The South African maritime community is firmly behind ensuring the highly specialised Unit of Maritime Law and Maritime Studies launched at the University of KwaZulu-Natal recently is a hub for research in the field.

The Unit - officially opened by UKZN's Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Malegapuru Makgoba - is a strategic research initiative located in the College of Law and Management Studies which makes UKZN the only University in South Africa to offer this amalgam of maritime offerings.

Makgoba regarded the Unit as the University's unique signature initiative and a signal approach towards maritime studies and maritime law.

‘We are making the maritime sector a business for the University and this Unit is very important as we are preparing for the academic catwalk which will be the maritime sector in five years to come,' said Makgoba.

Located on the threshold of the largest port-related maritime community in any city in the southern hemisphere, the Unit has been established at UKZN to offer a consolidated postgraduate teaching site and research portal for the professional and commercial maritime community.

In her address, UKZN Alumnus and non-executive Director of the National Ports Regulator of South Africa, Ms Thato Tsautse, said  the maritime community was committed to ensuring the sustainability of the Unit.

‘It is inspiring to see that UKZN is playing a leading role in training people to address the shortage of skills within the maritime sector. This Unit will be able to produce well researched papers that give an accurate concept of where maritime really is.

‘However, its most important function will be to inform the city of Durban about careers in the maritime sector. I would like to make an appeal to the maritime community to ensure that this Unit is a success,’ said Tsautse.

Its focus will be on - but also well beyond - the boundaries of eThekwini and the Durban port community. Principal areas of teaching excellence at a postgraduate level range from maritime law, maritime transport and port economics to customs and excise.

Professor Trevor Jones, Academic Co-ordinator of the Unit said: ‘The University has committed substantial financial resources to the establishment of the Unit which includes an extensive maritime library as well as a large collection of maritime related materials. All of these will benefit postgraduate students, researchers and the maritime community.’

This interdisciplinary Unit boasts teaching and research expertise from various schools and disciplines within the College of Law and Management Studies such as maritime law, environmental law, international trade law and international economics, maritime economics, transport economics, taxation and maritime management which are complemented by practical industry expertise.

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Hopes for the discovery of a vaccine against AIDS have risen substantially following research – led by a Durban scientist – which shows that antibodies manufactured by some HIV-infected people have the potential to destroy 88 percent of HIV strains found throughout the world. 

The AIDS study published in the journal, Nature Medicine, describes how a unique change in the outer covering of the virus found in two HIV-infected KwaZulu-Natal women produced the potent antibodies. 

The South African research consortium, led by Professor Salim Abdool Karim of the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) at UKZN, comprises scientists from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) in Johannesburg, the University of Cape Town, the University of the Witwatersrand and UKZN. 

For the past five years the team has studied how certain HIV-infected people develop very powerful antibody responses.  According to a statement from CAPRISA, the antibodies are referred to as broadly neutralising antibodies because they kill a wide range of HIV types. 

The team initially established that two KwaZulu-Natal women could produce the antibodies. Follow up research by NICD scientists, Dr Penny Moore and Professor Lynn Morris, revealed that a sugar, referred to as a “glycan”, on the surface protein coat of the virus at a specific position formed a site of vulnerability in the virus, enabling the body to mount a broadly neutralizing antibody response. 

‘Understanding this elaborate game of “cat and mouse” between HIV and the immune response of the infected person has provided valuable insights into how broadly neutralizing antibodies arise,’ said Moore.

Morris, who is Head of AIDS research at NICD, said they had been surprised to discover the virus which caused infection often did not have this antibody target on its outer covering. ‘But over time, the virus was pressured by the body’s immune reaction to cover itself with the sugar that formed a point of vulnerability, and so allowed the development of antibodies that hit the weak spot.’

Abdool Karim said broadly neutralising antibodies were considered to be the key to making an AIDS vaccine.  ‘This discovery provides new clues on how vaccines could be designed to elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies.’ 

The CAPRISA statement said highly potent forms of broadly neutralizing antibodies against HIV were identified about three years ago but until now it had not been known how the human body made the antibodies. 

