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Change the world

28/11/2023

Under the umbrella of celebrating excellence, Nelson Mandela University recognised its top academic, professional, administrative and service staff in the categories of research, teaching, engagement, innovation, creative outputs and institutional support on 27 November.

The event was held together with the student academic achievers’ awards at the Boardwalk Convention Centre.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Sibongile Muthwa, congratulated staff and students receiving a total of 67 awards for contributing to excellence in Higher Education. Staff and students are interdependent on each other, and it was inspiring for both to share their celebrations and reasons for excellence. 

Prof Muthwa also thanked the key stakeholders and support networks in success, the parents, employers, colleagues and peers, and reminded staff and students about the importance of the University values. 

Award winners

Professor Syden Mishi, Dr Zikhona Tywabi-Ngeva, and Professors Magda Minguzzi, Anass Bayaga, Sijekula Mbanga, Ilse Truter, Leah Ndimurwimo and Janine Adams.

The Nelson Mandela University Researcher of the Year is Economics professor Syden Mishi, who studies how and why economic agents make choices the way they do, especially when non-market and credence goods are involved and in situations which veer from what is rationally assumed. These insights guide economic interventionism to shape the choice of approach for more efficient decision-making. Prof Mishi also received faculty awards for Integrative and Sustainability (Green) Researcher of the Year.

Nelson Mandela University’s Emerging Researcher for 2023 is Chemistry’s Dr Zikhona Tywabi-Ngeva, who specialises in sustainable agriculture, waste management, and addressing environmental challenges through cost-effective and energy-efficient processes. She uses environmentally friendly techniques, to produce nanocellulose from pineapple leaf fibre waste for heavy metal adsorption in wastewater, creating nanofilters for water treatment and developing mulching film applications.

Research Excellence Awards

Architecture senior lecturer and professor Magda Minguzzi’s research on tangible and intangible indigenous heritage in South Africa and the Indigenous Knowledge system of the built environment is conducted together with her working group, consisting of First Nations Chiefs, community members, students, and staff. The focus is on reconnecting the First Peoples with their heritage sites, reformulating the indigenous narrative and restoring indigenous culture and identity.

Education's Prof Anass Bayaga focuses on augmenting information processing (computational cognition) via adaptive technologies to improve developing countries’ students’ cognitive engagement in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Access to and the implementation of computer application technologies toward enhanced human-computer interface (HCI), are increasingly limited in all socioeconomic statuses in Africa.

Faculty Researchers of the Year

Business and Economic Sciences: Prof Syden Mishi

Education: Prof Anass Bayaga

Engineering, the Built Environment and Technology: Human settlements should be created as spaces of hope and opportunity for fostering equity across demographics. The research of Prof Sijekula Mbanga, in human settlements development, aims to generate long-lasting solutions to bring about responsive housing and human settlement policies in South Africa and beyond.

Health Sciences: Pharmacoepidemiology studies medicine use in large populations, assessing usage patterns, risks, and the benefits of different medicines through the analysis of large medicine databases. Pharmacy professor Ilse Truter, also explores pharmacists’ roles in healthcare delivery, using surveys and focus group discussions.

Law: Armed conflicts, compounded by natural and man-made disasters, culminate in cross-border mass migration, asylum-seeking and a perpetual refugee crisis. Professor Leah Ndimurwimo focuses on refugee and migration studies. It strives to respond to the socio-economic and human rights challenges plaguing the African continent, subsequently redressing social inequalities through laws and policies.

Science: Blue carbon ecosystems and their responses to climate change, particularly focusing on estuaries, form the centre of Botany’s Prof Janine Adams’ research. For her botany, estuary conservation, management and restoration, is a key research theme that is aligned with the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration and Ocean Science.

Emerging Researchers of the Year

Drs Thobekile Qabhobho and Zakhile Somlata, Vuyolwethu Mdunyelwa, Johannes Sibeko, Mahlubandile Ntontela and Professor Rao Appadu.

Business and Economic Sciences: The research of Dr Thobekile Qabhobho, a lecturer in economics, highlights the importance of econometric modelling in acquiring a deeper empirical grasp of critical economic issues. These include issues in the Southern African Development Community region and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), and include international trade, international finance, applied econometrics, monetary economics and macroeconomics.

Education: South Africa is rich in terms of linguistic diversity and universities are no exception, says senior lecturer in Education, Dr Zakhile Somlata, whose research advocates for the promotion of multilingualism in all academic domains. In addition, he wishes to promote a practical elevation of previously indigenous African languages as languages of research, learning and teaching in higher education.

Engineering, the Built Environment and Technology: The lack of secure programming knowledge among programmers results in vulnerabilities on the software applications they programme. The research of Vuyolwethu Mdunyelwa, a lecturer in software engineering, focuses on improving programmers’ knowledge and behaviour towards secure programming.

