UKZN Scientists make it into the African Academy of Science’s Top 40 List

UKZN Scientists make it into the African Academy of Science’s Top 40 List
Dr Veron Ramsuran and Dr Lenine Liebenberg.Click here for isiZulu version

High impact researchers at KRISP at UKZN’s College of Health Sciences, Dr Veron Ramsuran and honorary senior lecturer, Dr Lenine Liebenberg, have been selected as Fellows of the African Academy of Sciences (AAS).

KRISP (KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform) – which is based at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine - is focused on using NextGen sequencing and bioinformatics to answer scientific questions that are of local, national and international importance.

The 40 early career scientists drawn from 19 countries across the five African regions will receive training and mentorship over a five-year period. Two of the four scientists from South Africa who were selected into this prestigious programme are from UKZN; with the third, Dr Philiswa Nomngongo, being an alumnus of the University.

Ramsuran was ecstatic to receive the news. ‘It was a highly competitive process with more than 300 applicants from around Africa. Only four from South Africa were selected, three of us are/were associated with UKZN. It is extremely commendable to observe how well UKZN did in this highly competitive and prestigious programme,’ he said.

Ramsuran graduated with a PhD from UKZN where he examined host factors associating with the HIV disease. He spent the majority of his PhD in two international laboratories, including the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. After completion of his PhD, he was recruited to join the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard as a postdoctoral research fellow. After completing five years in these institutes, Ramsuran returned to South Africa and to KRISP. He is now a Group Leader at the organisation, Associate Scientist at the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) and a UK Royal Society Future Leader African Independent Research (FLAIR) Fellow. He also has a number of affiliate positions at some of the most prestigious institutes such as the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard as well as the National Institute of Health (NIH), USA.

Ramsuran’s work examined the effect Host Genetics play on HIV and TB. He has a special interest in examining the Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) genes, the epicentre of disease associations across the human genome, as determined by genome wide association studies. His recent work examines the effect of differential HLA expression levels on HIV and TB disease, which was published in Science. He is also interested in factors contributing to the differential HLA expression.

Liebenberg is a scientist at the CAPRISA Mucosal Immunology Laboratory. She is also a Future Leaders – African Independent Researcher (FLAIR) Fellow, a SANTHE Path to Independence Awardee, and primary supervisor to three PhD candidates at UKZN’s College of Health Sciences.

Liebenberg’s combined training in medical virology, microbiology, genetics, and immunology direct the scope of her research in understanding immune responses at the human genital mucosa. She has documented methods to improve genital cell isolation from men and women, methods to facilitate genital cellular immune responses in multicentre studies, and has characterised genital and systemic immune factors that facilitate HIV infection, viral shedding and HIV transmission. Her research has highlighted the role of poor female genital health in enhancing HIV acquisition and focuses on understanding the causes of genital inflammation and the mechanism of its association with HIV acquisition to inform on the design of effective interventions that prevent HIV infection in women. She said, the Affiliateship is an acknowledgment of her research and career efforts, and an investment in her potential to improve public health through research. A mother of two young children, she hopes that this achievement will inspire more women to pursue their passions and continue their careers in science.

Dr Judy Omumbo, AAS - Affiliates and Postdoctoral Programme Manager, said: ‘It is exciting to witness the growing recognition of science in Africa’s development agenda. The continent’s best early career researchers are well placed to develop the research and innovations that will ensure future sustainable lives and economies for Africa’s citizens. The AAS Affiliates Programme is developing a truly pan-African and vibrant community of practice in science for Africa’s policy agenda and we are delighted to see the fifth cohort of AAS Affiliates join over 80 colleagues in this effort.’

Words: MaryAnn Francis

Photographs: Supplied


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Prestigious Wellcome Trust Award for UKZN’s Mental Health Champion

Prestigious Wellcome Trust Award for UKZN’s Mental Health Champion
Dr André J van Rensburg received the prestigious Wellcome Trust Discretionary Award.

Dr André J van Rensburg, a senior researcher in UKZN’s Centre for Rural Health (CRH), joined the ranks of global pre-eminent scientists when he received the prestigious Wellcome Trust Discretionary Award.

The Wellcome Trust is a premier global health funder with a grant portfolio of £4.3 billion.

The award, which is a Research Fellowship in Humanities and Social Sciences, will be used to develop a research programme to investigate health system responses to severe mental illness in community settings.

In applying for the Discretionary Award, Van Rensburg underwent a rigorous, three-stage external peer-review process. His successful application, worth R1 million, includes research support for a year in the CRH under the supervision of renowned mental health researcher and Psychology Professor, Inge Petersen. This will include exploratory research, network-building and participation in the 6th Global Symposium for Health Systems Research in Dubai later this year.

Van Rensburg is a member of Emerging Voices for Global Health, a multi-partner blended training programme for international young researchers, policy-makers, and advocates for equitable health systems in low-to-middle income countries. He is passionate about strengthening systems to address “diseases of poverty” – particularly tuberculosis and mental illness – in low-to-middle income countries; governance and power relations in healthcare structuring; the political economy of health and healthcare; and intersectoral, state and non-state tensions in health systems reform.

An alumnus of Ghent University in Belgium, Van Rensburg has also developed a passion for brewing beer. He is a keen member of the Durban Homebrewers Club, which supports local community organisations during annual charity events.

Words: MaryAnn Francis

Photograph: Supplied


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Clinical Virologist Appointed Head of Department at UKZN

Clinical Virologist Appointed Head of Department at UKZN
Dr Nokukhanya Msomi.

Newly-appointed Head of Virology in the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences at UKZN, Dr Nokukhanya Msomi says she looks forward to pursuing her vision in this new position.

‘I’m fortunate to work in a discipline with a strong foundation laid by previous heads. The dedicated team of virologists I work with also makes my job a little easier as we share a common goal,’ said Msomi whose unit is based at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital.

She aims to take the Virology Discipline to new heights when it comes to research excellence and increase its visibility as the Discipline operates behind the scenes and its function is not well understood by the public. She believes that this will be achieved by forging strong collaborations nationally and internationally.

Msomi has a wealth of experience and training in HIV management and her research has been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Her research on Viral Hepatitis aims to improve diagnostic science by conducting locally responsive and relevant studies on this devastating disease.

