Author: Wiida Fourie-Basson/Martin Viljoen

Several Stellenbosch University researchers, students and alumni feature in 200 Young South Africans, an annual authoritative supplement of the Mail & Guardian.

From the Faculty of Science, Dr Nonjabulo Gule, Prof Florian Breuer and Dr Balindiwe Sishi were listed in the category science and technology, while Mr Nicolas Spaull, an education researcher and lecturer in the Department of Economics, was listed in the education category.

In the environmental category recognition is given to Ms Dorette du Plessis, outreach manager for the Iimbivane project at the NRF/DST Centre for Invasive Biology, as well as to Mr Sebastian Bode, who has just completed an MSc in Mechanical Engineering.

Writing in the Editor’s Letter accompanying the publication that came out today (14 June 2013), Mail & Guardian executive editor, Tanya Pampalone, says the list of 200 Young South Africans has become “one of the most inspiring reads of the year”.

“Each year we find 200 young people, aged 35 and under, who were born here or have made South Africa their home, and who are full of talent, dreams and drive. This is one of the most inspiring reads of the year. And the future looks bright and beautiful.”

The 200 young South Africans listed were selected by a handful of independent researchers and included more than 1 200 nominations from Mail and Guardian readers.

Dr Gule, currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science, is described as someone whose work can help to provide clean, cheap drinking water to those most in need: “Her research, which has been patented, is of consequence to the one-billion-plus people who die every year from water-related ailments. Gule produced a point-of-use filtration system using nano-sized fibres that not only destroy bacteria but also prevent bugs from attaching themselves to the surface of the fibres,” the text reads.

Dr Shishi is currently a junior lecturer in the Department of Physiological Sciences and she is recognised for her sterling work as a researcher: “Her study of the way science can be used to delay the onslaught of chemotherapy on heart cells won her recognition at the 2011 Congress of the South African Heart Association”.

Prof Florian Breuer, head of the mathematics section in the Department of Mathematical Sciences (Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, Computer Science), is recognised for “his role as professor, inspiring students to take up the numbers quest”, even though “the impact of his own research may only be fully realised in the far future”.

Mr Spaull is a member of the Research on Socioeconomic Policy team which analyses data that inform South Africa’s education policies. As a statistician, he is one of the few people in the country “who can interrogate problems in empirically rigorous ways…because, if you don’t truly understand the data about low and unequal performance…you can’t fix the problem”.

Ms Du Plessis received recognition for her role as outreach manager of the Iimbivane project to expose learners to the possibilities of a career in science and to develop a lifelong love for and understanding of the environment. Since 2006, the Iimbinave project has drawn “8 900 learners from 18 rural schools with no access to science laboratories and microscopic equipment into research, conducting ant surveys in their school grounds and nearby protected areas”.

With an MSc in Mechanical Engineering, Mr Bode receives recognition for his passion for natural energy: “He knows his research into solar ray tracing for concentrating solar power layouts and energy balances can help South Africa to find effective ways to use one of its biggest resources, the sun, to solve one of its biggest challenges — renewable energy,” the text reads.

Stellenbosch University alumni who also made it onto the list include Tanja Lategan, Chief Executive: Primedia online; Mandy Rossouw, Former International Correspondent: Media24 who passed away earlier this year; Prudy Seepe, Researcher: Traditional Medicine Laboratory: UKZN; Gavin Silber, Deputy Secretary General: Social Justice Coalition; and Jeannie le Roux from the Treasure Karoo Action Group.

Article source: Stellenbosch University