarded by about 10 000 muons per square metre per minute. Or, about one muon goes through your outstretched hand every second.," Van Zyl explains.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Muons are unstable and decay within 2 millionths of a second, but because they travel close to the speed of light, they are fast enough to pass through matter over long distances without being absorbed.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">“Like electrons, muons are negatively charged. But they are also 200 times heavier than electrons. This means they lose energy when passing through matter like the atmosphere and mountains, but they lose only a small amount of energy for every centimetre of material, depending on its density. A cosmic muon reaching the top of the Du Toitskloof Mountain will lose about 5% of its energy for every meter it passes through. After about 20 metres of rock, they will be stopped. Only the very large energy muons will make it through the 800 metres thick bedrock that covers the Huguenot tunnel," he explains.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">One of the first projects will be to measure the muon background and flux in the tunnel and image the geology of the bedrock above and around the Huguenot tunnel. This will help to determine the criteria for the construction of PAUL in a service tunnel to the north of the main tunnel and will be important for the design and set-up of detectors in the future Paarl Africa Underground Laboratory. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Worldwide, deep underground laboratories are used to observe and study so-called rare events, that is, when neutrinos and dark matter particles interact with ordinary matter. Neutrinos are extremely light sub-atomic particles that do not emit, absorb, or reflect light, and are therefore extremely difficult to observe. Dark matter, on the other hand, makes up nearly 85% of the mass of the universe, yet there is still no clear theory of what it is.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Van Zyl says there are currently a plethora of experimental techniques out there that are trying to gain sensitivity to the small signals left by the interaction between dark matter and ordinary matter particles: “Rather than build ever larger detectors, the challenge is to develop detectors with very low energy thresholds and excellent control over detector backgrounds. The last few years have seen significant efforts in the direct-detection community on building small-scale experiments that can probe low-mass dark matter."</p><p style="text-align:justify;">He is excited about the prospect of having access to an underground research facility a stone's throw from the Stellenbosch campus: “I believe this initiative will foster valuable collaborations with other similar facilities and create opportunities where local students can be trained in advanced detector development."  <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;"><em>On the photo above: </em>Physicists from Stellenbosch University and the University of the Western Cape are eager to start experimenting with a plastic scintillator type of muon detector, on loan from the Institute of Physics of the Two Infinities (IP21) in Lyon, France. From the left are Dr J.J. van Zyl, MSc student Stephan Jonker and Prof. Richard Newman – all from Stellenbosch University. Next to them are Prof. Robbie Lindsay and Dr Lumkile Msebi from the University of the Western Cape, followed by Prof. Faïrouz Malek and Dr Jacques Marteau, both affiliated with the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France. <em>Photo: Ignus Dreyer</em></p><p style="text-align:justify;"><strong>Media enquiries​​</strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Prof. Richard Newman</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Stellenbosch University, Department of Physics</p><p style="text-align:justify;">E-mail: <a href=""></a></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Mobile: +27 83 447 8928​</p>
Innovative monitoring protocol for PSHB based on citizen science monitoring protocol for PSHB based on citizen scienceWiida Fourie-Basson (Media: Faculty of Science)<p style="text-align:justify;">Ecologists at<strong> </strong>Stellenbosch University's <a href="">Centre</a> for Invasion Biology (CIB) have developed an innovative monitoring protocol to map priority areas for detecting new and expanding polyphagous shot hole borer (PSHB) infestations in urban areas.<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">A previous <a href="">study</a>, led by SU's School of Public Leadership, showed that the PSHB invasion may threaten tens of millions of trees in South Africa by 2050. The current invasion will therefore have a major impact on emission scenarios and how urban authorities handle climate change adaptation responses such as urban greening, warns Prof. Guy Midgley, interim director of SU's School for Climate Studies and home to the CIB.​<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">The protocol, published in the <a href=""><em>Journal of Pest Science</em></a> this week, used data from the popular citizen science initiative <a href="">iNaturalist</a> that were collected as part of the “<a href="">Reproductive hosts at risk of PSHB in South Africa</a>" project. To date, more than 4 100 South African citizen scientists have made 35 144 observations of at-risk trees.