ACGT congratulates top Women in Science achievers

With three ACGT members having been bestowed with the honour of being among the Department of Science and Technology’s 2011 ‘South African Women in Science’, the recent announcement of the Award recipients served as a particular point of pride for the Centre and its partner institutions.
The honoured members are Profs Jolanda Roux and Namrita Lall of the University of Pretoria who are the proud winners of the Distinguished Young Woman in Science Awards for ‘Life, Natural and Engineering Sciences’ and ‘Indigenous Knowledge Systems’, respectively; as well as Wits University’s Prof Maureen Coetzee who won the first runner-up position in the category of Distinguished Woman in Science for Life, Natural and Engineering Sciences.

Prof Roux – also a recent recipient of the Commonwealth Forestry Organisation’s Queen’s Award – was recognised for her research on the health of trees, focusing strongly on fungi and bacteria that result in disease and death of trees. The majority of her work in this regard looks at the diseases affecting commercial plantation forestry species; namely Acacia mearnsii, Eucalyptus spp. and Pinus spp.

The Award received by Prof Lall was in honour of her contribution of a scientific validation of the use of South African plants for medicines and cosmetics. She is also internationally recognised for her contributions to bioprospecting from traditional knowledge on medicinal plants and, since 1997, has initiated various research projects applying medicinal plants in areas including tuberculosis, diabetes and cancer. She was a previous recipient of a UNESCO L’Oreal Women in Science Award for her research on tuberculosis in 2002.

Prof Coetzee has been involved in mosquito systematics for 30 years and, in this time, has used genetic principles to discover ten new species of Anopheles. Her award was bestowed for work that she and her group have conducted resulting in the successful use of cytogenetics, cross-matching techniques and molecular assays to demonstrate that Anopheles funestus in Malawi is actually two separate species. Their findings in this regard went on to be published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

In addition to Profs Roux, Lall and Coetzee, the ACGT partner institutions boast a number of other ‘South African Women in Science’ Award recipients. Among them are Profs Aimee Stewart and Lizette Koekemoer of Wits University; Prof Fhumulani Mulaudzi of University of Pretoria, and; the CSIR’s Nadine van den Berg – who is the proud recipient of a DST Masters Fellowship.

The DST ‘South African Women in Science’ Awards are held annually as part of the Department’s Women’s Month celebrations and presented by the Minister. The Awards are aimed at promoting women’s access and excellence in research and innovation careers; profiling women scientists and researchers as role models, and; encouraging and rewarding younger women who are starting careers in science and research.