Msomi completed her MBChB at the then University of Natal in 1998 and joined the registrar programme at UKZN in 2009 after running a practice as a clinician. She has a Diploma in HIV Management, Fellowship in Pathology and MMed in Virology.

She is currently completing her PhD on the evolution of the Hepatitis B virus and its variants. She is a current NRF grant recipient and previously received the Wellcome Trust scholarship to study viral genomics and bioinformatics at the Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK. She also serves as a member of the World Health Organization (WHO) sanctioned National Certification Committee appointed by the Minister of Health to guide and drive South Africa’s efforts to eradicate polio.

A self-driven, dynamic person with good interpersonal skills, she seamlessly functions as a lecturer, researcher and a service pathologist. She is passionate about mentorship and is an amateur mountain biker.

She said it is encouraging that many institutions are appointing women to leadership positions. ‘Women lead homes and communities, which makes them natural born leaders.’

Words: Lihle Sosibo

Photograph: Supplied


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Isiqengqe Sekhemistri Siklonyeliswe Ngendondo Ephambili

Isiqengqe Sekhemistri Siklonyeliswe Ngendondo Ephambili
UMnu Shabaaz Abdullah uklonyeliswe nge-James Moir Medal ngobuchule bakhe kwikhemistri.Click here for English version

UMnu Shabaaz Abdullah, owenza iziqu zeMastazi kuKhemistri, uklonyeliswe nge-James Moir Medal yi-South African Chemical Institute (i-SACI).

Le ndondo itholwa yisitshudeni sekhemistri esivelele ngonyaka wokwenza i-Honours kuwo wonke amanyuvesi namanyuvesi ezobuchwepheshe eNingizimu Afrika. Umfundi ukwazi ukungenela ngokuthola amamaki angama-75%.

U-Abdullah uphinde waklonyeliswa nge-Bruker SA Chemistry Honours Award emcimbini wemiklomelo i-2019 College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (i-CAES). Yomibili le miklomelo bekungeyokuklomelisa ngokuvelela kwakhe kubafundi bezique ze-Onazi eSikoleni SezeKhemistri NeFiziksikuzo zonke izimpiko zase-UKZN ngowezi-2018. Ucelwe ukuthi azokhuthaza abafundi abenza unyaka wokuqala base-CAES.

U-Abdullah, ophase i-Onazi ngamalengiso, phecelezi i-cum laude, ubecwaninga nge-inorganic chemistry kanti ucwaningo lwakhe belubheke ukusetshenziswa kwama-radiopharmaceuticals. Ucwaningo lwakhe lwe-Master’s lubheka i-Inorganic Medicinal Chemistry, okuzosetshenziswa ocwaningweni ngomdlavuza.

U-Abdullah wafunda eNizamia Islamic School eMgungundlovu, lapho lwaqala khona uthando lwakhe lwesayensi. Loku kwaholela ekutheni agcine enze iziqu zekhemistri. ‘IKhemistri ayigcini ngokuba nosizo ekucwaningeni, imnandi kanti yenza ukuthi abantu bakhulume,’ kusho yena. Ngesikhathi enza iziqu zokuqala, wafunda ukuthi ukwazi ukwenza izinto ezintsha esebenzisa ikhemistri njengemithi yokwelapha nokwaholela ekutheni aqhube izifundo zakhe.

U-Abdullah uthi uthando lwakhe lwesayensi nekhemistri lungenxa kayise.

‘Ubaba ube neqhaza elikhulu empilweni yami,’ kusho yena. ‘Ungifundise ukuthi singenza, sakhe izinto eziningi ngezandla zethu.’

Uma engacwaningi, u-Abdullah uthanda ukubhukuda, ukujima nokuhlala nabangani. Uphila ngesiqubulo esithi: ‘Ukuphela komuntu okufanele uqhudelane naye nguwe uqobo.’

Amagama: ngu-Nicole Chidzawo

Isithombe: nguNtokozo Dladla


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New NRF Rating for UKZN’s Sea Cucumber Expert

New NRF Rating for UKZN’s Sea Cucumber Expert
Emeritus Professor Ahmed Thandar.

Emeritus Professor in the School of Life Sciences, Ahmed Thandar, has received a B2 rating from the National Research Foundation (NRF) - in recognition of his high quality, specialised and widely-cited research.

He said he was elated to be elevated from C2 to B2 level.

Thandar has carved a niche for himself in his work on the taxonomy, biodiversity and biogeography of sea cucumbers. He is the only South African holothuroid (sea cucumber) taxonomist and is one of a handful of experts in his field in the world. Thandar has also explored holothuroid reproductive biology and the reproductive morphology of a marine slug. On his own or in collaboration with colleagues, he has described 78 new taxa to date, including 60 new species, and has four taxa named after him.

Thandar was Professor and Head of the Department of Zoology at the former University of Durban-Westville (now UKZN) for 12 years. He retired in 2002 but continued his research and supervision of students in his role as Emeritus Professor. He joined the then University of Durban-Westville academic staff in 1967, serving on numerous committees including commissions of enquiry, the University Senate and Senex and Council an Exco member. He served on several NRF committees, the Council of the Zoological Society of South Africa, on interview panels for Fulbright Scholarship applicants, and as a reviewer for various journals.

Thandar’s extensive publishing has led to a number of invitations for international research and collaborations. At the invitation of the University of Alberta, he conducted research on apodous sea cucumbers of the North-East Pacific at the Bamfield Marine Station on Vancouver Island in 1993. He also took part in the Flemish-South African Bilateral Cooperation Grant with scientists from two Belgian universities, the University of Cape Town and the University of Durban-Westville.

A former Fulbright Scholar, Thandar attributes much of his success to having had the opportunity to study in the United States. He also conducted research at the Smithsonian Institution on a short-term Visitor Award in 1999. In 2003, he joined an initiative of the United States’ National Science Foundation, which involved 11 holothuroid experts from around the world gathering in Brussels to enhance expertise in taxonomy, resulting in a website on aspidochirotid sea cucumbers, a group of holothuroids exploited for gastronomic, medicinal and other purposes.