‘To make this discovery, the research team studied the target of some of these antibodies, a sugar that coats the surface protein of HIV, forming a site of vulnerability. 

‘By tracing back the evolution of the virus that elicited these antibodies, they showed that the particular weak point was absent from the virus that first infected the KwaZulu-Natal women.  However, under constant pressure from other less powerful antibodies that develop in all infected people, their HIV was forced to expose this vulnerability over time. This allowed the broadly neutralizing antibodies to develop,’ said the statement. 

‘Analysis - performed in collaboration with scientists from the University of North Carolina and Harvard University in the United States - of a large number of other viruses from throughout the world, suggest that the vulnerability at position 332 may be present at the time of infection in about two thirds of subtype C viruses (the subtype most common in Africa). 

This research was funded by the South African government’s Department of Science and Technology, the US National Institutes for Health and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

The long-term follow-up studies of the women in KwaZulu-Natal were additionally funded by the South African Technology Innovation Agency as well as USAID (through CONRAD) and CDC as part of PEPfAR.  Fellowships from the Fogarty International Centre and the Wellcome Trust also played a key role in enabling the research.

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The three-dimensional structure of a cosmic filament has been revealed for the first time using high resolution images from the Hubble telescope.

The breakthrough was made by a University of KwaZulu-Natal astronomer Dr Mathilde Jauzac, in partnership with international colleagues.

The cosmic filament forms part of the cosmic web which traces the distribution of matter in the universe, similar to the complex system of neurons in the human brain with filaments playing the role of nerve fibres. 

The international team comprising scientists from South Africa, France, the United States, Japan, Denmark and the United Kingdom, discovered the filament while studying the distribution of mass around the massive galaxy cluster MACS J0717.5+3745 known as MACS J0717.

Galaxy clusters, the largest structures in the universe which are held together by gravity, contain thousands of galaxies and are believed to lie at the nodes of the cosmic web. In time they grow as matter is funnelled into them along cosmic filaments.

‘From our earlier work on MACS J0717, we knew this cluster was actively growing and thus a prime target for a detailed study of the cosmic web,’ said co-author Dr Harald Ebeling of the University of Hawaii in the USA. 

Dr Jauzac, who earlier this year started a research fellowship at UKZN’s Astrophysics and Cosmology Research Unit, used the method of gravitational lensing to map out the distribution of the dark matter in the cosmic filament.

Dark matter, which has eluded detection by astronomers to date, makes up 90 percent of the matter in the universe and forms the backbone of the cosmic web.

The technique of gravitational lensing has its foundation in Einstein’s theory of general relativity which predicts that light should bend around large concentrations of mass - in this way the galaxy cluster acts as a large gravitational lens. It is a subtle effect and the study required very precise images from the Hubble Space Telescope of the galaxies around and behind the filament as well as new tools developed by the team to reveal the hidden dark matter filament.

‘The challenge’, explains co-author Dr Jean-Paul Kneib of the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille in France, ‘was to find a model of the cluster’s shape which fitted all the lensing features we observed.’ 

Observations by the Hubble Space Telescope gave the best two-dimensional map of the mass distribution. However, to see the shape of the filament in three dimensions required further observations from the Subaru and Canada-France-Hawaii telescopes to locate thousands of galaxies within the filament and get measurements of their velocities using the Keck and Gemini telescopes.

Dr Jauzac, who recently obtained her PhD from Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille in France, said: ‘Filaments of the cosmic web are extremely extended and diffuse, which makes them very difficult to detect, let alone study in three dimensions.’

The first convincing detection of part of a cosmic filament was made earlier this year by a team of astronomers led by Dr Jorg Dietrich.

The filament discovered by Dr Jauzac’s team is so extended that a beam of light would take about 60 million years to travel across it. 

The team’s findings have backed up the view of how small irregularities in the universe at the time of the big bang grew over billions of years to form the large cosmic structures seen today and have provided astronomers with further insights into how the elusive dark matter is spread across the universe.