Humanities: Johannes Sibeko, a digital humanities lecturer and language analysis researcher, has played a significant role in creating the first automated syllabification system for a South African language. The system, crucial for recognising word sounds and pronunciation, automates the division of words into syllables. It is an important resource for teachers of literacy reading and language researchers.

Law: Lecturer in criminal and procedural law, Mahlubandile Ntontela’s research addresses societal needs by creating mechanisms that can accommodate previously marginalised community members during the presentation of evidence in court. The existing common law procedural rules often marginalise individuals with communication disabilities, necessitating augmentative or alternative communication systems.

Science: Prof Rao Appadu specialises in mathematical modelling, partial differential equations (PDEs) and fractional partial differential equations. His research is applied to the quantitative, qualitative, and numerical analysis of some models in science and engineering. It covers areas such as biofilm formation, predators/preys, oil spill and pattern formation in coral reefs.

Excellent Teachers of the Year

Dr Ayanda Simayi, Tanya Wagenaar, Dr Leizel Williams, Storm Watson, Dr Tarryn Lovemore, and Jacqueline Maholo.

Education: Dr Ayanda Simayi, a lecturer in Education, grounds her science teaching in the recognition and incorporation of Indigenous Knowledge (IK). An example is the illuminating engagement between students on the confusion of “one tube on the neck” of a slaughtered animal. Through discussions involving IK and multiple languages, students shared that trachea is uqhoqhoqho in isiXhosa, lugpyp in Afrikaans, windpipe in simple English and is “attached to the food tube, the oesophagus.”

Law: Lecturers and students are equal partners in the process of acquiring knowledge and developing skills, believes Tanya Wagenaar, a lecturer in Private Law. Her teaching philosophy centres around creating an inclusive environment in which students can gain critical thinking and problem-solving skills that will serve to empower and embolden them to make a difference in our society.

Science: “Giving back to the discipline I love is one of the principal motivations inspiring my teaching. Complexity thinking is an essential attribute currently, and I want to inspire my students through challenging their ideas beyond the curriculum,” says Dr Leizel Williams, a lecturer in Geosciences. Holistic thinkers are needed for a sustainable world and therefore, Leizel uses several research tools, from arts-based methodologies to cellphone apps, to create an engaging, interactive and empathetic classroom, stimulating curiosity and critical thinking.

Emerging Teachers of the Year

Business and Economic SciencesStorm Watson, a lecturer in Business Management, makes it a priority to design his modules and lectures in a way that caters for various learning styles, enabling students to be involved with the module content that suits their individual learning preferences. Through his student-centred approach, Storm is hopeful that this will enhance curiosity, creativity and a love of learning within each student.

Education: “Teaching is a calling, my calling,” says Dr Tarryn Lovemore, whose teaching philosophy emanates from her passion for education. While she strives to be an expert in her field, by keeping up with trends, she recognises that her role is to help her students develop confidence to participate in their future workplace.

Law: “Much of my teaching approach is informed by my own personal lived experience as a black female academic. Lived experiences remind us to revisit the past curricula and use this as a foundation to reconstruct learning in a world that is constantly changing,” says Jacqueline Maholo, a lecturer in Mercantile Law.

Innovation Awards

Innovation Excellence Team Award

Dr Carla Kampman and the InnoVenton, Downstream Chemical Technology Downstation team: Globally, microalgae are gaining prominence as a renewable bio-resource for producing feed, food, fuels, nutraceuticals, and fertilisers. In the last 15 years, the InnoVenton team has developed expertise in cultivating multi-system, multi-species microalgal biomass and converting them into marketable products and fuels, such as Coalgae®, (low-smoke fuel), phycocyanin (food colouring), fish feed (protein source) and fertilisers (bio-stimulant, algae-manure).

 

Prof Farouk Smith and Dr Gaathier Mahed 

Innovation Excellence Project Award

Prof Farouk Smith and the Distractor for Osteogenesis of Hand Bones team: The mechatronics team has been conducting research on the development of novel surgical techniques and automatic devices for bone regeneration and tissue engineering applications. The developed medical device is a novel automatic surgical piece of equipment for reconstruction of hand bones.

Emerging Innovation Excellence Award

Dr Gaathier Mahed: Geosciences’ Dr Mahed in his research on the effective use and monitoring of water in soil, has together with his team developed an innovative growing box, a farm on wheels in an urban setting – one that can grow anything all year around and they will receive an innovation award.

