Research Chairs honour for five top UKZN professors

2015-09-10 10:00
Awarded prestigious research Chairs under the SA Research Chair Initiative are (from left): Fanie van Heerden, Theresa Coetzer, Colleen Downs, Sabiha Essack and Deevia Bhana.

Awarded prestigious research Chairs under the SA Research Chair Initiative are (from left): Fanie van Heerden, Theresa Coetzer, Colleen Downs, Sabiha Essack and Deevia Bhana.

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FIVE University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) professors have taken hold of the country’s academic reins after they were nominated for top spots in the prestigious South African Research Chair Initiative (SARChI).

The UKZN professors, three from the Pietermaritzburg campus, were awarded SARChI Chairs during an announcement made by Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor last month.

SARChi, a programme to strengthen and improve the research and innovation capacity of public universities for producing high quality postgraduate students, expect their Chairs to dedicate at least 95% of their time conducting research, supervising an average of 10 masters and doctoral students per annum and mentoring emerging researchers.

Five female academics were awarded this honour in recognition of their excellence in research, teaching and supervision.

The new UKZN Chairs are Professor Deevia Bhana for gender and childhood sexuality, Professor Theresa Coetzer for proteolysis in homeostasis health and disease, Professor Colleen Downs for ecosystem health and biodiversity in KZN and the Eastern Cape, Professor Sabiha Essack for antibiotic resistance, and Professor Fanie van Heerden for the chemistry of indigenous medicinal plants.

Van Heerden, a professor at UKZN’s School of Chemistry and Physics in Pietermaritzburg, told The Witness yesterday she felt “very privileged”.

“More research on plant chemistry for medicinal usage is essential because these plants are a part of our culture and our indigenous knowledge,” Van Heerden said.

Coetzer, a biochemist in the School of Life Sciences at UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus, said she was “very excited” after getting the award.

“It will allow me to supervise more postgraduate students and equip them with the experience they need to make groundbreaking, international research.”

The initiative, which was established in 2006 and is headed by the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST), awards Chairs in specific research fields that are tenable for five years and proposes to make an award of up to R2,5 million per annum per research chair.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  ukzn  |  professor

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