Professor Sunil Maharaj, Director of UKZN’s Astrophysics and Cosmology Research Unit, confirmed the impact of this study. ‘The team has shown insight and originality in making an excellent contribution to a difficult problem. We are indeed pleased that Dr Jauzac from our research unit at the University of KwaZulu-Natal has led this pioneering study.’ 

Dr Jauzac plans to continue her work on a larger sample of galaxy clusters, with similar interesting features, using observations from the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT). The forthcoming James Webb Space Telescope will be a powerful tool for detecting filaments in the cosmic web, thanks to its enhanced sensitivity over the Hubble Space Telescope. 

The research is presented in a paper titled: “A Weak-Lensing Mass Reconstruction of the Large- Scale Filament Feeding the Massive Galaxy Cluster MACSJ0717.5+3745”, which will be published in next month’s issue of Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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In recognition of their contribution to the advancement of science in South Africa, three UKZN Professors have been inducted into the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf).

They are the South African Research Chair in Fluorine Process Engineering and Separation Technology, Professor Deresh Ramjugernath; Dean and Head of School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, Professor Kesh Govinder, and Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Professor Nelson Ijumba.

The inductions were made at the ASSAf awards ceremony at the CSIR Convention Centre.

ASSAf is the official national Academy of Science of South Africa and represents the country in the international community of science academies.

The mandate of the Academy encompasses all fields of scientific inquiry and it includes the full diversity of South Africa’s distinguished scientists.

ASSAf’s membership comprises renowned local and international academics who are able to provide sound advice on issues that are multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral in nature to government and other stakeholders.

UKZN congratulates the three academics on the accolade and hopes they continue to strive for the advancement of science in South Africa.

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The School of Applied Human Sciences held an awards function recently to recognise students who excelled academically.

Two hundred students from the disciplines of Criminology and Forensic Studies, Psychology, Social Work and the Centre for Communication, Media and Society (CCMS) received awards at functions on the Howard College and Pietermaritzburg campuses.

Psychology student Ms Quaraisha Joosab, who won a merit award for Health Psychology, was ecstatic. ‘It feels really good to be recognised for all the hard work I put into my studies. My parents are happy as well.’ 

Joosab advised other students to work hard, study and attend all their lectures.  Speaking at the event, Dean and Head of the School of Applied Human Sciences, Professor Nhlanhla Mkhize, said, ‘I congratulate you all for the hard work and effort you have put in getting these awards but you must continue to aim higher.’

School Manager Ms Shantha Maharaj said students within the various disciplines were valued and should be recognised for their excellent performance.

‘Holding a ceremony like this encourages students to give of their best in all they do. The management and staff of the School are very proud of our students. We offer all top performers the opportunity to continue towards postgraduate studies,’ said Maharaj.

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Dr Megandhren Govender, a Senior Lecturer based at UKZN’s Astrophysics and Cosmology Research Unit, entertained audiences at the Playhouse's Drama Theatre with his science-based show: So You Thought Einstein Was a Genius.

The show combines the aesthetics of dance, music and humour with mind blowing scientific experiments and facts. 

Govender, who has become well known for his showmanship and ability to make science fun, performs - among other acts - experiments with liquid nitrogen, levitation illusions and a spectacular finale in which flames dance in time to music! 

A passionate astrophysicist, he maintains that it's not a magic show but rather one aimed to make people question their perceptions of reality. He hoped the show would inspire youngsters in the audience to take up careers in the sciences, as he himself had been by a similar show he saw while still at school. 

Govender had the audience on their feet by the end of the show, coaxing them into performing a rendition of “Gangnam Style” with him and his cast before the final curtain call.

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Marinated potato and mince, sweet curried chicken with creamy mashed potatos, noodles with a twist – these were just some of the culinary delights on offer at the Uni-Chef Finalist Cookout at the UNITE/School of Engineering building. 

Part of a Business Organisational and Leadership Development (BOLD) initiative to promote healthy eating within a student-friendly budget of R30 a meal, the Uni-Chef competition attracted competitors from all the major campuses, including Pietermaritzburg. 

Like seasoned professionals, the five finalists boiled, braised and sautéed their ingredients into culinary art, egged on by a live studio audience!