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Dr Luke Potgieter, a postdoctoral research fellow at the CIB and the lead author on the study, said they decided to use Cape Town and Stellenbosch as case studies to illustrate how a platform such as iNaturalist can be used together with additional city-level spatial datasets to map priority areas for monitoring of PSHB infestations.</p><p style="text-align:justify;"><strong>Using citizen science to map priority areas</strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">They first accessed a dataset of 9 000 iNaturalist observations of PSHB-reproductive host tree species in and around Stellenbosch and Cape Town. Both cities have recently experienced PSHB infestations (2019 and 2022 for Cape Town and Stellenbosch respectively), and in both urban areas there are significant concerns and interest in PSHB due to the importance of many high-value, but also highly susceptible, trees.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">From the list of susceptible tree species, the Box Elder (<em>Acer negundo</em>) was identified as a sentinel species for the detection of possible PSHB infestations. This non-native tree species is relatively abundant in urban areas in South Africa, and the initial symptoms of infestations are easy to detect.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">They then mapped those facilities which could most likely act as dispersal nodes for PSHB populations, such as arborist facilities, firewood distributors, general waste facilities, green waste facilities, landfills, mature tree nurseries, and refuse transfer stations. This dataset was obtained from the City of Cape Town Open Data Portal and through consultation with local arborists and municipal workers, and their own observations.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">By combining these datasets, they were able to map priority areas where high densities of trees susceptible to PSHB infestations were growing close to plant material dispersal facilities. (and Box Elder separately as a sentinel species for monitoring and surveillance). To provide more detailed operational guidance for practitioners, high-priority roads were also identified for visual and baited trap surveys.</p><p style="text-align:justify;"><strong>What are the priority areas for Stellenbosch and Cape Town?</strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">According to the study, priority areas include Cape Town's Central Business District and the southern suburbs which lie on the north- and south-eastern slopes of Table Mountain, respectively. Most of the urbanised parts of Stellenbosch are priority areas.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Potgieter says they are confident that the management protocol is working: “A recent visual survey of a high-priority site identified in our protocol detected a new PSHB infestation outside a nursery where a number of Box Elders are growing."</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Prof. Dave Richardson, an ecologist at the CIB and one of the co-authors, says citizen science platforms could play a major role in helping to manage one of the world's most devastative wood borers. </p><p><a href="">Richardson</a> is himself an avid contributor to iNaturalist, with over 42 000 observations and counting!</p><p style="text-align:justify;"><strong>Media enquiries</strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Dr Luke Potgieter</p><p style="text-align:justify;">E-mail:​</p>
NITheCS/CHPC coding summer school enrich critical skills coding summer school enrich critical skillsFaculty of Science (media and communication)<p></p><p style="text-align:justify;">One of the largest summer schools in coding and the fundamentals of theoretical and computational science will take place across <a href="">30 academic institutions</a> in South Africa and Kenya for the next two weeks, involving over 850 postgraduate students and researchers from the natural and social sciences.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Since 2019, the annual <a href="">Coding Summer School</a> is jointly organised by the <a href="">Centre for High Performance Computing</a> (CHPC) and the <a href="">National Institute for Theoretical and Computational Sciences</a> (NITheCS). </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Dr Werner Janse van Rensburg, Research Manager at the CHPC, says the summer school is a unique opportunity for researchers to learn how to code and how to access a national asset such as the Centre for High Performance Computing.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">“Today, any researcher or institution wanting to do competitive research should be making use of computational technology – from the natural sciences to the humanities," he says.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Another unique aspect of the summer school is that participants attend in person at an institution closest to them. The training, however, is streamed live from the Universities of Cape Town (UCT) and Stellenbosch (SU). At each of the 30 participating institutions, one or more specialists and tutors will be available to assist students.