In 2014, Thandar was invited by the Universities of Mostaganem and Algeria to conduct seminars on morphological characters used in sea cucumber taxonomy and on integrative taxonomy for students from Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa. He was the recipient of a Golden Lifetime Achievement Award at the 15th International Echinoderm Conference in 2015, and recently received an honourable mention in India’s top weekly newspaper for his description of India’s newest and smallest sea cucumber species.

He has supervised and examined several postgraduate students from various backgrounds and nationalities, and has presented his research at numerous national and international conferences, with over 80 various publications to his name including a textbook on Practical Animal Anatomy. He is currently completing a landmark monographic study of Southern African sea cucumbers accepted for publication by the South African National Biodiversity Institute, and is conducting research on materials received from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied


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High Flyer Joins Med School

High Flyer Joins Med School
Mr Andile Mkhungo is excited to be at Medical School.

Seventeen-year-old Umlazi resident, Mr Andile Mkhungo is excited to have been accepted at UKZN’s Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine.

The young star, who attended Zwelibanzi High School, scored an impressive 92% for Science, 86% for Maths and 81% for English in matric. He was also placed second in the Engen Maths and Science School programme hosted by Mangosuthu University of Technology. The programme provides extra tuition in “gateway” subjects such as Mathematics and Science.

Mkhungo said that his passion for Medicine was kept alive by encouragement received from his mentor, school principal Mr Sbusiso Nkosinathi Maseko, as well as one of his teachers. Study groups also helped him with his academic work.

‘I have always wanted to go to UKZN, so that I can be closer to my sister, who is doing fourth-year Medicine,’ he said.

Mkhungo’s achievements are admirable given his circumstances. He said that he was raised by a single mother who doesn’t have a stable job and that he lives with his mother and younger brother in an informal settlement.

‘My mother is so excited about my achievements and is relieved that if I continue to do well in my studies she will not have to worry about fees as I received a scholarship. She believes that I will become a successful doctor who heals many people.’ 

Mkhungo enjoys studying and reading books. During his spare time, he plays indigenous games. He hopes to qualify as a surgeon one day.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Lihle Sosibo


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Isiqengqe sikaMatikuletsheni Wangowezi-2019 Sikhethe i-UKZN Ukufeza Iphupho Lokuba yi-CA

Isiqengqe sikaMatikuletsheni Wangowezi-2019 Sikhethe i-UKZN Ukufeza Iphupho Lokuba yi-CA
UNks Layla Daniels uphase umatikuletsheni ngamalengiso ezifundweni eziyisikhombisa.Click here for English version

UNks Layla Daniels (one-18), ophase umatikuletsheni ngamalengiso ezifundweni eziyisikhombisa e-Bechet High School e-Sydenham, eThekwini, ubhalise e-UKZN ebhalisela i-Bachelor of Commerce Kwezokuhlelwa Kwamabhuku eZimali ekolishi Lezifundo Zomthetho Nezokuphatha-.

UNks Daniels uthi ukhethe lo mkhakha ngenxa yothando nenjongo. ‘Ngiyazifela ngomkhakha wezezimali, futhi ngifisa ukufunda kabanzi ngawo. Ngikholwa wukuthi ama-CA aneqhaza elimqoka emnothweni wezwe, okuyikho okungenze ngafisa ukuba negalelo kwezezimali, ikakhulukazi uma sibheka isimo somnotho eNingizimu Afrika.’

Ukhethe ukufunda e-UKZN ngoba ingenye yamanyuvesi akleliswe esicongweni ezweni nasemhlabeni ngenxa yegama layo kwezemfundo.

UNks Daniels wengeze ngokuthi nakuba ubunzima umatikuletsheni usizwe wukusebenza ngokuzikhandla nokuhlala esebenza, wakwazi ukubekezela.

‘Ngesikhathi sokuhlolwa, ngasheshe ngenza uhlelo lokufunda, nganamathela kulona. Okumqoka kakhulu, ngabheka amaphepha eminyaka edlule amaningi, kuthi uma ngingenasiqiniseko ngomubuzo othile, ngibuze othisha. Ngonyaka wokufunda umatikuletsheni ngazincisha izinto eziningi ukuze ngezimpelasonto ngibe nethuba lokufunda, kanti kwangisiza kakhulu,’ kusho yena.

‘Ngiyajabula kakhulu ngalesi sahluko sempilo yami, ngikubheke ngamehlo abomvu ukubona impilo yasenyuvesi nokuhlangana nabantu abasha. Ngijahe nokufunda ezingeni lemfundo ephakeme, ngibe yingxenye yoshintsho emhlabeni,’ kwengeza yena.

Amagama: uLungile Ngubelanga

Isithombe: Sithunyelwe


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Medical Students Present their Innovative Solution to International Experts in Geneva

Medical Students Present their Innovative Solution to International Experts in Geneva
Mr Kapil Narain (left) and Mr Mohamed Suleman presenting their work in Geneva.

Medical Students, Mr Kapil Narain (final-year) and Mr Mohamed Hoosen Suleman (second-year), were selected by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to present their strategic intervention to tackle Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) to an international panel of experts.

Their proposed strategy was selected as one of 10 global winning solutions at an innovation challenge (Innovate 4 AMR). A diverse panel of scientists from various fields such as Public Health, Infectious Diseases, Epidemiology, Behavioural Scientists, Communication Experts, and Implementation Strategists listened to their solution and provided feedback on how to further refine and possibly implement their proposal.

The aspirant doctors have made great strides in their academic careers and are committed to improving health systems and policies. 

‘Mohamed and I are fortunate to have been given such a prestigious opportunity to present at an international platform. Being recognised by such global giants in health care is something to be proud of. Meeting and engaging with leading experts in the field of Public Health was an exhilarating experience,’ said Narain, who initiated the idea and discovered the competition.

The two, who also presented their intervention at the Conference on Antibiotic Stewardship and Conservation in Africa, are developing an App to improve patient compliance with medication.

Suleman, who previously received his degree in Pharmacy summa cum laude from UKZN explained, ‘Non-compliance with medication is a significant contributor to Antimicrobial Resistance. Kapil and I designed an innovative approach using cell phone-based technology to send automated reminders via text messages to patients to take their medication on time.’

This system caters for each patient, with reminders sent at specific times with instructions on how to take their medication, as per their prescription.