Engagement Excellence Team Award

Julien de Klerk and the eNtsa Automotive Localisation Testing (ALT) Programme: The eNtsa Automotive Localisation Testing (ALT) Programme facilitates access to world-class testing of materials, products and processes for local automotive component manufacturers. The programme boosts Eastern Cape manufacturers by supporting the reliable production of high-quality products for local and international automotive supply chains.

Engagement Excellence Team Award

Andrea Govender and the Alumni Initiative: Perception vs Reality: A recent Accountancy doctoral study highlighted a gap between perception and reality for accounting graduates entering the working world. In attempting to bridge this divide, the Alumni Talk Initiative was launched, featuring recorded conversations between School of Accounting alumni and Alumni Talk coordinators.

Engagement Excellence Project Award (STEM)

Dr Dreyer Bernard and the Industrialisation of Friction Stir Welding Project: At eNtsa, the research and engineering teams focus on completing the “technology readiness lifecycle,” integrating innovations into the market. However, the development and implementation phases emphasise that research and product development continue. Friction Stir Welding (FSW) was a key research area at the Automotive Components Technology Station (now eNtsa) in the early 2000s.

Engagement Excellence Project Award (Social Sciences and Humanities) 

Prof Subeshini Moodley and Tarryn Rennie and the Online Repository for Creative and Research Outputs: The Media and Communication Department had sufficient staff and student work required for online and blended learning, but they needed a consolidated online resource or space where this work could be accessed. Thus, the idea for an e-book online repository was born, providing an archive of staff and student work.

Isabel van Gend, Prof Magda Minguzzi, Dr Noluvo Rangana, Thomas Terblanche, David Bester, Denise Schael, Chenel Robey, and Jacqueline Smith.

Engagement Excellence Award (STEM)

Isabel van Gend and STEM in Action: STEM in ACTION is a comprehensive Physical Science and Mathematics intervention programme for learners and educators in and around Nelson Mandela Bay and have reached more almost 20 000 participants in 2022. Activities involve both educators and learners from Grade 3 to 12, with educator development and academic support to learners in Physical Science and Mathematics.

Engagement Excellence Award (Social Sciences and Humanities)

Prof Magda Minguzzi and the First Indigenous Peoples Leaders Partnership

Emerging Engagement Excellence Award

Dr Noluvo Rangana and the Beacons of Hope Project: This study, led by Dr Noluvo Rangana in Academic Administration, is funded by an NRF research grant project aimed at transforming schools into “beacons of hope” in poor working-class communities. A critical participatory action lens was applied to existing school communities in the Eastern Cape as part of the work of the Centre for the Community School (CCS), interacting  with multiple stakeholders through teaching and learning, engagement, and scholarship.

Thomas Terblanche and the Muir Bicentennial Project: In 2022, Muir College celebrated its bicentenary. History and politics lecturer Thomas Terblanche serves on the school’s alumni association, the Old Muirite Union, which played a significant part in organising the 200-year celebrations. Thomas led the scholar connection portfolio, conceiving and launching a community interactive booklet, titled 200 Life and Leadership Lessons.

Creative and Performing Arts Output Awards

Prof Subeshini Moodley and Tarryn Rennie - Online Archival Repository: The Media and Communication Department had sufficient staff and student work required for online and blended learning, but they needed a consolidated online resource or space where this work could be accessed. Thus, the idea for an e-book online repository was born, providing an archive of staff and student work.

David Bester - Musical Performance: “I explored connections, parallels, and contrasts between the style of visual arts, architecture and product design known as Art Deco, and violin repertoire composed around the turn of the 20th century,” says David, a senior lecturer in music and performing arts.

PASS Excellence awards

Peromnes level 5-7 – Dr Denise Schael

As a senior research manager, Dr Schael is recognised for her exceptional service, dedication, leadership, and high performance as a key employee within the Department of Research Support and Management. She has shown excellent communication skills, providing crucial support to early career academics, and in managing externally funded projects. Denise also introduced and developed processes and systems to serve the research community more efficiently.

Peromnes level 8-9 -Chenel Robey

Chenel, a system engineer in ICT Services, stands out for her creativity, innovation and commitment to helping others achieve common goals. Within her department, she has fostered an ethic of care and influenced a culture of high performance. Her exceptional personal brand of high achievement means she consistently exceeds service standards for internal clients.

Peromnes level 10-12 – Jacqueline Smith

Jacqueline renders exceptional service and administrative support in the Faculty of Education, displaying remarkable multitasking skills, relationship building and office management. As Executive Assistant to the Dean, she is an expert in handling diary management, appointment scheduling, travel arrangements, document preparation and financial oversight.

Read more in Celebrating Excellence with the Academic Achiever's Awards and Vice-Chancellor's Excellence Awards  

Contact information
Ms Elma de Koker
Internal Communication Practitioner
Tel: 041-504 2160
elma.dekoker@mandela.ac.za