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Mr Binjamin Barsch, Lead Software Engineer at the CHPC and lead coordinator for the summer school, says this initiative is an example of how the future of education at South African universities can be reshaped in several ways: “We are also challenging the conventional assumption that English is the main language of instruction for the acquisition of technical skills. The content for the first week of training has been translated into isiXhosa, isiZulu, and Sepedi, thereby providing a more inclusive and impactful educational landscape."</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Prof. Mattia Vaccari, eResearch Director at UCT, says the hybrid format of the summer school is an example of how blended learning can scale up access to critical skills training opportunities offered by national institutions such as the CHPC and NITheCS: “While students may be exposed to coding during their studies and via online courses, these initiatives are crucial for them to develop their skills and create a network of peers and mentors in the research environment.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">"Our society, economy and research enterprise are increasingly data-centric, and developing the skills required to make sense of data and gain useful insights from it is increasingly important to foster a knowledge-based economy in South Africa," Vaccari adds.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">During week one participants will learn the fundamentals of Python and data science which will allow them to analyse and manipulate various datasets, including an introduction to Linux and Bash. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Prof.  Francesco Petruccione, interim Director of NITheCS, explains that during the second week students will be introduced to the software solutions that they might need in their research, with examples ranging from machine learning to bioinformatics, from the simulation of chemical systems to the application of Monte Carlo methods.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Petruccione says it is exciting to see the growth in student numbers: “Attendance has increased by almost 10% since last year and more institutions have joined. While we focus primarily on South African students, this year the school will also include students from Kenya. Next year we hope to include students from neighbouring countries in the Southern African Development Community."</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Prof. Sibusiso Moyo, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies at SU, says it is great to see higher education institutions, the relevant science councils and facilities coming together to enhance the skills of South African students and researchers in the theoretical and computational sciences.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">For more information on this year and future Coding Summer Schools, visit <a href=""></a></p><p style="text-align:justify;"><strong>Media enquiries</strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Prof. Francesco Petruccione</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Interim Director: NITheCS</p><p style="text-align:justify;">E-mail: <a href=""></a></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Mobile: +27 72 664 3476</p><p style="text-align:justify;"> </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Dr. Werner Janse van Rensburg</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Research Manager: CHPC</p><p style="text-align:justify;">E-mail: <a href=""></a><br></p><p>​<br></p>
Deep underground laboratory will be a first for Africa underground laboratory will be a first for AfricaWiida Fourie-Basson (Media: Faculty of Science)<p><span style="text-align:justify;">​​​​Afric</span><span style="text-align:justify;">a's first deep underground science laboratory may become a reality in the next five to ten years with the establishment of the </span><a href="" style="text-align:justify;">Paarl Africa Underground Laboratory</a><span style="text-align:justify;"> (PAUL) in the Du Toits Kloof mountains in the Western Cape in South Africa, accessed via the existing Huguenot tunnel.</span><br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">The PAUL project was officially launched in the aftermath of a week-long international symposium at Du Kloof Lodge last week, during which current and future research projects and collaborations with other deep underground laboratories around the world were discussed. The <a href="">Symposium on Science at PAUL</a> (SSP) took place from 14 to 18 January 2023, and included a visit to the proposed site. </p><p style="text-align:justify;"><img src="/english/PublishingImages/Lists/dualnews/My%20Items%20View/2.png" alt="2.png" style="margin:5px;" /><br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Already a decade in planning, the future Paarl Africa Underground Laboratory would be a first for Africa, and only the second such laboratory in the Southern hemisphere after <a href="">Australia's Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory</a>. Currently there are <a href="">a dozen such underground laboratories </a>in Asia, Europe and North America.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Prof. Sibusiso Moyo, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research, Innovation and Postgraduate studies at SU, says that PAUL, once fully implemented, will be a game changer for universities in the Western Cape, South Africa, Africa, and its partners.