While in Geneva, Narain and Suleman visited the WHO Headquarters where they were briefed on how high-level meetings are convened for member states from around the world to discuss health issues. They visited the WHO Emergency Operations Room where all emergency outbreaks across the globe are monitored. Access to this room is limited as vital and sensitive information regarding health matters in every country is displayed on the screens.

Narain and Suleman were also granted an audience with the WHO Assistant Director General, Dr Hanan Balkhy - who congratulated them on their outstanding work and expressed satisfaction at knowing that there are passionate youth determined to find solutions to the growing global health challenges.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Supplied


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UKZN hosts Successful 2020 Parents’ Day

UKZN hosts Successful 2020 Parents’ Day
Highlights from the UKZN Parents’ Day 2020.

UKZN’s 2020 Parents’ Day on its five campuses was a resounding success. This annual event is a platform for University staff to engage with parents and share useful information pertaining to the support that will be given to their children during their stay at UKZN. Parents are also informed about various scholarship packages and funding options.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities, Professor Nhlanhla Mkhize said, ‘Degrees in the Humanities, Education and Social and Applied Sciences that are offered in this College remain relevant in the 21st century and in the age of automation and the fourth industrial revolution. The Humanities are predicted to give students robust human, social and cultural skills that are not easily replaceable, at least in the short to medium term, by machine learning.’

Funding, registration and housing were some of the key areas discussed at this year’s College of Law and Management Studies Parents’ Day. The College welcomed hundreds of parents who were keen to know how their children will be supported during their studies at UKZN.

The Dean and Heads of Schools informed parents about academic delivery and support available to students. University management assured parents of UKZN’s commitment to teaching and learning despite the challenges facing Higher Education, while representatives from Student Funding and Housing addressed queries in relation to financial and accommodation issues.

‘One of the College of Health Science’s core drivers is excellence and as such, first-year students will be exposed to innovative teaching and learning methodologies and novel research studies that will adequately capacitate them with the skills required in their respective professions,’ said Professor Busisiwe Ncama, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of College.

‘This is enabled through a newly transformed curriculum focusing on primary healthcare in decentralised clinical training sites across the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Part of the planning of this programmes includes a joint partnership with the provincial Department of Health and an overall investment by the College of R77 million in the refurbishment of new residences in the hospital sites, Wi-Fi connectivity, leasing and purchasing of transport, employment of staff, new clinical skills laboratories and building new lecture venues.’

Among parents and eager first-year students at the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science Parents’ Day on the Howard College campus were Ricky and Pam Narainsamy with their son, Kiran, who registered for a degree in Computer Engineering following a 97% result for Information Technology in matric, and due to his passion for the field of Artificial Intelligence. The Narainsamys chose UKZN because of its excellent reputation for Engineering studies as well as its proximity to their home in Tongaat.

Dean of the School of Engineering, Professor Glen Bright, assured the new cohort of parents that their children were in good hands and would receive the best education possible as UKZN’s School of Engineering is currently ranked number one in South Africa.

Science students on the Pietermaritzburg and Westville campuses received an equally warm welcome.

Words: Ndabaonline

Photographs: Sethu Dlamini and Rajesh Jantilal


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Comrades Runner Supports Children Living with Cancer

Comrades Runner Supports Children Living with Cancer
Dr Kumaran Moodley preparing for Comrades 2020.

Dr Kumaran Moodley, a Specialist Pediatrician at Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital, Honorary Clinical Associate at the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine, and member of the Child Health Priorities Committee will run the 2020 Comrades Marathon to raise funds for the Childhood Cancer Foundation (CHOC). The non-profit organisation supports children and teenagers diagnosed with cancer or life threatening blood disorders, as well as their families.

‘Road running has been a hobby of mine for the past two years. I consider it “meditation in motion”. This marathon is the ultimate ultra-distance race in South Africa and I decided to use my first Comrades to raise funds for CHOC,’ said Moodley.

His first exposure to CHOC was during his paediatric training as a registrar in Haematology at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital where he witnessed firsthand the amazing help and support this organisation provided to children and their families. 

In 2018, Moodley’s father was diagnosed with cancer, which meant surgery as well as chemotherapy. This drove home the stress that such a diagnosis causes to the patient as well as their family

Moodley has already raised R46 300 and hopes to increase it to R50 000 by the end of May. Donations towards this cause can be made through Moodley’s comrades page at https://secure.onreg.com/onreg2/personal/profile.php?eventid=4737&recordid=5469

Words: Lihle Sosibo

Photograph: Supplied


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Swiss-South Africa Collaboration Develops a Novel Method to Detect Bending of Light in the Universe

Swiss-South Africa Collaboration Develops a Novel Method to Detect Bending of Light in the Universe
Professor Kavilan Moodley (left) and Mr Warren Naidoo.

A new method to measure the effect of gravity on the propagation of light in the Universe proposed in a collaborative project led by cosmologists from UKZN and the University of Geneva (UNIGE), has resulted in an academic article being published in the prestigious academic journal, Physical Review Letters. The research collaboration was supported by a bilateral grant for a Joint Swiss-South Africa Research Project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and the South African National Research Foundation. This innovative method combines radio intensity surveys and observations of distant galaxies. It represents one more step to test Einstein’s predictions on cosmic scales.

Professor Kavilan Moodley and master’s student, Mr Warren Naidoo from UKZN’s Astrophysics Research Centre, are the South African cosmologists who worked on this exciting research and co-authored the academic article.

The Swiss-South African research team conducted a survey to investigate an interesting application of UKZN’s HIRAX telescope to contribute to measuring the lensing signal and provide constraints on dark energy and modified gravity in an alternative way. This project further strengthened the Swiss-SA collaborative partnership. The work demonstrates a new method to measure the gravitational lensing effect in the Universe, which is vastly superior to the conventional method obtained from galaxy counts.

‘Gravitational lensing occurs when light rays from distant objects are deflected by a large mass distribution along the line of sight, creating a magnifying effect. We can therefore use it as a powerful tool to observe distant and faint galaxies in our universe. This lensing effect also traces the large-scale structure of the universe and therefore, high precision measurements of this signal can greatly improve our knowledge of dark energy and modified gravity,’ explained Moodley.