Animated MCs entertained with creative commentary and songs which all in all resulted in a highly entertaining evening.

The winners of the Uni-Chef 2012 contest were Ms Belinda Tshiula and Mr Samkelisiwe Sokhulu of the Pietermaritzburg campus with their scrumptious chicken snap pasta dish.

Uni-Chef is an innovative way to empower students with skills to prepare healthy, nutritious and affordable meals.  There are plans afoot to roll out this initiative at a regional and possibly national level.

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Stimulating research by young health scientists from various South African universities was presented at the annual National Pfizer Research Symposium held at UKZN’s Westville campus recently.

Competing in the categories of clinically-based, community-based and laboratory-based research, students impressed adjudicators with their presentations.

Ms Alessanda Prioreschi of the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS) won the award for best clinically-based study titled: “Whole Body Vibration Increases Hip Bone Mineral Density in Road Cyclists”.

The research was conducted by students from WITS who did a 10-week comparative study with a “vibration group” of cyclists who underwent 15 minutes of intermittent whole body vibration at 30Hz, three times a week while continuing with their normal cycling training. The second control group continued with their normal cycling training for the duration of the study.

The researchers found that 10 weeks of body vibration increased hip and preserved spine bone mineral density in road cyclists.

Mr Yaseen Bismilla of the University of Free State won the prize for best community-based research. He presented an interesting study conducted with his peers aimed at identifying current trends in both the self and prescribed treatment of acne and its efficacy as perceived by Grade 11 learners from public schools in Bloemfontein.

The group found that the use of self-medication was higher than that of prescribed medication.

Bismilla said nearly half (47.4 percent) of those studied suffered or had suffered from acne; and of the sufferers 91.7 percent had used self-medication. ‘The most commonly used self-medications were facewash, honey, milk and aloe vera.’

Bismilla said of those who had used both self-medication and prescribed treatment, 56 percent made the transition from self-medication to medical treatment within the first six months of commencing self-medication.

Awarded the prize for best laboratory-based research, Ms Shannagh Hare of the University of Cape Town presented a study titled: “TBX3 Regulates the Cell Cycle Inhibitor p21/WAF1”.

The group said T-box transcription factor (TBX3) - a protein that is encoded by the TBX3 gene in humans - was overexposed in several cancers, however few TBX3 target genes had been identified and little was known about the mechanisms involved in its transcriptional activity. 

Results from the study suggested that p21/WAF1 (the protein that is encoded in humans by the CDKN1A gene located on chromosome 6) was a direct TBX3 gene and this was significant as it added to their understanding of how TBX3 acted at a molecular level, and therefore, how it could be targeted for anti-cancer therapy.

The panel of adjudicators was made up of representatives from Wits, Rhodes University, the provincial Department of Health and UKZN. One of the adjudicators said the research they had seen from the various institutions and disciplines was well thought out and very relevant to the South African health context.

The event was attended by the Chief Executive Officer and Country Manager for Pfizer South Africa, Mr Brian Daniel, parents and academics.

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Ithimba lase-UKZN ebelingenele umncintiswano weSASOL Baja SAE ka2012 basebenze kanzima ukuphumelela phambili.

Ithimba bekungabafundi beMechanical Engineering obekungu Hein Etzel, Kyle Pullinger, Aneel Kallan noPrashvik Premlal.

Umncintiswano ububanjelwe eGerotek Test Facilities ePitoli izinsuku ezimbili uheha nabantu abaningi. Bekungenele amanyuvesi ayisishiyagalolunye nezimoto ezingu-14.

Ngaphandle kwezihixihixi ezibekhona ngokuqala lomncintiswano okwenze baqale kamuva kunabanye , ithimba lase-UKZN belikulangazelele ukuphuma phambili.

U-Etze uthe ithimba lisebenze kahle ndawonye  lathatha nezinqumo ezibasebenzele kahle kakhulu.

USolwazi Glen Bright noDkt Freddie Inambao bebeziqhenya ngabafundi babo bethi ukusebenza kwabo kanzima sekubalethele izithelo ezinhle.

