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Change the world

13/02/2023

Through science we are looking at the future and contributing positively to the protection of our complex natural environment and physical systems for the benefit of all life, including humankind.

It gives us hope for a better world, and what we can achieve.

There are no laws of science that demand poverty, inequality and destruction.

These are human-made phenomena and humans can end them.

The grand challenges that include climate change, environmental and biodiversity degradation, socio-economic and food insecurity and pandemics, require the sciences to work together with the humanities, governments and civil society to find solutions.

As the Faculty of Science at Nelson Mandela University, we strive to address the grand challenges on a national, continental and global scale, with a focus on the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs), the Africa Agenda 2063 and the goals of SA’s Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) White Paper (policy) and its decadal White Paper implementation plan.

To achieve this, we need to be Africa-focused while being globally influential and impactful.

We need to contribute to innovation and knowledge in the industrial revolutions of the 21st century, which include digital transformation and a fleet of new careers and opportunities. Preparing our students for life and the future world of work requires the inclusion of new disciplines and areas of growth, including computational and data sciences.

We also focus on entrepreneurship education and transformation.

Our Faculty of Science anchors transformation in the philosophy of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the sciences, including diverse ideas, fit-for-purpose programmes and demographic diversity in the student and staff composition.

At the same time, all universities need to be engaged in building and nurturing the culture of learning and teaching in our communities from the earliest age, because this is our knowledge pipeline.

We need a seismic shift in the national and provincial educational policy; it calls for a policy that is enabling of a new model for learning and teaching which recognises and nurtures every learner’s potential to achieve in subjects such as maths and science, instead of continuously lowering the pass rates.

We have to do this

If you want to destroy a nation you should attack its education system and if you want to defend your nation you should have a strong culture of education, innovation and

new knowledge generation.

As a faculty, we encourage our students and staff to think radically, away from outdated knowledge and thinking.

Phrases such as ‘this is how it has always been done’ have to give way for new, diverse and inclusive ideas.

In ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’ by American physicist, historian and science philosopher, Thomas S. Kuhn, he explains that the history of science teaches us that major scientific breakthroughs only happen because of radical thinking, away from the norm or traditional scientific thinking.

We are living in very exciting times

Major scientific breakthroughs have happened over the past six years, including the detection of gravitational waves from far away galaxies as a result of black hole and neutron star collisions.

This finding led to a Nobel Prize in 2017. In 2019 the Nobel Prize for physics was awarded “for contributions to our understanding of the evolution of the universe and Earth’s place in the cosmos”.

The Nobel prize for physics 2021 was a joint award to oceanographers and climate modellers Syukuro Manabe and Klaus Hasselmann for “the physical modelling of Earth’s climate, quantifying variability and reliably predicting global warming”.

Their work laid the foundation for the development of current climate models, knowledge of the Earth’s climate and how humanity influences it.

And the Nobel Prize in physics 2022 was awarded jointly to Alain Aspect, John F. Clauser and Anton Zeilinger “for experiments with entangled photons, establishing the violation of Bell inequalities and pioneering quantum information science”.

Their results have cleared the way for new technology based on quantum information.

Looking to the future of science, we have an incredible opportunity on our doorstep with the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), one of the world’s largest science projects, which SA is hosting with other African countries and Australia.

In the same vein, SA and Morocco are participating in international research collaborations such as the Large Hadron Collider (the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator) at CERN in Switzerland and other accelerators around the world.

It is all about advancing the boundaries of human knowledge to understand our universe and push the frontiers of technology and understanding for the benefit of society.

What we need to do now as a country and university sector is to provide the necessary resources to grow the pipeline of postgraduates to participate in finding solutions to the grand challenges.

The good news is that change is entirely within our power.

Contact information
Ms Zandile Mbabela
Media Manager
Tel: 0415042777
Zandile.Mbabela@mandela.ac.za

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