Wits communication team and theoretical physics professor win NSTFs awards

Wits netted two awards at the National Science and Technology Forum’s (NSTF’s) South23 Awards ceremony on Thursday, June 27.

The NSTF Award for Communication for Outreach and Creating Awareness of Science, Engineering Technology (SET) and Innovation is presented for contributions by a team or individual over the past five years, in terms of public awareness of SET.

In addition, Professor Alexander Quandt of the Physics Department walked away with the Special Annual Theme Award in materials for inclusive economic development.

The Wits team were commended for their ongoing commitment to “inspiring curiosity, creating new knowledge, making research accessible and impacting on society through innovative science communication”, said the NSTF.

Shirona Patel, Head of Communications at Wits, told Wits Vuvuzela it was through their proficient use of creative multimedia and new technologies to communicate science that they were able to add this award to their growing list of accolades in 2019.

“It is a tremendous honour for the Wits communications team to be recognised for its contribution to making research accessible to multiple publics,” she said.

They have developed a research platform that features a playlist of new Wits research, the new ‘digizine’ Curios.ty, and other science and communications campaigns.

“This achievement would not have been possible without the Wits researchers, academics and students who are committed to communicating science,” said Patel.

Quandt was awarded the Special Annual Theme Award for pioneering work in computational materials science with applications to nanomaterials, optics/photonics and renewable energy research.

“It is primarily an acknowledgement, which is awarded by your peers to point out the value of your scientific work over many years, and which, to be honest, did not always run very smoothly,” said Quandt.

This year’s motif for the Special Annual Theme was the periodic table. It is usually aligned with an annual theme declared by the United Nations.

Most recently, the announcements of Homo Naledi and a liver transplant from an HIV-positive mother to her HIV-negative child, which resulted in potential policy changes and an increased awareness around organ donation, were what solidified their win.

The team also collaborated on the disclosure of the discovery of the world’s oldest art identified, in the Blombos Cave on the Southern Cape coastline. The even was aired on The Daily Show, hosted by Trevor Noah.

FEATURED IMAGE: Wits Communications Team: (left to right) Erna van Wyk, Deborah Minors, Refilwe Mabula, Buhle Zuma, Boniswa Khumalo, Shirona Patel, Schalk Mouton and Lauren Mulligan. Photo: provided