Health Sciences Academics Score NRF Excellence Awards General

NRF award winners Dr Pragashnie Govender and Mr Sooraj Baijnath with the Minister of Science and Technology, Mrs Naledi Pandor.NRF award winners Dr Pragashnie Govender and Mr Sooraj Baijnath with the Minister of Science and Technology, Mrs Naledi Pandor.

Dr Pragashnie Govender and Mr Sooraj Baijnath of UKZN’s School of Health Sciences are 2016 National Research Foundation (NRF) Excellence Award winners.

‘We are really humbled to be acknowledged at the same event as some of South Africa’s A-rated researchers. This award makes us realise the impact of the work being done by scholars in our country,’ said Govender.

Govender is a passionate researcher with more than 15 years’ experience in the field of Occupational Therapy and is involved in qualitative and mixed methods research.

She is fascinated by research as it provides an opportunity to give a ‘voice’ to those being examined and hence she has developed an interest in understanding how knowledge is translated and consumed to bring about change.

Govender says receiving the award was a highlight in her career and she feels blessed to be surrounded by amazing colleagues within her Discipline of Occupational Therapy, including her PhD supervisor Professor  RWE Joubert; Academic Leader Professor Kitty Uys; Professor Mershen Pillay of the School of Health Sciences as well as by colleagues from other disciplines within Health Sciences.

Apart from the NRF award, she has a SAFRI-FAIMER Medical Fellowship, an MRC National Health Scholars Programme Award and is the recipient of the CHS-Young Researcher grant.

Baijnath, who won the NRF Achievement Award in the men’s category, said the accolade was the result of hard work by his research team within the Catalysis and Peptide Research Unit. This team uses mass spectrometry imaging to investigate the distribution of TB and HIV drugs in the brain,

The study has allowed researchers to determine which current treatments effectively combat these infections in the brain.

‘My research supervisor, Professor Thavi Govender and my mentors, Dr Tricia Naicker, Dr Sanil Singh and Professor Gert Kruger, have all been instrumental in my success as a scientist.’

Baijnath, who has an undergraduate degree in Physiology and Microbiology, conducts research in the field of medical and pharmaceutical sciences.

He is looking forward to completing his PhD which, he says, will be his greatest achievement thus far.

Lihle Sosibo