Change the world


Nelson Mandela University will be giving its own staff and students a glimpse of some of its exciting research projects in a novel event at the institution over the next two days (8 and 9 November).

Research for Change will feature some of the year’s Research and Engagement winners, top-rated researchers and up-and-coming masters and doctoral students who will share their research in various formats to give the wider University and others a better understanding of their work.

The event showcasing excellence and research that has impact will be formally opened by outgoing Vice-Chancellor Prof Derrick Swartz.

“We want to give the University an idea of some of the wonderful research, innovation and engagement that is underway. Our researchers share their research at conferences nationally and globally. This is our opportunity to hear and see first-hand what they are doing,” says Prof Blanche Pretorius who, along with Dr Nolunkcwe Bomela, is championing the new initiative. 

The two-day programme (see attachment) starting tomorrow in the South Campus Council Chambers at 9am, will culminate with an open day opportunity to the Propella Business Incubator in Humerail on Thursday afternoon. The latter is aimed at giving visitors a sense of the inspirational entrepreneurial work that is also underway, including University spin-offs and start-up companies

Research for Change is being piloted towards the introduction of a fully-fledged Research Week in 2018.

Apart from the 10 to 20-minute presentations by leading and emerging researchers, the programme includes:

  • A keynote address by National Research Foundation A1 researcher Prof Richard Cowling on “Paleoscience Research: Impact for Transdisciplinary Collaboration”.   
  • A panel discussion that examines transdisciplinary research by passionate researchers Prof Maarten de Wit, Prof Andre Keet and Ms Mary Duker.
  • A video and posters
  • Q&A opportunities

A further novel addition to the programme is the introduction of a three-minute thesis competition, or 3MT, for masters and doctoral students. This is an academic competition that challenges students to describe their research within three minutes to a general audience. Topics ranging from rhinos to innovation will be shared on Thursday morning.

“3MT celebrates discoveries made by research students and enhances their skills in communicating the contribution of their research to the broader community,” explains Prof Pretorius.

See full programme on the right.

Meet our presenters and facilitators

Water guru

Janine Adams is a professor in the Department of Botany and Director of the Institute for Coastal and Marine Research.  Her research investigates the health of South Africa’s estuaries, including water quality management and responses of mangrove and salt marsh habitats to climate change.  Science, policy and management is linked through collaboration with others and Janine has published over 110 articles in rated journals with researchers from many different national and international institutes.  Janine is passionate about research excellence, training and capacity building; she has successfully supervised 30 MSc and 16 PhD students.  In 2015 she received the silver medal from the Southern African Society of Aquatic Scientists, she served as Chairperson of the Water Research Commission and is a fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa.  She is also the 2017 Nelson Mandela University Researcher of the Year.

A botanist who traverses biomes, disciplines and time

Prof Richard Cowling has over three decades of experience as a vegetation ecologist and conservation scientist. His research has focused on the ecology, biogeography, evolution, diversity and conservation of South Africa's fynbos, succulent Karoo and subtropical thicket biomes, all globally recognised hotspots of biodiversity. A secondary research interest of his is the comparative ecology and evolution of the world's Mediterranean Climate Ecosystems. Cowling is rated as an A1 researcher by the National Research Foundation and has been awarded numerous honours, including membership of the National Academy of Sciences USA. He is presently part of an international research team in SA’s first Centre for Coastal Palaeoscience, which is conducting ground-breaking research on the origins of early modern humans with cognitive abilities along the coasts of South Africa dating back to approximately 195 000 years ago. The research work has resulted in several seminal articles published in Nature in recent years and considerable global scientific interests.

Transformation change agent

Professor André Keet is the present incumbent of the Chair: Critical Studies in Higher Education Transformation at Nelson Mandela University. He worked in national human rights institutions post 1994 before joining the University of Fort Hare in October 2008. He also spent time at the University of the Free State as Director of the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice, advisor to the Rectorate and as Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs and External Relations. André serves as Chairperson of the Ministerial Committee on Higher Education Transformation and is a member of the Council on Higher Education (CHE). He is an acknowledged social justice researcher, higher education transformation practitioner and academic citizen.

Advocate of the Arts

Mary Duker is a Principal Lecturer in the Department of Visual Arts. Along with a number of colleagues and postgraduate students she has been actively involved in facilitating an ongoing transdisciplinary Art meets Science meets Place project for the last five years. This is a project in which artists, scientists, students and academics, community activists and disciplinary practitioners engage with one another in place based encounters – a project in which various configurations of the ‘un-like-minded’ set out to see the world through one another’s eyes. She is an advocate for performative and practice-based research and her interest lies in the exploration of methodologies that have potential to contribute to the transformation of approaches to teaching and learning, research and engagement. She sees the Art meets project as a way of transcending the current disciplinary divisions and taking students (literally and figuratively) into the real world outside of the university. Her own visual arts research is linked to materialities, gendered subjectivity and place, and she is currently engaged in autoethnographic research into the ruins of domestic dwellings in the Eastern Cape.

A career in careers

Prof Mark Watson is a distinguished and emeritus professor at our university. He is a B1 NRF rated researcher. Mark teaches, researches and practices in the field of career development, counselling and assessment. Mark has been the Faculty of Health Sciences Researcher of the Year five times, received two research excellence awards from the university, and delivered 21 keynote addresses. Mark has co-edited a number of books and is the author of 80 book chapters and 87 journal articles, He is on the editorial board of several international journals, is an honorary professor at The University of Queensland, Australia, and a research associate at the University of Warwick, England.

Improving lifestyles

Prof Rosa du Randt is a former Director of the School of Lifestyle Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences at Nelson Mandela University, who formally retired from the University at the end 2016. She is also a former Director of the Biokinetics and Sport Science Unit in the Department of Human Movement Science. She a qualified Biokineticist and is currently a Research Associate in the Department of Human Movement Science. Her research focus is on growth and motor development with the view to promote health and optimise performance. She has been involved with the DASH research project since its inception in 2014 as researcher and has also taken co-responsibility for the South African side of the project together with Prof Cheryl Walter.

Working together for solutions


Prof Maarten de Wit has defined a completely new field of transdisciplinary research abound the Earth’s “commons” (shared resources) called Earth Stewardship Sciences. It links a range of existing disciplines from sciences through to the humanities, to holistically tackle problems facing the plants, its commons, its people and all cohabitant species. Researchers from a broad range of disciplines from across the country, the bulk of them postgraduate students, are pulled together under the umbrella of the African Earth Observatory Network – Earth Stewardship Science Research Institute (AEON-EDDRI), established by Prof De Wit and his colleagues at Nelson Mandela University.

Contact information
Mrs Debbie Derry
Deputy Director: Communication
Tel: 041 504 3057

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