ASSAf recognises top SA scientists

24 November 2011, 08:08

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The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) recognised top South African scientists at its prestigious Annual Awards Ceremony held in Pretoria on Thursday, 13 October 2011. 

ASSAf annually awards up to two ASSAf Science-for-Society Gold Medals for outstanding achievement in scientific thinking to the benefit of society. This year two awardees were selected. 

From left: Prof Robin Crewe, President of ASSAf, Prof Vera Helen Rees and Mrs Naledi Pandor, Minister of Science and Technology

Vera Helen Rees is Professor and Executive Director in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of the Witwatersrand. She has served as the Chairperson of Medicines Control Council. In 2004 she received a South African Distinguished Award for outstanding contribution to the improvement of the Quality of Life of Women, a life time work achievement from Aminatare, a Pan-African organisation working for rights of African women and children. She has conducted training on HIV medicine, sexual and reproductive health. Rees has supervised MScs and PhDs on different health topics and has written extensively in internationally accredited journals. Since 1998, she has led a Hillbrow Health Precinct, served as a President of Planned Parenthood Association of South Africa (PPSA), a member of the executive for Love Life, the National Adolescent Sexual Health Initiative, and, a founding member of Women’s Health Projects.  

From left: Prof Robin Crewe, President of ASSAf, Prof Salim S Abdool Karim and Mrs Naledi Pandor, Minister of Science and Technology

Salim S Abdool Karim is a clinical infectious disease Epidemiologist whose main current research interests are in micro biocides and vaccines to prevent HIV infection and implementing antiretroviral therapy in resource- constrained settings. He is Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa. He is also Professor in Clinical Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Colombia University and Adjunct Professor in Medicine at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University. He is Director of CAPRISA – Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa. He has published widely on infectious diseases, including AIDS, measles and hepatitis B and co-edited the textbook that is widely used to teach epidemiology in South Africa. Most recently, he co-edited the book, HIV/AIDS in South Africa

The Sydney Brenner Postdoctoral Fellowship awardee was also announced. This award was established when Dr Sydney Brenner donated a portion of his 2002 Nobel Prize to ASSAf to permit ASSAf (in partnership with the United States National Academy of Sciences and the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust) to offer a prestigious postdoctoral Fellowship for research in molecular biology to be undertaken in South Africa over two years by an outstanding young scientist. Brenner mentors the Fellows during and after tenure of the Fellowship. The awardee was Alexander Zawaira. 

From left: Prof Robin Crewe, President of ASSAf, Dr Alexander Zawaira and Mrs Naledi Pandor, Minister of Science and Technology

Alexander Zawaira holds a PhD in Biochemistry from Oxford University (England, UK). He currently works as a postdoctoral Fellow in the Synthetic Biology ERA (Gene Expression and Biophysics Group) at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Pretoria. Previously, he worked as a research associate/post–doctoral scientist at the University of Cape Town Institute for Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IIDMM). Zawaira is a founder and shareholder in the Discovery Maths Systems, a company that is developing and marketing Experimental Learning/Discovery-orientated Maths Education Kits.

From left: Prof Robin Crewe, President of ASSAf, Prof Bernard Slippers and Mrs Naledi Pandor, Minister of Science and Technology

The first AU-TWAS Young Scientists’ National Award recipient in South Africa, Bernard Slippers, was also recognised at the event. This AU-TWAS award scheme aims to recognise and award talented young scientists in Africa. The AU-TWAS Prize for Young Scientists in South Africa is managed by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), on behalf of its partners, the African Union Commission (AUC), the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST). Through this award, the AU and TWAS jointly recognise and award an outstanding scientist in South Africa. The recipient should be under the age of forty, living and working in South Africa, and have a record of research publications in internationally recognised science journals.  The award pertains to the science fields of Life and Earth Sciences; and Basic Science, Technology and Innovation.