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">“It has been great this week to see the interest from the local and international physics communities for this initiative. Thanks to support from the Department of Science and Innovation, our physicists were able to benchmark against the work of physicists from world class laboratories. This will assist us with the long-term planning and building of an ecosystem of research in this exciting field, leading to benefits for surrounding communities through the creation of new jobs and skills training."</p><p style="text-align:justify;"><strong>What are deep underground laboratories?</strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Dark matter makes up 85% of the universe mass, but its particular nature is still unclear.  Since the 1970s, deep underground laboratories have been used to search for the subatomic particles that make up dark matter, and to study neutrinos (caused by interactions with dark matter particles) in radioactive-free environments.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">It is only in these underground laboratories, with a thick layer of rock shielding sensitive detection equipment from unwanted background signals produced by cosmic ray showers, that scientists can differentiate the interaction of these rare particles from the noise above. These so-called extremely rare events include, amongst others, double beta decay, geoneutrinos, reactor neutrinos and dark matter particles. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Prof. Richard Newman, a nuclear physicist from Stellenbosch University's (SU) <a href="">Department of Physics</a> and co-chair of the organising committee for the symposium, says the physics community in South Africa have been investigating the establishment of such a laboratory since 2011 – first considering options in South Africa's very deep gold mines. Back in 1965, the South African physicist <a href="">Friedel Sellschop</a> and the Nobel Prize winner to be, <a href="">Frederick Reines</a>, made the <a href="">world's first observation</a> of a naturally occurring neutrino particle in an East Rand mine three kilometres below the surface.​<br></p><p style="text-align:center;"><img src="/english/PublishingImages/Lists/dualnews/My%20Items%20View/North%20Bore%20tunnel_Credit_Richard%20Newman_small.jpg" alt="North Bore tunnel_Credit_Richard Newman_small.jpg" class="ms-rtePosition-4" style="margin:5px;width:526px;" /> </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Only recently did the physics community start to consider the viability of the <a href="">Huguenot tunnel</a>, a four-kilometre-long road tunnel 800 metres underneath the Du Toits Kloof mountain between the towns of Paarl and Worcester, for such an underground laboratory. It is the longest road tunnel in South Africa, managed by the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL). Due to high traffic volumes, SANRAL is planning to upgrade the North Bore tunnel to lower traffic volumes in the existing South Bore tunnel. An engineering feasibility study will investigate the viability of an underground laboratory as part of this expansion programme.<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">A <a href="">2015 study</a> by the environmental radiation research groups at SU and iThemba LABS confirmed that the environment of the site is appropriate for such an experimental facility. Further research is ongoing to assess the scientific contribution PAUL could offer the international community and related fields, such as biology, the geosciences, chemistry, mining technology, and underground construction and architecture.</p><img src="/english/PublishingImages/Lists/dualnews/My%20Items%20View/Newman%20and%20Malek.jpg" alt="Newman and Malek.jpg" class="ms-rtePosition-1" style="text-align:justify;margin:5px;width:242px;" /><span style="text-align:justify;"></span><div>​<span style="text-align:justify;">N</span><span style="text-align:justify;">ewman says there is a plethora of reasons to justify the establishment of such a facility in South Africa and Africa: “From a scientific perspective, for example, we would be interested in how an experiment of direct dark matter in an underground laboratory in the Southern hemisphere will compare to a similar experiment in the Northern hemisphere," he explains.</span></div><p style="text-align:justify;">Prof. Lerothodi Leeuw, an astrophysicist from the University of the Western Cape's (UWC) <a href="">Department of Physics and Astronomy</a>, and part of the organising committee, also emphasises the importance of another underground laboratory in the Southern hemisphere: “PAUL will be in a strategic position to test, for example, the seasonal modulation in the detection of dark matter that has been predicted to be in phase with detections by direct dark matter experiments in the northern hemisphere."<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">PAUL will also establish strong collaborations with the radio astronomy probe of dark matter by South Africa's MEERKAT, HERA and SKA mid-array observations: “South Africa is already heavily involved with the indirect measurement of dark matter. Combined with direct measurements from a future PAUL, it may shed light on new physics," Newman adds.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Prof. Shaun Wyngaardt, head of SU's Department of Physics and part of the core task team, says as a multi-disciplinary laboratory, PAUL would be of great interest to radio biologists (health, medicine), geophysics (mining, civil engineering, agriculture and water), as well as provide spin-off opportunities in engineering and technology development. