Chemistry Lecturer Receives Prestigious Young Academic PrizeGeneral

Dr Vineet Jeena (second left) with fellow recipients and NRF Executive Director: Human and Institutional Capacity Development, Dr Romilla Maharaj (fourth left); NRF Executive Director: International Relations and Cooperation Vice-President: European Research Council, Professor Maart Saarma (fifth left) and NRF Executive Director: International Relations and Co-operation, Dr Aldo Stroebel (far right).Dr Vineet Jeena (second left) with fellow recipients and NRF Executive Director: Human and Institutional Capacity Development, Dr Romilla Maharaj (fourth left); NRF Executive Director: International Relations and Cooperation Vice-President: European Research Council, Professor Maart Saarma (fifth left) and NRF Executive Director: International Relations and Co-operation, Dr Aldo Stroebel (far right).

Lecturer in the School of Chemistry and Physics (SCP), Dr Vineet Jeena, has received an award recognising his achievements and affording him the opportunity to initiate and establish a working relationship with a leading European researcher in his field.

Jeena was one of only five South African academics honoured with the NRF/ERC Young Academic award, the only recipient in the field of Chemistry, and the only UKZN academic selected.

This award recognises the Thuthuka grant-holding academic as promising for his efforts in his field of green chemistry, especially in the establishment of a research group consisting of four postgraduate students working on environmentally-themed synthetic chemistry. The group is particularly interested in investigating alternatives to toxic solvents and reagents used in synthetic processes in order to enable the more environmentally-friendly manufacture of, for example, medicines and drug therapies.

This collaboration is made possible by the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the European Research Council (ERC), which are the implementing agencies of an agreement between the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the European Commission (EC).

Jeena was presented with the award in Cape Town where he took part in events commemorating 20 years of this partnership, with a commitment being made to maintain and advance academic collaborations between Europe and Africa.

Appointments in Cape Town included the opportunity to meet Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor and the heads of the EC to discuss achievements and challenges in the fields of the award recipients.

Jeena’s European collaboration will be with Professor Martin Albrecht of Bern University in Switzerland where he will spend several months next year. The time spent there is intended to spur on long-term collaboration between the academics, enhance relationship between their institutions, and produce output in the form of research and publications.

Albrecht, who has visited UKZN before, has expertise in the field of catalysis, an area of importance for green chemistry.

Jeena, who has been lecturing at his alma mater since 2013, spoke of the award as an excellent opportunity to enhance his research and build a lasting, mutually-beneficial relationship with Albrecht and his team.

Christine Cuénod