‘This study also shows the capability of the HIRAX experiment to provide high level measurements which can be used in combination with other planned large scale structure surveys to provide various interesting cosmological applications. Showing that this new estimator performs much better than existing conventional studies is one of the highlights of this research. It was particularly exciting to demonstrate how the HIRAX experiment can contribute to the work being done by various teams around the world, providing new information about our universe,’ added Naidoo.

Speaking about the prospects for this work, he said: ‘We are now working to predict how well this methodology will allow us to test General Relativity and alternative theories of gravity. We now have to prepare to be able to apply this method to future surveys in which our group is involved: UKZN’s HIRAX radio telescope and the European satellite Euclid,’ said Martin Kunz, professor in the Department of Theoretical Physics at UNIGE.

Words: Strini Rajgopaul

Photographs: Supplied


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I-DHET Inxuse Abasebenzi Nabafundi Ukuba Banakekele iMpilo neMpilonhle yabo

I-DHET Inxuse Abasebenzi Nabafundi Ukuba Banakekele iMpilo neMpilonhle yabo
I-Higher Health ikhuthaza izisebenzi nezitshudeni ukuthi zinakekele impilo yazo.

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I-Higher Education and Training Health, Wellness and Development Centre, eyaziwa nge-Higher Health, inxuse abasebenzi nabafundi, ikakhulukazi abenza unyaka wokuqala, ukuba banakekele impilo nempilonhle yabo.

Esitatimendeni esithunyelwe kuwo wonke amanyuvesi kahulumeni nasema-TVET, isiKhulu esiPhezulu se-Higher Health uDkt Ramneek Ahluwalia sithe injongo yehhovisi labo ‘ukugqugquzela impumelelo ngokuphucula ezempilo zabafundi kuwo wonke amanyuvesi kahulumeni nasema-TVET’.

‘Ukukhula kwengane ibe umuntu omdala akulula, ngakho abafundi kufanele bakwazi ukubhekana nalolu shintsho, bakwazi ukubhekana nezinselelo zabo, ezingabangwa yisimo somnotho. Njengomfundi oqala ukufunda enyuvesi noma ekolishi, uthola inkululeko namathuba ongakaze ube nawo kodwa futhi unejoka ongakaze ulithwale. Ubumnandi benkululeko nejoka lomsebenzi okuhlalele kungaphazamisa impilo yakho ngaleso sikhathi noma impilo yakho yonke,’ kusho u-Ahluwalia.

I-Higher Health izobheka izindawo ezimqoka eziyisikhombisa eziqondene nabantu abasha ababhekene nenselelo yokuzithuthukisa bona, kwezemfundo nasemsebenzini okubalwa ukuHlukumezeka ngokoBulili, ezeNgqondo; i-HIV/ TB/ iZifo eziThelelana ngokoCansi (i-STI), ezokuKhulelwa okungaHleliwe eNtsheni; ukuGwema ubuDakwa nokuDla iziDakamizwa; ukungacwasi i-LGBTQI nokuFundisa ngokuKhubazeka.

U-Ahluwalia uthe: ‘Siyaninxusa bafundi ukuthi ninakekele impilo nempilonhle yenu ngokwazi ukuthi ningasizakala kuphi emabaleni esikole nezinhlelo zezempilo ezikhona emagcekeni esikole.’

Wengeze ngokuthi kulezi zinto kukhona okulandelayo:

• Uhlelo lokufundisana kontanga, izingxoxo, izinkulumompikiswano, izithangami zengxoxo, njll ;

• Ukuzihlola nokubheka ingozi yezinto ezithinta i-GBV/ izinkinga zokuphila ngokwengqondo/ i-HIV/ i-TB/ i-STI nokukhulelwa okungahleliwe;

• Izinhlelo zezempilo nempilonhle ezisakazwa eziteshini zomsakazo zasenyuvesi nezomphakathi;

• Ukubamba iqhaza ohlelweni lwe-First Things First, lapho izinhlelo zokuhlola zitholakala kalula khona. 

Ukuthola eminye iminingwane ngalezi zinto ezimqoka eziyisikhombisa, ungangena kule-link.

Amagama: uSithembile Shabangu

Isithombe: i-Shutterstock


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Computer Science Master’s Students Excel at Artificial Intelligence Conference

Computer Science Master’s Students Excel at Artificial Intelligence Conference
The UKZN students and lecturers at FAIR2019, from left: Mr Muhammad Ikram; Mr Yasar Abbas; Ms Cherisse Govender; Computer Science lecturer, Mr Edgar Jembere; Mr Asad Jeewa; Ms Yuvika Singh; Information Systems lecturer, Ms Sue Price; Ms Lisa Dayaram; Ms Nirvana Pillay; Mr Shuaib Gilani and Mr Bradley Pillay.

Ten Computer Science master’s students at UKZN presented their work at an Artificial Intelligence (AI) conference in Cape Town recently.

The full papers, work in progress presentations, and posters were well received and the conference was a good opportunity to interact with peers and local and international experts.

The Forum for Artificial Intelligence Research was the inaugural conference of the Centre for Artificial Intelligence Research (CAIR). The CAIR is a South African research centre that conducts foundational, directed and applied research into various aspects of AI and supports collaboration among tertiary institutions working in this field. The Discipline of Computer Science at UKZN is one of several nodes in the CAIR network. The CAIR is supported by the South African Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and is hosted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). 

The primary aim of the conference was to bring together researchers, scholars and industry participants to exchange and share their experiences and latest research results in all aspects of AI. Keynote addresses were presented by, among others, Professor Adnan Darwiche, former Chair of the Computer Science Department at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Professor Andries Engelbrecht, Voigt Chair in Data Science at Stellenbosch University.

Words: Anban Pillay

Photograph: Supplied


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Civil Engineering Lecturer Visits German University on Gambrinus Fellowship

Civil Engineering Lecturer Visits German University on Gambrinus Fellowship
Dr Benedict Olalusi (second from left) with Mr Til Lux, Professor Panos Spyridis, Mr Lars Walter, Mr Nikolaos Mellios, and Dr Konstantinos Mitroulis, the team he worked with at TU Dortmund.

