Stellenbosch University: Eminent SU researchers receive NRF awards

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Ten prominent researchers at Stellenbosch University (SU) were honoured by the National Research Foundation (NRF) at the annual NRF Awards held on Thursday 1 September 2022. The awards recognise and celebrate South African research excellence that advances science for the benefit of society.

Profs Len Barbour (Chemistry and Polymer Science), Johan Cilliers (Practical Theology and Missiology), Mark Cotton (Paediatrics and Child Health), Jonathan Jansen (Education Policy Studies), Sandy Liebenberg (Public Law), Leslie Swartz (Psychology), Willem Visser (Computer Science), Rob Warren (Biomedical Sciences) and Andre Weideman (Mathematical Sciences) all received A-ratings.

SU now boasts 494 NRF-rated researchers, 20 of whom are A-rated.

A-rated researchers are unequivocally recognised by their peers as leading international scholars in their respective fields for the high quality and impact of recent research outputs. According to the NRF, its rating system is a valuable tool for benchmarking the quality of South Africa’s researchers against the best in the world.NRF-Awards2022_groupphoto.JPG

Commenting on the awards for A-rated researchers, Dr Therina Theron, Senior Director for Research & Innovation at SU, said the NRF-ratings process remains a very important indicator of the international recognition of SU’s researchers and of the quality of their research outputs as judged by their academic peers from across the globe. “We are extremely proud of our newly A-rated researchers. We salute and celebrate them, as we know what it takes to achieve at this level.”

Prof Brian van Wilgen (Botany and Zoology / Centre for Invasion Biology) received the NRF Lifetime Achievement Award. This accolade is awarded to individuals considered to have made extraordinary contributions, of international standard and impact, to the development of science in and for South Africa over an extended period of time, and for the manner in which their work has touched and shaped the lives and views of many South Africans.

Van Wilgen is an applied ecologist with interests in conservation and sound ecosystem management. He has made substantial contributions in the field of applied ecology, notably in two areas – the ecology and management of biological invasions, and the ecology and management of vegetation fires. His work has been instrumental in raising awareness among key policymakers about the ecological and social impacts of alien plant invasions. His research has provided the scientific justification for the establishment of wide-ranging national programmes to manage alien plant invasions in South Africa. These programmes have both addressed an important environmental problem and created employment and developmental opportunities for thousands of disadvantaged South Africans.

The new Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies at SU, Prof Sibusiso Moyo congratulated the recipients and said, “this is an excellent outcome for Stellenbosch University and shows the impact of the University’s continued investment in its research areas and research infrastructure. The University’s Management through the Rectorate was very excited to see our researchers win the high impact categories and encourage our researchers and innovators to keep up the excellent work they do.”

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