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ASSAf membership for UKZN academics

Six academics from the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES) were among 23 of the country's leading scholars and scientists who were inaugurated as members of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) at the annual Awards Ceremony on 9 October 2019.

ASSAf prioritises inclusion of the country's top scholars in its membership, and emphasises the importance of multidisciplinarity in its cohort of members. Recent years have seen an increase in the areas of agricultural sciences, engineering and technology, mathematics, and economics. Members are elected annually by existing members, with the close to 400 members coming from more than 10 scientific fields.

The staff recognised in CAES are Honorary Professor Martin Bucher, Professor Paramu Mafongoya, Professor Brij Maharaj, Professor Bice Martincigh, Professor Albert Modi and Professor Cristina Trois.

Bucher, Fractional Research Professor in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science (SMSCS), is also the Centre national de la recherche scientifique Directeur de Recherche based at Universit'e Paris-Diderot. Bucher was previously SW Hawking Fellow of Mathematical Sciences and College Lecturer at the University of Cambridge. After his PhD from Caltech, Bucher has held postdoctoral positions at the Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton Physics Department, CN Yang Institute of Theoretical Physics at Stony Brook and Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics in Cambridge. Bucher has authored numerous articles on theoretical and observational cosmology and was part of the European Space Agency Planck Cosmic Microwave Background Mission team, which received the 2018 Gruber Cosmology Prize.

Mafongoya is the South African Research Chair (SARChI) in Rural Agronomy and Development and holds a PhD in Agroforestry from the University of Florida, an MSc in Applied Plant Sciences as well as an MSc Agricultural Development from Wye College at the University of London and a BSc (Hons) Agriculture from the University of Zimbabwe. He has over 30 years' experience working with various international organisations and universities in the areas of agricultural research, development, education and integrated natural resources management. He has published 292 papers including 190 refereed journal articles, 49 refereed book chapters and two books. Mafongoya is also a fellow of the African Academy of Sciences and Zimbabwe Academy of Sciences.

Maharaj is a Senior Professor of Geography in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES), who has received widespread recognition for his research on urban politics, mega-events, segregation, local economic development, xenophobia and human rights, migration and diasporas, religion, philanthropy and development, and has published over 150 scholarly papers in numerous renowned journals as well as five co-edited book collections. The B-rated NRF researcher has supervised and graduated 55 masters and PhD candidates, and has served in editorial roles and on editorial boards of a number of journals and publications. A Fellow of the Society of South African Geographers, he has served on the Public Policy and Human Mobility Commissions of the International Geography Union. He is chairperson of South African National Committee of the IGU, and former President of the Society of South African Geographers. In 2005 he was the Ida Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Iowa. Maharaj is a regular media commentator on topical issues as part of his commitment to public intellectualism.

Martincigh attained her BSc (Hons) and PhD degrees from the former University of Natal, going on to teach at the Natal Technikon before joining her alma mater where she is Professor in Physical Chemistry. She has held Visiting Professorships at West Virginia University, the University of Wales in Cardiff, Portland State University and the Gandhi Institute of Technology and Management in India. She served as President of the South African Chemical Institute (SACI) from 2015 to 2017, and has been recognised as a Distinguished Teacher at UKZN, and as a Fellow of SACI and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry. Martincigh's expertise lies in the areas of photochemistry, solution thermodynamics and environmental chemistry.

Modi, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of CAES, is a crop scientist by training, completing his studies at the University of Fort Hare, former University of Natal and Ohio State University, also working as an agronomist before joining academia. In 2008, he established the Moses Kotane Institute for Science and Technology, serving as its first CEO. He was Dean and Head of SAEES from 2011-2016; the C2 NRF-rated researcher has focused his research on traditional/indigenous crops, field crop management, plant physiology, sustainable agriculture, seed science and more. He is a member of the South African Society of Crop Production, the Third World Academy of Sciences, the New York Academy of Sciences, the Young Academy of Sciences of South Africa and the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions. He is an Assistant Editor of the South African Journal of Plant and Soil, a Senior Fellow of Green Matter, and an Honorary Fellow of Mangosuthu University of Science and Technology's Faculty of Natural Sciences. At UKZN he has focused on curriculum development and received a Distinguished Teacher Award from the University in 2016, as well as a Research Award from the Water Research Commission for human capacity development. Modi prioritises science community outreach activities and work with local communities.

Trois is the SARChI Chair in Waste and Climate Change, and in her more than 20 years at UKZN has made considerable contributions to research and teaching in her field of Environmental Engineering in South Africa. She has graduated more than 45 post-graduate students, and her expertise has also led to innovations around waste management and wastewater engineering and treatment in the eThekwini Municipality and to initiatives that encourage the participation of women and girls in Science and Engineering. Amongst her many international and local partnerships, Trois is part of the International Waste Working Group-Southern Africa Regional Branch that promotes best practice in waste management and builds capacity in the sector. This year, Trois was awarded the highest honour that an Italian citizen can receive from their country: a knighthood and attendant title of Cavaliere del lavoro.