Click here for English version

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A representative from the British High Commission was at UKZN recently to market a scholarship programme, the Chevening Scholarships, available for Masters students wishing to further their studies in the United Kingdom.

The new Head of the Political Section of the British High Commission in Pretoria, Ms Laura Clarke, met Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning, who is also the Chair of the Scholarships Committee, Professor Renuka Vithal; the Scholarships Representative from the College of Health Sciences, Professor Petra Brysiewicz, and the Head of Scholarships, Mr Karan Naidoo, to discuss the opportunities offered.

The Chevening Scholarships, the UK Government’s global scholarship programme, are funded mainly by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). The programme makes awards for full or part funding for full-time courses at postgraduate level, usually a one year Masters degree.

The scholarship is aimed at outstanding scholars with leadership potential as well as those who have recently graduated or ideally have a few years work experience. The scholarship is available to students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Clarke said the High Commission had increased the allocation of spaces for South African students from 14 to 20. She added they had received a number of applications from Cape Town and Gauteng, but very few from KwaZulu-Natal.

The objective of the Chevening programme is to support UK foreign policy priorities and achieve FCO objectives by creating lasting positive relationships with future leaders, influencers and decision makers.

The Scholarships are acceptable at most top UK universities.

The programme covers a wide range of subjects as long as they complement UK foreign policy objectives which are Security, Prosperity, and Consular. Priority areas for this year are Conflict Prevention, Public Administration, Economics, Business, and Science and Technology.

For more information on the application requirements visit the Chevening website (

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The Head of UKZN’s Biomedical Resource Unit and a registered Veterinarian, Dr Sanil Singh, has been re-appointed as Chair of Mitchell Park Trust – the custodian of all education and conservation programmes and activities at Mitchell Park and Jameson Park in Durban. 

The Trust raises funds for cultivating regional and international links with other similar institutions and ensures the continued maintenance of the standard of excellence which has become synonymous with the complex as one of Durban’s heritage sites. 

Now in his fourth term as Chair of the Trust, Singh said the facility’s park and zoological gardens were international attractions having a huge role to play in bringing back a lost “cultural education experience” for today’s urban youth. 

Singh said the Trust had plans to build an educational centre with audio-visual facilities to ensure all visitors enjoyed an authentic experience. His concern was that the crowds of people who had picnics in the park at weekends did not know what the zoo had to offer. 

Singh said they were trying to follow the city’s principle of Bato Phele (People First) and this would be a success if the community of Durban worked with the Trust. ‘The intention is also to bring in more animals to the zoo, especially small African mammals.' 

Zoo Curator, Mr Kart Westphal, said the wheelchair-friendly environment was a hit with mothers and babies as well as school tour groups. 

Westphal said the zoo had been open for about 112 years and was once home to Nellie, the celebrated Indian elephant. 

Currently acting as Manager for Technical Services at UKZN’s School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences, Singh continues his research on both companion and laboratory animals. His present doctoral studies are on animal feeds and their mycotoxin content.

Singh is often called upon for his expertise in animal ethics and modelling, and has an illustrious history having served as President of the South African Association for Laboratory Animal Science and with the South African Veterinary Association both regionally and nationally. 

Singh said he was passionate about veterinary science and helping communities around him. He runs a donor-funded community veterinary outreach programme for peri-urban communities in Durban under the guidance of the Ramakrishna Centre.

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Dr Maria Keet, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, won the award for the best research paper at the 18th International Conference on Knowledge Engineering and Knowledge Management (EKAW’12).

Keet’s research was titled:  “Detecting and Revising Flaws in OWL Object Property Expressions.

The Conference, which attracts some of the best computer science academics in the world, took place in Galway, Ireland. The Conference sets extremely high standards with an acceptance rate of about 15 percent for full paper submissions.

Keet said winning the award was meaningful to her as it provided recognition of the quality of her contribution to the field of computer science.

Professor Kesh Govinder, Dean and Head of the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, said the award represented a “great achievement” for Keet.