Dr Oladimeji Benedict Olalusi, a researcher and lecturer in Civil Engineering, recently spent time at the Technical University of Dortmund (TU) in Germany on the institution’s 2019 Gambrinus Fellowship.

The fellowship is awarded to renowned international academics who visit TU Dortmund as guest professors to enhance co-operation in teaching and research. Olalusi is one of the youngest academics to have received it.

Olalusi was based at the university for three months as a guest professor and spent time with Junior Professor of Fastening Technology, Panos Spyridis, who nominated him for the fellowship.

‘It was a great honour to receive such a prestigious award, especially at this early stage of my career, and I consider this a great accomplishment,’ he said.

Olalusi contributed to research and teaching activities, presented a university-wide lecture, and engaged with students to share experiences and enhance co-operation between TU Dortmund and UKZN. The lecture, which was well received by staff and students, focused on the safety performance of stirrup reinforced concrete beams designed according to the Eurocode 2 shear design provisions. Olalusi noted that his presentation confirmed most of his listeners’ reservations about the European Design Standards, especially when used in practice.

During the visit, he and Spyridis conducted various studies on concrete fasteners and the application of machine learning and developed a research proposal on the probabilistic assessment and calibration of a fastening design method, which will be submitted as a grant application to Germany’s national research foundation.

Olalusi and Spyridis also contributed to curriculum content for a course on performance-based design which will be jointly presented at TU Dortmund in the second semester of 2020. They visited Spyridis’ collaborators at City University of London in the United Kingdom and were given a tour of their state-of-the-art wind laboratory. They also attended a leading international event for innovation and technology in the built environment known as “digital construction week”, and visited the expansion and modernisation project of the London Underground’s Bank Station, which Spyridis has worked on, enjoying the unique opportunity to walk the huge construction site for the new tunnel system under the heart of the city.

Spyridis and Olalusi also developed timelines for several forthcoming joint publications.

The visit was a wonderful opportunity for Olalusi to promote collaboration and co-operation in teaching, research, student and staff exchange between TU and UKZN, and resulted in several studies on fastening to concrete, exploration of new research areas and the establishment of collaborative efforts between researchers in South Africa, Greece, Germany and the UK.

Olalusi joined UKZN in August 2019. His research focuses on the design of fasteners for use in concrete. With colleagues, he is working on the structural reliability performance of the available design models, Finite Element Modelling of its structural behaviour and response under different conditions, and the application of Artificial Intelligence to predict failures in fastening systems.

‘The fastening system is an intrinsic component of vital structures and infrastructure systems that are necessary for our regular lives and paramount to our society,’ he explained, adding that these systems aim to ensure safe and stable structures.

Olalusi’s PhD research at Stellenbosch University, focused on structural reliability and risk analysis. His professional experience includes more than five years in Civil Engineering, risk consulting and structural software development.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied


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First Genomic Data Carpentry Workshop in Africa

First Genomic Data Carpentry Workshop in Africa
Delegates at the first Genomics Data Carpentry workshop in Africa.

UKZN hosted the first Genomics Data Carpentry workshop in Africa from 2-3 December 2019.

The institution’s Big Data and Informatics Research Flagship as well as the SARCHI Chair in Quantum Information Processing and Communication (Quantum Research Group) supported the event, which saw a great turnout of predominately postgraduate research students.

The Carpentries is an open-source group that aims to capacitate academics and students that lack the data and software science skills required in the information age of the fourth industrial revolution. The UKZN Big Data and Informatics research flagship shares this objective, and UKZN has hosted numerous data science workshops using the carpentries curriculum.

The Genomic data workshop curriculum covers:

•    Project management using open source spreadsheet

•    Introduction to Shell

•    Introduction to cloud and data wrangling using Shell scripts to access and manipulate genomics data over the Amazon AWS cloud server.

The lessons are novice-friendly and engage participants in hands-on practical sessions.

The event was opened by lead instructor, Dr Moses Okpeku of the Discipline of Genetics, School of Life Sciences at UKZN. The UKZN team consisted of Dr Matthew Adeleke, lecturer in the Discipline of Genetics, School of Life Sciences; Dr Solomon Uriri, postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of Chemistry and Physics; Mr Tadiwanshe Gutsa, MSc student in Civil Engineering, School of Engineering; Ms Oluwafisayo Kaka, MSc Student in Information Systems and Technology, School of Management, IT and Governance; Mr Ayodeji Ogunde, PhD student in Civil Engineering, School of Engineering; and Ms Thembelihle Luthuli, PhD student in Population Studies in the School of Built Environment and Development Studies.

The project management lesson used Excel, a common tool employed by academics. This was followed by shell lessons on the Amazon AWS cloud server which most delegates had not used previously. The session utilised about 21 Shell commands, reused consistently to encourage familiarity. Each lesson started off with a discussion to familiarise delegates with the tools and build their confidence.

In his closing address, Big Data and Informatics Pro Vice-Chancellor and Head of the UKZN Quantum Research Group, Professor Francesco Petruccione, encouraged delegates to actively improve their data science skills as Africa suffers a shortage of skilled people to fulfil the requirements of the Information Age. Further workshops are planned for 2020.

Words: Oluwafisayo Kaka

Photograph: Supplied


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Ernest Dawkins to Perform at the Centre for Jazz and Popular Music

Ernest Dawkins to Perform at the Centre for Jazz and Popular Music
Saxophonist and an Emmy Award composer Ernest Dawkins.

The Centre for Jazz and Popular Music welcomes back Ernest Dawkins on Wednesday 12 February 2020 at 18h00.

Dawkins who hails from the US, is one of the world’s premiere saxophonists and an Emmy Award composer - whose life goal is for his music and compositions to reflect the evolving collective cultural memory of the African American jazz aesthetic. He is the Chairperson of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) and Executive Director of Live the Spirit Residency. 

Dawkins is currently in residence at the Rebuild Foundation, directing the AACM’s Great Black Music Ensemble the first Sunday of every month at the Stony Island Arts Bank. Since 2014, he has had a standing engagement every Sunday at Norman’s Bistro in Chicago and these sessions have become legendary. He is a recipient of the Joyce Award and McArthur International Connections grant in partnership with the Old Town School of Folk Music and Live the Spirit Residency. He composed and presented an original composition titled: Quantum Englewood, and music for the Englewood to Soweto Exchange.

