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Change the world


Reasons to be Proud - #R2bP: Making South Africa and Nelson Mandela University proud, Professor Janet Wesson from the Department of Computing Sciences at Nelson Mandela University recently received a prestigious international award.


Prof Wesson, along with four other world-renowned academics, were awarded the prestigious IFIP TC13 Pioneer in Human-Computer Interaction title by the International Federation for Information Processing Technical Committee on Human–Computer Interaction (IFIP TC13).

“I am delighted to receive this prestigious award as recognition of my contribution to TC13 and the field of HCI globally,” said Prof Wesson.

Prof Wesson is the only 2023 awardee from Africa to receive this award, bestowed upon global pioneers considered as “the greatest contributors to the development and growth of the field of human-computer interaction (HCI)” according to a statement by IFIP TC13.

The last time someone from Africa received this award was almost a decade ago in 2014.

IFIP is an international organisation for ICT professionals and researchers, representing IT societies in 38 countries or regions, covering all five continents with a total membership of over half a million.

Prof Wesson has been one of the pioneers of HCI in South Africa, with most of her personal research focused on HCI, including Interaction Design, Information Visualization, Smart Homes, and Usability Engineering.

She explains her field of research specialisation, in layman’s terms, to always consider the user and the user experience (UX) first as technology advances. “My research has been rewarding, and it has been exciting to meet with international experts from across the world through organisations such as IFIP,” said Prof Wesson.

She has been South Africa’s national representative on TC13 since 2000 and served multiple roles on this international committee, including vice-chair and treasurer from 2004-2010, and secretary from 2022-present. TC13 organises the IFIP INTERACT Conference, which is held bi-annually. She also co-chaired INTERACT 2013, which was held in Cape Town.

Prof Wesson, who will be retiring at the end of the 2023, has enjoyed a long and exciting teaching and research career in the Department of Computing Sciences at Nelson Mandela University, spanning more than 40 years.

Department of Computing Sciences Head of Department, Prof Jean Greyling, said the department was very proud of the latest accolade Prof Wesson has received. “This is well deserved, since Janet has applied her expertise in Human-Computer Interaction over many years in teaching and research supervision, equipping literally hundreds of graduates who are now making an impact across the world.”

She has taught virtually every course in the department - from first year to Honours - including programming, data structures, database systems, software engineering, mobile computing, HCI, and usability engineering, inter alia.

Some of her career highlights include serving as Head of the Department of Computing Sciences (2005 – 2009), and Director of the School of Computing Sciences, Mathematics, Physics and Statistics from 2017 – 2021.

She is the Centre Head of the Nelson Mandela University/Telkom Centre of Excellence and Unit Head of the Smart Applications Unit. She has successfully supervised 10 PhD students and 34 Master’s degree students on the topic of HCI.

Prof Wesson obtained her Bachelors, Honours and Master’s degrees in Computing Sciences from Nelson Mandela University (formerly the University of Port Elizabeth), all cum laude. The title of her PhD thesis, obtained in 1997, was: “An Investigation into Design Methodologies for Usability: A Case Study Approach”.

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