Wits physiotherapy lecturer has won Next Generation Researcher Award.

A WITS lecturer, Natalie Benjamin-Damons, has won the Next Generation Researcher Award for outstanding academic performance in her final year as a doctoral student, at the annual National Research Foundation (NRF) Awards held on Wednesday, September 26, in Port Elizabeth.

Benjamin-Damons’ winning doctoral research topic is titled ‘An investigation of HIV sensory neuropathy in children living with HIV’.

The physiotherapy lecturer told Wits Vuvuzela that the award came as a surprise. “I’m honoured that my work has been recognised by the NRF. It wasn’t an easy journey but I received a lot of support from the university and my supervisors,” she said.

She emphasised that her passion for people, specifically children, was what inspired her to pursue a career in physiotherapy.

Benjamin-Damons lectures undergraduate and postgraduate students in physiotherapy at the School of Therapeutic Sciences and is currently working on two post-doctoral projects. One of the projects is a ‘3D gait analysis in children living with HIV that develop sensory neuropathy’.

One of her two doctoral research supervisors, Professor Joanna Potterton, said Benjamin-Damons was a dedicated student who was always willing to go an extra mile.

“She is driven by passion for children and making a difference in their lives. She completed her doctoral degree while raising three little babies, which shows that she is a hard worker,” Potterton said.

Wits collected eight A-rating awards at the ceremony with two Wits researchers receiving the award for the first time.

Professor Lewis Ashwal from the School of Geosciences, one of the award recipients, said the award was based on the body of work he had carried out during the past six years.

“The work I’m involved in attempts to understand how the earth works today, as well as in the geological past, in terms of the paradigm of plate tectonics. One interesting result is our discovery of a fragment of ancient continental crust beneath the young volcanic island of Mauritius,” Ashwal said.

The other Wits professors who received an A-rating award are:

• Professor Beric Skews from the School of Mechanical, Industrial and Aeronautical Engineering;
• Professor Glenda Gray from the School of Clinical Medicine;
• Professor Lawrence Hamilton from the School of Political Studies;
• Professor Roger Sheldon from the School of Chemistry;
• Professor Andrew Forbes from the School of Physics;
• Professor Linda Richter from the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Human Development; and
• Professor Jill Adler from the School of Education.

According to the NRF website, the awards recognise and celebrate South African research excellence. They are presented to researchers in two categories: ratings-linked awards and special recognition awards.

“The ratings-linked awards are given to those who have qualified for an A or P rating, as evaluated through the peer review-based NRF rating system. The special recognition awards provide a platform to honour researchers for career achievements and contributions to knowledge creation and dissemination, as well as capacity development and transformation.”


FEATURED IMAGE: Natalie Benjamin-Damons is excited to be NRF’s Next Generation Researcher Award winner. Photo:Provided