He is the leader and founder of several ensembles, most notably the New Horizons Ensemble, Aesop Quartet, Chicago Trio, Live the Spirit Big Band, the Boglifier, Englewood to Soweto Exchange, and the Chicago 12. Dawkins has recorded numerous CDs and his publishing company, Dawk Music, has 12 releases to date.

Join Ernest Dawkins (saxophone) with Neil Gonsalves on piano, Dalisu Ndlazi on bass, and Stanley Motlou on drums at the Centre for Jazz and Popular Music, Level 2, Shepstone Building at UKZN’s Howard College campus on Wednesday 12 February 2020 at 18h00. Doors open at 17h30. R90 for general admission // R60 pensioners // R30 for students. Contact Thuli on 031 260 3385 or email Zamat1@ukzn.ac.za for more details.

Words: Thuli Zama

Photographs: Supplied


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Arts Academic Launches New Book

Arts Academic Launches New Book
Professor Sihawukele Ngubane with his book, Building Capacity for Sustainable Academic and Non-Fiction Authorship in Africa.

African Languages lecturer, Professor Sihawukele Ngubane, is the editor of Building Capacity for Sustainable Academic and Non-Fiction Authorship in Africa published by the Uganda Textbook-Academic and Non-Fiction Authors Association.

The anthology consists of 19 chapters, which are based on papers presented at the 4th Pan African Writers Symposium (PAWS) held in Uganda on the theme: Building Capacity for Academic and Non-Fiction Authorship in Africa. Ngubane contributed a chapter on, Implications of contrast between orality and writing in Africa. He was also elected Chairperson of PAWS.

‘This means a lot to me as a writer of academic and non-fiction books and a person who has a passion for the book industry and creation of knowledge and information that is relevant to Africa. Building capacity for academic and non-fiction authors is necessary, especially for young and upcoming authors to develop writing skills and make a living through books,’ he said.

Ngubane believes the book is relevant to academics who want to grow their careers in academia, enhance their writing skills, and debate issues pertaining to languages, literacy, publishing contracts and copyright. ‘It also promotes the culture of reading other people’s works to enhance their own and sharing information and knowledge,’ he added.

The book can be purchased from Professor Ngubane via email ngubanes@ukzn.ac.za

Words and photograph: Melissa Mungroo


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SAEF Hosts Successful Annual Research Day

SAEF Hosts Successful Annual Research Day
Academics from the School of Accounting, Economics and Finance at Research Day.

UKZN’s School of Accounting, Economics and Finance (SAEF) began the 2020 academic year on a high note when it hosted its annual Research Day in partnership with the Research Office at the College of Law and Management Studies.

The event is a strategic initiative aimed at contributing to increased research output within the School.

In his welcome address, Academic Leader: Higher Degrees and Research, Professor Josue Mbonigaba, explained that the School adopted Research Day in line with the University’s mandate to drive research excellence.

The day’s proceedings began with a plenary session with two presentations by School academics, Dr Abdulkader Cassim Mahomedy who broke down the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and Mr Shaun Mowat who spoke on the importance of cultural ecosystem services to a rural southern community.

The remainder of the day was devoted to parallel sessions which featured 39 presentations consisting of mainly collaborative research among academic staff and PhD candidates covering a broad range of topics in accounting, economics, finance and education, including health, environmental and business matters.

Dean and Head of School, Professor Mabutho Sibanda, commended the organising committee for working tirelessly to make the day a success. He also thanked Professor Colette Muller who was the brains behind the School’s adoption of Research Day in 2012.

‘The School has made great strides since the inception of Research Day. The main goal now is to turn all the presentations into publications and, as a School, work towards meeting the University’s publication target,’ said Sibanda.

He also congratulated Professor Paul-Francois Muzindutsi, Associate Professor at the School, who was among UKZN’s Top 30 Researchers in 2019. Muzindutsi was also placed third in the Top 10 Young Researchers.

Words and Photograph: Lungile Ngubelanga


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Academic Presents Paper at Global Conference

Academic Presents Paper at Global Conference
Professor Yousuf Vawda.

Senior Research Associate in the School of Law, Professor Yousuf Vawda, presented a paper at the Global Forum on Intellectual Property, Access to Medicines and Innovation organised by the South Centre and the Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition in Munich, Germany during December 2019.

The forum brought together renowned academics and policy experts from around the globe, as well as policy makers and members of the judiciary from developing countries to find solutions to making medicines more affordable and accessible.

One of the key mechanisms to achieve this is for governments to grant a compulsory licence to enable competitors to enter the market.

Vawda’s paper on, Compulsory Licences and Government Use: Challenges and Opportunities, examined the background, origins and conceptual roots of such licences; limited use of this mechanism; and compared the situation in two southern African countries (Zimbabwe which has granted compulsory licenses, and South Africa that has not). It also identified key challenges and opportunities in adopting this policy option or a more flexible approach.

‘This was a productive and stimulating forum, with experts leading discussions on a range of options permissible under international law to mitigate the effects of patent monopolies, and enable access to medicines at affordable prices,’ said Vawda. ‘Such debates are important at a time when South Africa is in the process of drafting intellectual property legislation in line with its new IP policy focused on public health, a process in which UKZN-affiliated academics have made substantial inputs over the past few years.’

Other topics discussed at the forum included reflections on the diversity of patenting systems despite global harmonisation under the rules of the World Trade Organisation; the role of judges and the enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) through interdicts; new models for research and development of medicines that address the needs of the developing world; and the inclusion of IPRs in trade agreements and their impact on access to medicines.

The two-day conference was hailed as marking the beginning of an important partnership between the intergovernmental organisation, the South Centre and the Max Planck Institute, as well as collaboration among leading academics and policy makers.

Words: Lungile Ngubelanga

Photograph: Supplied


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Virology Lecturer Appointed Associate Professor

Virology Lecturer Appointed Associate Professor
Professor Raveen Parboosing appointed Associate Professor.

Pathologist, Professor Raveen Parboosing of the Discipline of Virology in the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences, has been appointed Associate Professor.

