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Past Women in Science Award winners

Written by Sulaiman Philip

Women's Month

The Women in Science Awards aim to inspire other women (and men) to scientific curiosity and research excellence.

Dr Christina Thobakgale (on left) was part of UKZN's pioneering HIV research team. (Image UKZN)As Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor pointed out at the 2016 Women in Science Awards: “The awards are a celebration of the achievements of women in science and a reminder that we will not realise the full scientific potential of our country until all our young scientists are able to enjoy access to the best facilities in education.”

Through the awards, the Department of Science and Technology creates role-models for young women to look up to and follow into a career in sciences.

Meet four women who have been honoured.

2014 winner Distinguished Woman Scientist (Natural Sciences and Engineering) Award: Professor Priscilla Baker.

Professor Baker teaches chemistry at the University of the Western Cape and is co-leader of the electrochemistry research group, SensorLab. She has published in international journals and co-authored books but, as she pointed out after winning her award, the favourite part of her career is teaching.

“Developing human potential - seeing students grow from not believing they can do it to seriously achieving, seeing them master new skills and endure the discipline of post-graduate training, that's what really gets me excited. Every year of teaching is different, and so is every student.”

2016 runner up Distinguished Young Women Researchers category for humanities and social sciences: Professor Marianne Matthee.

Professor Matthee is recognised for her work to improve the International Trade Programme curriculum at North West University. Thanks, in part to her work, the number of students choosing to study international trade relations and international trade finance has grown.

“My research focus includes firm-level exports and I was also recently the only female team leader in the initial round of research projects investigating new data from firms by the United Nations University, along with the National Treasury and South African Revenue Service.”

2013 2nd runner up Distinguished Young Women in Life Sciences: Dr Christina Thobakgale.

Raised by a single mother in rural Ga-Mashashane, Limpopo, Dr Thobakgale was the first of eight children to study at a tertiary institution. She was honoured for her research in HIV-infection and the cellular and viral factors that influence how the disease progresses.

Thobakgale is involved in helping to develop the next generation of scientists and has supervised and mentored laboratory technicians and post-graduate students. At the 6th South African Aids Conference in 2013, she chaired the Basic Sciences Track meeting.

Women in Science: 2012 DST Fellowships Sindisiwe Nondaba.

When she received the Fellowship in 2012, Nondaba was a University of Pretoria MSc student studying biotechnology and specialising in biochemistry.

As a first-year postgraduate student, recognition came early, but she had gone a long way to achieving the objectives of her study. Using multidisciplinary collaborations, she wanted to create a data set that could be more easily reproduced.

At the 2012 awards she said she intended to go on to pursue a doctorate in biotechnology and “become one of the top female scientists in this country”.