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Prof. Robbie Lindsay from UWC's Department of Physics and Astronomy and an executive member of the PAUL project, says students will benefit greatly from training opportunities and exposure to international collaboration and partnerships. </p><p style="text-align:justify;"><strong>The way forward</strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">In order to get the project off the ground, the Department of Science and Innovation (DS) have provided seed funding for a feasibility study for the construction of an underground laboratory with a volume of about 10 000 cubic meters.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">During his welcoming address, Mr Takalani Nemaungani, chief director of astronomy at DSI, said the data that would be acquired from an underground laboratory would supplement other data from the SKA, thereby providing the link to what physicists call multi-messenger astronomy.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">In a discussion of the critical success factors for high-technology infrastructure projects, Dr Rob Adam made a comparison between the successes and failures of large projects such as the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Radio Telescope, the Reactor Conversion Project, and the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR). Adam is the former managing director of South Africa's Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Radio Telescope.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">During the symposium local and international physicists and postgraduate students discussed proposed research projects at PAUL, and how their current research at other underground laboratories could benefit from research collaborations.<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Prof. Faïrouz Malek, director of research at France <a href="">National Institute for Nuclear and Particle Physics</a>, and chair of the organising committee, said the ideal for an underground physics laboratory in South Africa and Africa is also about the bigger societal benefits associated with it: “Of course we are looking forward to doing some interesting underground physics, but this initiative is also going to create so many additional opportunities for young physicists, engineers, and technicians." Prof. Malek was recently appointed as an extraordinary professor in SU's Department of Physics.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Prof. Sean Paling, director of the <a href="">Boulby Underground Laboratory </a>in the United Kingdom, said the science in underground laboratories has evolved to include unique and important studies in pure and applied particle physics, earth and environmental science, biology, and engineering: “There is a great range of science now taking place in underground laboratories, which also makes these special places ideal for science outreach and education initiatives. I have no doubt about the significant societal value that would be gained from the establishment of an underground laboratory in South Africa."</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Prof. Jochen Schieck, director of the <a href="">Institute for High Energy Physics</a> at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, emphasised that each underground laboratory has a unique offering to make depending on its location and geological environment: “For scientists, the size of the experiment does not say anything about its scientific potential. Some questions can only be addressed with large experiments, others with tabletop setups. At the end you have to bring the puzzle pieces from all the experiments together to unlock the final puzzle from the universe."</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Prof. Elisabetta Barberio, director of the <a href="">ARC Centre of Excellence for Dark Matter Particle Physics</a> in Australia, emphasised the importance of good science communication to enthuse the public's interest in the hunt for dark matter, thereby inspiring a new generation of innovative thinkers. In the runup to the construction of the Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory, for example, local schools experienced a 50% increase in enrolments in science-related subjects.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Dr Jodi Cooley, executive director of <a href="">SNOLAB</a> in Canada, said they are keen to support the establishment of a deep underground laboratory in South Africa: “It is one of our strategic objectives at SNOLAB to share our knowledge and expertise with the rest of the world, and we are excited about the possibilities of collaborating with another laboratory in the Southern hemisphere."</p><ul><li>The symposium was supported by <a href="">Stellenbosch University</a> (SU), the <a href="">University of the Western Cape</a> (UWC), France's <a href="">National Institute of Nuclear and Particle Physics</a> (CNRS), and <a href="">Laboratoire Souterrain de Modane</a> (LSM) at CNRS, and the <a href="">Gran Sasso National Laboratory</a> (LNGS) at the Italian <a href="">National Institute for Nuclear Physics</a>, and sponsored by South Africa's <a href="">Department of Science and Innovation</a> and SU. </li></ul><p style="text-align:justify;"><em>On the photos above: </em></p><p style="text-align:justify;"></p><ul><li><p>The magnificent Du Toits Kloof mountains in the Western Cape will become the bedrock shielding the planned Paarl Africa Underground Laboratory (PAUL) from cosmic radiation.  