‘I am passionate about discovering innovative ways to treat viral infections,’ said Parboosing. ‘My aim is to use my appointment to facilitate and strengthen research collaborations, locally and internationally and to increase the research productivity of this Discipline.’ His research interests lie in Clinical Virology, Viral Epidemiology, HIV drug discovery and Nanotechnology.

He expressed his thanks to the staff, students and leadership of the Department of Virology, especially Dr Pravi Moodley, and the current HOD, Dr Nokukhanya Msomi.

Parboosing holds an MBChB (University of Natal), FC Path (SA) Clinical Virology (CMSA), Ordinary Certificate in Statistics (with distinction) – Royal Statistical Society (United Kingdom), MMed (Virology) – UKZN, Master of Science (Epidemiology) – Columbia University and PhD (UKZN).

He joined the UKZN Registrar programme in 1999 and has lectured at the University for more than 20 years.

Parboosing enjoys reading medical fiction and spending time with his daughter Aryana and wife, Dr Nerisha Tathiah, who is a Public Health Medicine Specialist. 

Words: Lihle Sosibo

Photograph: Supplied


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Medical Student Inaugural Recipient of Prestigious Medical Award

Medical Student Inaugural Recipient of Prestigious Medical Award
Mr Kapil Narain during his tour of universities in the UK.

Final-year Medical student, Mr Kapil Narain, was honoured with the inaugural Rising Star Award by the South African Clinician Scientists’ Society and the Clinix Health Group. The annual South African Health Excellence Awards recognise the country’s leading researchers, scientists, doctors and other medical professionals.

The Rising Star award is bestowed on a Medical student who has distinguished him or herself academically, through research, or made an important contribution to society. This individual must be exemplary, and a role model to their peers, with evident talent and potential in academia, research, service or leadership.

‘The awards celebrate excellence in healthcare by identifying leaders in a range of categories who have contributed to research, teaching and advancement of medicine in South Africa,’ said Clinix Health Group CEO, Dr Khamane Matseke.

The process involved nominations from the medical fraternity, business and the public at large. Shortlisted nominees were screened through a rigorous adjudication process by a panel consisting of seven renowned academics from across the country including a chancellor, two medical schools deans, two tertiary hospitals deans, a president of a national specialists’ society, and a surgery head of department.

South African Clinicians’ Society President, Professor Salome Maswime, said: ‘We launched the South African Health Excellence Awards in 2018 because we felt there is a need to acknowledge the talent and accomplishments of doctors and other clinicians in South Africa. We find that many people are doing such amazing work in improving healthcare and also doing ground-breaking research, however, there aren’t enough platforms to celebrate the excellence that we see.’

During his time as an undergraduate Medical student, Narain has published papers in international peer-reviewed journals on HIV, TB and surgery. He is currently the principal investigator in a study on depression among medical students and has led several delegations to international and national conferences on global health.

Cognisant of the looming public health threat of antimicrobial resistance, Narain is the founder and team leader of “Pill-Alert” – an App to improve patient adherence to medication which would reduce the burden of this epidemic. His idea was selected as one of the top 10 solutions globally in an innovation challenge. He and teammate, Mr Mohamed Hoosen Suleman, presented the app to an expert committee of World Health Organization members in Geneva, at the end of 2019.

‘I am humbled and honoured to have received this prestigious award. This is testimony to my dedication and passion for academia, medicine and patients. If anything, I am even more inspired to intensify my academic, leadership and community endeavours in order to assist humanity,’ said Narain.

Narain also received the prestigious Abe-Bailey Award and contributed to high level discussions at the African Union and United Nations Economy Commission for Africa in Ethiopia. He spent three weeks in the United Kingdom participating in debates and discussions and visiting leading global universities including University College London, Imperial College, Winchester, Oxford, Cambridge and Edinburgh.

Words: MaryAnn Francis

Photograph: Supplied


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UKZN Students Win Top Architectural Awards

UKZN Students Win Top Architectural Awards
From left: Mr Juan Solis (UKZN), Mr Lawrence Ogunsanya (UKZN), winner Mr Siyabonga Khuzwayo and Mr Chris Mungle (Corobrik Sales Manager, eThekwini).

Architecture student, Mr Siyabonga Khuzwayo, was named winner of the Corobrik Regional Architecture Award.

He received R10 000 in prize-money, with master’s student, Mr Kireshen Chetty, taking the second prize of R8 000, and Mr Mthokozisi Sibisi receiving R6 000 for third place. A further R6 000 was awarded to Mr Mbuso Msipho for the innovative use of clay masonry in his building design.

Khuzwayo is one of eight young architects from top South African universities to receive a Corobrik Regional Architecture Award in recognition of their design talent and innovation throughout 2019. In addition to the cash prize, the regional competition winners will compete for the National Architectural Student of the Year Award which carries a R70 000 prize. The winner will be announced in Johannesburg on 6 May 2020.

Khuzwayo’s winning design is entitled, Exploring the Influence of Traditional Healing Practice to Space and Form: A Design Towards a Traditional Healing Centre in KZN. He focused on deciphering the notion of traditional healing to determine how architectural design can become a medium to promote this practice.

‘This will change the negative connotations associated with traditional healing and African indigenous values, cultures and beliefs. The aim was to design a building typology that will provide a platform for traditional healers to network, transfer skills, and engage with the general public,’ he said.

Chetty’s research focused on fashion and social change as a catalyst for architectural design with a proposed fashion innovation centre in Clairwood, Durban. Within the context of globalising urban cities, he investigated and explored means and methods of cultural integration through the commonality of fashion.

‘A collaboration of science, fashion, architecture and art is used to combat the repercussions and wounds inflicted by apartheid and post-apartheid, mainly segregation and xenophobia. The proposed fashion innovation centre is self-sustainable and promotes skills development and regeneration within the community,’ he said.

Sibisi’s project, entitled: Beyond the Landfill: A Design of a Socially Inclusive Recycling Collection Centre in Bisasar Road Informal Settlements, Durban, involves a recycling collection centre with a buy-back facility as its primary functions and educational, social and business elements as supporting secondary functions. It is envisaged that the centre would generate income for people working at the facility.

Msipho’s project was on Identity and Memory as a generator of Architecture.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph supplied by Corobrik


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