Wits University Vice Chancellor is awarded with a major scientific honour, putting the university and the Global South on the scientific map 

The Royal Society in the United Kingdom (UK) announced on May 10, the names of its 2022 elected fellows. Amongst the 52 eminent scientists, engineers and technologists elected to the self-governing fellowship was Wits Vice Chancellor and Principal, Professor Zeblon Vilakazi. 

“It is an honour for me to have been selected to join the Royal Society… I am grateful to my colleagues, peers, mentors, and others who have walked my journey with me,” Vilakazi told Wits Vuvuzela. 

Vilakazi, a professor of nuclear physics, was commended by the Royal Society, an acclaimed scientific academy, in their official press release, for his contributions to nuclear and particle physics in experiments at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research). He was also commended for his continued effort to “[build] capacity for experimental particle physics and quantum computing in Sub-Saharan Africa.” 

Professor Deena Naidoo, head of the school of physics said, “His award is prestigious but very significant to the [Wits University] faculty of science in terms of promoting our research excellence to broad communities across the world.” 

Wits is already ahead of the curve when it comes to scientific innovation, boasted Vilakazi. From the key role in the development of radar in the 1940s, to being the first university in this country to acquire a nuclear accelerator and a mainframe IBM computer. Wits has a “rich history that we should be proud of and leverage as inspiration for a brighter future,” he said.  

Being recognised as a South African fellow can also be seen as a stride for the world to acknowledge African science and research. “Vilakazi’s recognition adds to [the] realisation of the significant role that scientists from the Global South play in universal science,” said Naidoo.  

Becoming a fellow of Royal Society entails, “a substantial contribution to the improvement of natural knowledge, including mathematics, engineering science and medical science” and is a membership that is awarded for life. The fellowship is awarded in order “to recognise, promote and support excellence in science and to support the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity.” 

When considering a future in the scientific landscape Vilakazi ‘’encourage[s] young people to be curious about the world, to ask questions, to think critically, and to explore science in its broadest sense.”   

FEATURED IMAGE: Wits Vice Chancellor and Principal, Professor Zeblon Vilakazi has been honoured as a fellow of the prestigious Royal Society. Photo: Wits University