The laboratory will be accessed via the existing Huguenot tunnel, 800 metres underneath the surface. Left on the photo is the entrance to the South tunnel (from Paarl), with the old road leading up to Du Toits Kloof pass on the right. <em>Photo: Wiida Fourie-Basson</em></p></li><li><p>The inside of the North Bore service tunnel to the Huguenot tunnel in the Du Toits Kloof mountains in the Western Cape, South Africa. An engineering feasibility study will determine the viability of establishing the Paarl Africa Underground Laboratory just off this tunnel as part of the South African National Roads Agency's (SANRAL) plans to upgrade the North Bore tunnel to lower traffic volumes in the existing South Bore tunnel. <em>Photo: Richard Newman</em><br></p></li><li><p>Prof. Richard Newman from Stellenbosch University’s Department of Physics and Prof. Fa<span lang="NL">ï</span>rouz Malek, director of research at France’s National Institute for Nuclear and Particle Physics during the recent Symposium on Science at PAUL (SSP) in South Africa. They are co-chairs of the organising committee for the symposium and part of the core team taking the PAUL project forward. <em>Photo: Wiida Fourie-Basson</em>​<br></p></li></ul><span class="ms-rteFontSize-2"></span><p></p><p style="text-align:justify;"><strong>Media interviews</strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Prof. Richard Newman</p><p style="text-align:justify;">E-mail:</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Mobile: 083 447 8928</p><p style="text-align:justify;"> </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Prof Faïrouz Malek</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Director of Research</p><p style="text-align:justify;">National Institute for Nuclear and Particle Physics</p><p style="text-align:justify;">E-mail:</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Mobile: +33 4 7628 4137</p><p style="text-align:justify;"> </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Prof. Lerothodi Leeuw</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Department of Physics and Astronomy</p><p style="text-align:justify;">University of the Western Cape</p><p style="text-align:justify;">E-mail: <a href=""></a></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Mobile: 083 700 4145<br></p><p>​<br></p>
Dr Robert Adam receives SU honorary degree for advancing science and technology Robert Adam receives SU honorary degree for advancing science and technologyCorporate Communication & Marketing / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie & Bemarking<p>​Dr Robert Adam received an honorary doctorate from Stellenbosch University (SU) at the institution's December graduation for advancing science and technology in South Africa. He was awarded the degree Doctor of Science, <em>honoris causa</em>, on Wednesday (13 December 2023) at the graduation ceremony for the Faculty of Science.</p><p>Adam was honoured for his outstanding lifelong contributions to science and technology in South Africa and to the disciplines of Astronomy and Physics, his commitment to the advancement of scientific knowledge through his academic pursuits, and his unwavering dedication to societal advancement.</p><p>In his acceptance speech, Adam imparted some valuable lessons to the graduates. He said that in a university environment being clever and articulate is very important and being recognized as such is even more important. “It's critical that your peers know where you stand on key issues and in seminal debates."</p><p>He added that to progress strategically in the corporate world and government, one should not show your hand unless you have to. Adam encouraged the graduates to get things done when they enter the job market.</p><p><strong>More about Adam</strong></p><p>Dr Adam has been a key player in the development of science and technology in South Africa. For close to three decades, he served in various roles in the sector, influencing the development of policies that guided the South African government's vision for science and technology. His positions included deputy director general of Science and Technology (1996), director general of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, chief executive of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation, director of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) South Africa, and director of the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory.</p><p>His strategic acumen contributed to South Africa's successful bid to host the SKA Observatory, and he was instrumental in the completion of the MeerKAT radio telescope, a world-class scientific tool.</p><p>Adam, who now works as a consultant in strategy and technology, has also made a significant impact in the field of astrophysics as a member of the team that made groundbreaking observations of the galactic centre. His remarkable contributions to science and technology have earned him recognition from prestigious national and international organisations.</p><ul><li><strong>​Photo</strong>: Dr Robert Adam at the graduation: <strong>Photographer</strong>: Stefan Els​</li></ul><p>​<br></p>