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College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science Showcases Postgraduate Research

The College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (AES) hosted its Postgraduate Research Day at the UNITE Building on the Howard College campus.

Postgraduate students within the College had an opportunity to participate in the Research Day through poster and oral presentations, which were divided into a four categories: (i) Chemistry and Physics, (ii) Engineering, Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, (iii) Agriculture and Environmental Science and (iv) Life Sciences.

The panel featured judges from the academic and industrial sectors with those from industry including representatives from Unilever, the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), the CSIR and Eskom. The event was well attended with over 300 students, staff and industrial visitors present.

Dr Tozamile Rubuluza, an Investment Case Specialist at TIA, said: ‘It was delightful to see and hear about advancements in sciences, especially those which intend to improve the lives of ordinary people. It was evident that research can be aligned and relevant in uplifting the standard of life for our communities. Importantly, the demographics of the presenters showed a high level intake of postgraduate students from the African communities. That is encouraging for the country and the continent.’

Operations and Special Project Manager at CSIR, Mrs Felicity Blakeway, said: ‘The event was a day of high energy and anticipation. The quality of the oral and poster presentations was excellent, and students and supervisors alike are to be complimented.  Such an initiative helps in the growth of our next-generation researchers, and the appropriate prizes of contributions toward conference attendance are excellent.’

A Senior Engineer at Eskom, Mr Mohamed Fayaz Khan said: ‘From an industry standpoint, this event was an eye opener into the intellectual potential available to South Africa in the coming years. More impressive was the ability of the students to articulate their very complex and innovative research in a manner which was accessible to a wider audience. This is a critical skill to ensure that the research being undertaken is translated into real world solutions for both industry and society. Initiatives like this help bridge the gap between industry and academia and I can see many positive spin offs from the day’s event.’

The function ended with the awarding of the prizes sponsored by the University Research Office, Schools within the College, as well as the Technology Innovation Agency, SAPREF, Unilever, Eskom, THRIP, the Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation. Prizes included sponsorship to attend an international or local conference.

Prize winners in the oral presentations for the different streams included:

  1. Chemistry and Physics: Ms Yasmeera Ismail won first prize with her paper titled: “Free-Space Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) through Multiple Entanglement”, whilst Ms Nomfundo Mahlangeni took second prize with a paper titled: “Novel Chalcones and Dihydrochalcones Isolated from Cyrtanthus obliquus L.F Aiton Bulbs”.
  2. Engineering, Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science: Mr Oscar Ngesa was the winner in this stream with his paper titled: “Spatial Joint Modeling and Mapping of HIV and HSV-2”, whilst Ms Anisa Ragalo was second with a paper titled: “A Hyper-Heuristic Approach Towards Mitigating Premature Convergence in Genetic Programming”.
  3. Agriculture and Environmental Science: Mr Nicholas Moyo won this section with a paper: “Energy Flux and Water Use Efficiency Measurements in a Maize and Soybean Cropping in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands”. Mr Tatenda Musimwa was second, his paper titled: “Why SR52 is such a Great Maize Hybrid”.
  4. Life Sciences: Ms Charlotte Ramadhin won top honours presenting: “Optimisation of the UptiBlueTM Assay for Rapid, Accurate and Reliable Determination of IGF-I Bioactivity”. Ms Letricha Padayachee took second prize with a paper titled: “Regulation of the Thioredoxin System in Saccharomyces Cerevisiae”.
  5. The winning poster presented by Ms Sandipa Bhikraj was titled: “Old (III) Pseudomacrocyclic Bis (Pyrrolide-Imine) Schiff base complexes: Potential Chemotherapeutic Agents”. Runners-up were Ms Chengetanai Mushonga, Ms Ellen Thipe, and Ms Lerato Hlaka.

Words: Leena Rajpal