Great things on the horizon for Africa’s science students

Issued by North West University
Johannesburg, Mar 15, 2021
Prof Don Kurtz receives a welcoming gift from the NWU Mascot, Eagie, at the Mahikeng Astronomical Observatory Telescope.

The sky is the limit for African students interested in a career in the exciting field of astrophysics, and if Prof Don Kurtz has his way, this will be much sooner than later.

Prof Kurtz recently joined the North-West University’s (NWU’s) Mahikeng Campus as extraordinary professor, and has already hatched a plan alongside another world-class scholar, Prof Thebe Medupe, to work closely with research students in the field.

The two academics are planning to bring 15 post-graduate students to the NWU’s Mahikeng Astronomical Observatory for a two-week Winter School for intense training. Nine students will be from South Africa, three from other African countries, and three from overseas.

The South African National Research Foundation recently awarded Prof Kurtz an A1 rating, which is its highest accolade. He is the first A1-rated scientist at the Mahikeng Campus.

As part of his “homecoming”, he delivered an online public lecture on 4 March 2021 titled: “Between Fire and Ice: The Earth’s Special Place”.

During the well-attended talk, Prof Kurtz took the audience through an exciting journey of the solar system, explaining the characteristics of the Earth, moon, sun and the various planets.

He believes that mathematics and science education can be made more accessible in South Africa.

Prof Kurtz says a key question to consider is how to broaden the interest level of people who actually have the ability to study these subjects, but just don’t know it yet, and how to give them the opportunity to get into it.

He says his public lecture was designed to be entertaining, educational and motivational. He hopes that future scientists will see what an exciting world it is to be a scientist, to build things and to discover things no one else has discovered.

Prof Kurtz has a long history of supporting the growth of astronomy at the Mahikeng Campus.

Incidentally, in the 1990s, he supervised Prof Medupe at both master’s and PhD level at the University of Cape Town. His first visit to Mahikeng was in 2002, when he helped to organise an international conference on magnetic fields in stars.

Contact person: Christopher Motabogi
Contact details: [email protected]