NMMU's top researchers and teachers make a difference

BY SUPPLIED - SEPTEMBER 16, 2015

He may not talk to the birds, but Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s Dr Pierre Pistorius has a pretty good idea what some of our feathered friends are jabbering on about.

The leading zoologist’s cutting-edge research on the way gannets communicate at sea has just landed him the university’s Researcher of the Year Award, one of 43 awards that will be made at this evening’s Research, Teaching and Engagement Awards at the Boardwalk.

The annual awards - a highlight on the university calendar - celebrates the achievements of top academics in the fields of research, teaching, the creative and performing arts, innovation and engagement. 

Pistorius’ passion for marine birds, marine animals and their environment has helped him to establish, in this instance, the unique way gannets communicate while at sea, with specific vocalisations used in different circumstances.

His research ties in with the shift by NMMU in offering solutions around the potential of the blue economy by establishing itself as a future marine and maritime sciences destination of choice.

“I want to see what can be used to enable better management of marine resources and to understand the impacts of climate change on our oceans,” says Dr Pistorius.

Joining Dr Pistorius on the stage will be Professor of Psychology, Mark Watson, one of three joint editors of a ground-breaking book looking at career development patterns among women aged 45 to 65 across the globe. He is the winner of one of two NMMU Research Excellence Awards.

The other Research Excellence Award winner is Prof Zenixole Tshentu, whose pioneering research into the separation of metal ions is extending boundaries in terms of how these important elements can be used, including in the realm of medicine. Over the past few years, Tshentu and his postgraduate students have been focusing on gold anti-retrovirals and the use of vanadium for treatment.

NMMU’s Centre for Law in Action Director, Prof Hennie van As, is the winner of the NMMU Engagement Award.

He and his team, responding to a direct request from the then Western Cape Premier, Helen Zille, to assist 29 Western Cape municipalities with training and capacity-building initiatives for elected councillors, to enhance good governance and service delivery.  In their latest audit, all 29 received a clean bill of health.

It is one of several engagement projects run by Prof van As and his team.

The high-tech approach and unique teaching strategy of Applied Languages Studies lecturer Mukhtar Raban saw him win a prestigious NMMU Excellent Teacher of the Year Award.

The warm approach of IT lecturer Cheryl Schroder, on the other hand, both in and out the classroom, makes a huge difference to those she teaches, and led to her to win one of two NMMU Excellent Teacher of the Year awards.

The following academics also received awards:

Faculty of Arts

Faculty Emerging Excellent Teacher of the Year: Ms Claudette Leppan

Faculty Emerging Researcher of the Year: Dr Alethea de Villiers

Faculty Researcher of the Year: Prof Helize van Vuuren

Faculty of Business & Economic Sciences

Faculty Emerging Excellent Teacher of the Year: Ms Bomikazi Zeka

Faculty Excellent Teacher of the Year: Ms Tracey Beck

Faculty Researcher of the Year: Prof Elmarie Venter

Faculty of Education

Faculty Emerging Excellent Teacher of the Year: Mr Deon Swartz

Faculty Excellent Teacher of the Year: Dr Margie Childs & Prof Hugh Glover

Emerging Researcher of the Year: Dr Mathabo Khau

Faculty Researcher of the Year: Prof Naydene de Lange

Faculty of Engineering

Faculty Emerging Excellent Teacher of the Year: Ms Sharon Dent

Emerging Researcher of the Year: Dr Bertram Haskins

Faculty Researcher of the Year: Prof Darelle van Greunen

Faculty of Health Sciences

Faculty Emerging Excellent Teacher of the Year: Mr Ryan Raffan

Emerging Researcher of the Year: Dr Maryna Baard

Faculty Researcher of the Year:  Prof Ilse Truter

Faculty of Law

Faculty Emerging Excellent Teacher of the Year: Mr Shuaib Rahim

Faculty Excellent Teacher of the Year: Ms Tanya Wagenaar

Emerging Researcher of the Year: Adv Glynis van der Walt

Faculty Researcher of the Year: Prof Avinash Govindjee

Faculty of Science

Faculty Excellent Teacher of the Year: Dr Pragashni Padayachee & Mr Tiaan Pool

Emerging Researcher of the Year: Dr Brenda Scholtz

Faculty Researcher of the Year: Prof Nadine Strydom

Performing & Creative Arts Awards

Ms Andrieta Wentzel

Dr Magda Minguzzi

Innovation Awards:

Emerging Innovation Excellence Award: Ms Dalray Gradidge

Innovation Excellence Project Award: Mr Etienne Phillips

Engagement Awards

NMMU Emerging Engagement Award: Dr Timothy Pittaway

NMMU Engagement Excellence Project Award: School of Accounting (Elize Naude & Frans Prinsloo)

NMMU Engagement Excellence Project Award: Centre for Research in Information and Cyber Security (Prof Johan van Niekerk)

NMMU Engagement Excellence Team Award: SoMAD Visual Arts Strategic Engagement: Public Art Partnerships (Ms Mary Duker & David Jones)

NMMU Engagement Excellence Award: SRU (Prof Christo Fabricius)

Teaching & Learning Team Awards:

Hermien Johannes and the Blended Learning Team

Image: Left to right, Muktar Raban (Excellent Teacher of the Year), Cheryl Schroder (Excellent Teacher of the Year), Prof Zenixole Tshentu (Research Excellence winner) and Dr Pierre Pistorius (Researcher of the Year). Supplied.