ACADEMIC excellence took centre stage when Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s top brains were honoured at the Academic Awards Dinner recently. Twenty-six undergraduate and postgraduate students from across the university’s seven faculties were recognised for their achievements, but also encouraged to look to the needs of the world.“What contribution will you make to broader society, shaping ideas towards a better life for all?” NMMU Acting Vice-Chancellor Dr Sibongile Muthwa asked the recipients in her welcoming address at the Feather Market Centre.She added that the recipients needed more than their academic achievements. “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead,” said Dr Muthwa, quoting the university’s namesake, Nelson Mandela.Among those who have already responded to that call is Science masters graduate Atherton Mutombwere. He’s been offered a scholarship to complete an MBA at Oxford University with the intension of returning to Africa “to plant industries that make a difference”.The Zimbabwean student used his nano-science expertise to explore aspects of the ebola virus.Another recipient committed to ploughing back is Tarryn Lovemore, a Vice-Chancellor’s Scholar having obtained 7 A’s in matric, who completed her BEd Intermediate Phase teaching degree cum laude and is presently teaching in Nanaga in the Eastern Cape where she grew up.Lovemore, the top graduate in the Faculty of Education, is also one of four recipients of the University’s top award – the Vice-Chancellor’s Awards for Academic Excellence. The Collegiate matriculant was the best first degree graduate.Two other Collegiate matriculants, Nicole Lake and Emma Plumstead, also won the award for being the best diplomate (Biomedical Technology) and best postgraduate student in the field of Science, Engineering and Technology (BSc Honours: Mathematical Statistics) respectively.The fourth recipient is Dorothea Buckle as the best postgraduate student in the social sciences who combined her passions of media and the environment to produce an “outstanding” trans-disciplinary arts and science masters dissertation. Dorothea attended DF Malherbe and is presently working in Cape Town.