Two UKZN Professors Inducted as Fellows of the African Academy of SciencesAgriculture, Engineering & Science

Professor Deresh Ramjugernath (left) and Professor Sreekantha Jonnalagadda.Professor Deresh Ramjugernath (left) and Professor Sreekantha Jonnalagadda.

Two UKZN academics were recently inducted as Fellows of the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) at the Academy’s General Assembly held in Kasane, Botswana.

Professor Deresh Ramjugernath and Professor Sreekantha Jonnalagadda of the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science were among 34 Fellows inducted, 11 of whom were from South Africa.

Both the UKZN Fellows are in the general field of Chemical Sciences.

The Assembly’s theme was: “Academies as the Voice of Science”, which led to discussion on how academics can contribute to evidence-based policy making. Panel debates focused on intra-African collaboration and sustainable development.

The AAS is a 30-year-old Pan African academic facilitator and think-tank based in Nairobi, Kenya, which helps to set the research agenda for the development needs of the continent. It also recognises advancement and excellence in the sciences in Africa.

Meritorious scientists are made fellows, and join the 330 membership of the Academy.  Among those who collaborate with and recognise ASS and its role, are the New Partnership for Africa’s Agency (NEPAD) and the African Union.         

Jonnalagadda has worked as an academic in Chemistry in Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa for more than 36 years. He became a Fellow of UKZN in 2012 and a Fellow of the SA Chemical Institute in 2014. His expertise and interest lies in: heterogeneous catalysis, water chemistry, chemical kinetics, environmental analytical chemistry, and kinetic modelling and simulations.

Among Jonnalagadda’s noteworthy achievements are his pioneering research in the field of self-ocillatory reactions; research on the quality of air and precipitation in Zimbabwe; and the establishment of a heterogeneous catalysis research group, steering advanced research in this area. He is also active in the treatment of toxic and nonbiodegradeable material in water systems, and microbial disinfection using advanced oxidation processes.

Ramjugernath, who became the youngest ever inducted Fellow of AAS, is very well known for his work in Chemical Engineering at UKZN, where he is Director of the large, productive and reputable Thermodynamics Research Unit (TRU).

He is also the South African Research Chair in Fluorine Process Engineering and Separation Technology. The Chair covers research in chemical thermodynamics and separation technology, reactor technology, and organic synthesis. It supports government’s Fluorochemical Expansion Initiative (FEI), under the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (NECSA) and it subsidiary Pelchem.

Within the TRU, a large group of postgraduate students and post-doctoral candidates undertake research under his supervision. This includes many joint collaborations with international researchers in the areas of chemical thermodynamic data measurement and model development and property estimation methods, molecular simulations, plasma technology and gas hydrate technology.

Most of the research is industry linked. Measurement of thermodynamic properties and phase behaviour has been a key driver behind the growth of distillation studies and process modelling. An extensive range of specialised equipment is dedicated to chemical thermodynamics and separations technology measurements. The Thermodynamics Research Unit has one of the most extensive laboratory facilities and capabilities for chemical thermodynamics globally.

Fiona Higginson