Building a Research Profile - Tips and Tales from an Expert
Seasoned UKZN researcher Professor Deresh Ramjugernath spoke to staff and postgraduate students at the College of Health Sciences on how to build an impressive research profile.
Ramjugernath (41), who was recently appointed into the new position of Pro-Vice-Chancellor: Innovation, Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship, is also the DST/NRF South African Research Chair for Fluorine Process Engineering and Separation Technology, and Director of UKZN’s Thermodynamics Research Unit.
He leads a team of postgraduate students and researchers which is generally regarded as one of the leading research teams in its field globally. The group undertakes cutting-edge research which contributes towards chemical process development and optimisation in South Africa and abroad.
A pre-eminent scientist in the field of chemical engineering and specifically in thermodynamics, Ramjugernath became a full Professor aged 31. He said achieving his full professorship at that young age was the result of ‘having a passion and a drive coupled with a reasonable intellect to achieve’.
Ramjugernath said modern universities needed to make a major impact on society and that had been the motivation for UKZN to create his new position. The post would entail packaging products that UKZN produces for commercial use to benefit the country. In this way, the University as an institution of higher learning, would be able to assess the impact it was making on society rather than just publishing research to comply with performance management goals or for the sake of publishing.
He said research should uplift the lives of all South Africans. ‘True sustainable growth and social upliftment in South Africa are only possible by moving our economy to a knowledge-based one. This we can achieve by generating high quality research and the application of commercialisation of intellectual property which is the key to moving us to a knowledge economy.’
He encouraged the audience to examine their own reasons for pursuing research. ‘Research must be your passion. Being a researcher is not a job but a calling…something that doesn’t keep office hours. Your success depends on having this mindset. At an early age develop a plan of what you hope to achieve in your career over the next five, 10 and 15 years. Lastly, pursue your plan with strong self-belief and determination.’
Ramjugernath encouraged the audience to promote a research culture in their environment and to use every opportunity during teaching to incorporate research into the programme. ‘Create the passion, research must be exciting.’
He said he was happy that the College of Health Sciences provided a platform for young researchers to share their passion for research through its annual College Research Symposium.
‘A successful researcher is one with an unwavering total belief in their abilities, who is self-motivated with the capacity to rebound after failure. They must also have the determination to succeed, multi-task and make things happen, make personal sacrifices and most importantly have passion, passion and more passion.’
* Ramjugernath has published more than 350 papers, five chapters in books and developed five patents. He has also graduated over 75 masters and PhD students and is currently supervising or co-supervising more than 30 postgraduate and post-doctoral students. Ramjugernath is passionate about human capacity development and is a strong believer in a collaborative approach to research capacity development. In this regard he has had a number of research bi-lateral agreements for the exchange and the training of students and researchers with research groups based in many countries, including Germany, the United States of America, Canada, Sweden, United Kingdom, Poland, France, and the Czech Republic. He has also received several national and international awards.
- MaryAnn Francis