Keet’s paper describes a novel theoretical contribution that defines a set of possible flaws in ontologies (meaningful logical theories) in a way such that they can be detected automatically and it proposes revision to fix the mistake, which was subsequently experimentally evaluated.

She explained that the contribution would augment the development of better quality ontologies that will be deployed for, among others, the Semantic Web (“Web 3.0”), data integration, and ontology-driven intelligent information systems for applications such as adaptive e-learning and in silico scientific knowledge discovery.

Essentially, Keet’s work will contribute towards the creation of smarter applications that allow for computers to better understand complex requests. Further development of her research on this particular topic in ontology engineering will see Keet collaborate with academics at the Polytechnic University of Madrid.

In addition to winning the award, Keet had a secondary reason to celebrate. A paper that she co-authored with Masters student Zubeida Khan was accepted for publication at the Conference. It is a full paper and, hence, also included in the already published conference proceedings in Springer’s Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence series.

Khan remains in Ireland until the end of October, visiting the Digital Enterprise Research Institute as part of the European FP7 IRSES project Net 2 ‘A Network for Enabling Networked Knowledge’.

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The Buya Africa Student Cultural Organisation (BASCO) recently held its African Cultural Parade and Heritage Celebration event at the Howard College Theatre.

The theme of the event was Ubuhle Be Africa BukumAfrica Uqobo, a promotion of the love of African culture and its practice, African languages and the maintenance of values.

BASCO publicist, Mr Thabani Gumede, said: ‘We believe this event’s impact will help ensure the eradication of the negative attitudes of some African students against fellow African students within the University.’

The African Cultural Parade saw BASCO members decked out in traditional attire as they made their way across the campus grounds and finally to the College Theatre for a festival of African traditional music, dance, poetry, a traditional clothing showcase and the presentation of traditional food from various African countries.

‘It was a great night and everyone seemed to enjoy it. We hope to have another event like it next year,’ said Gumede.

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Complications stemming from hypertension in pregnancy – one of the top three causes of maternal deaths in South Africa – are being researched by UKZN's Professor Thajasvarie Naicker.

Naicker heads the Placenta Research Group which is the only group of its kind in Africa.

An established researcher in the field of placental research, Naicker’s passion for saving the lives of women and children sparked her interest in the causes of pre-eclampsia: a life-threatening disorder which occurs during pregnancy, causing high blood pressure and other symptoms in pregnant women.

Naicker shared an inspirational story of how working as a young technician at UKZN’s former Electron Microscope Unit helped her climb the academic ladder to becoming a Professor at UKZN.

The Optics and Imaging Centre (OIC), which she now also oversees, is a Centre dedicated to providing scientists with a variety of high-tech light and electron microscopy facilities with cutting-edge imaging software and analysis tools.

She obtained a Master of Medical Science and PhD degrees in the field of hypertension and pregnancy research and later began publishing in the academic arena particularly in the area of basic medical sciences as it relates to maternal health.

Naicker says hypertension contributes to the development of coronary heart disease, strokes, and kidney disease and the condition is alarming during pregnancy when the lives of the mother and her unborn baby are both at stake.

‘Understanding this disease is imperative. This is why we need to train more and more health scientists with special interest in pregnancy-related hypertensive diseases.’

Naicker said the OIC was a major University resource for postgraduate students, researchers and teaching staff, providing a platform for ground-breaking research involving microscopy.

‘Our highly experienced, specialist staff are committed to providing a supportive and resourceful working environment where researchers can expect expert advice and comprehensive training which equips them to achieve their goals.’

The Centre is home to a transmission electron microscope, confocal laser scanning microscope, fluorescent microscope and allied preparatory equipment.

Naicker is a Medical Scientist with the Health Professions Council of South Africa and has published widely in international journals.  She is a fellow of the Royal Microscopy Society in the United Kingdom, and a National Research Foundation C-rated researcher, pending re-rating.

Her collaborations have facilitated postgraduate exchange with many international institutions such as Harvard University and the University of Cambridge. 

Naicker said it was important to nurture women's talents and intellectual capacities. ‘Women in academia and male-dominated fields face greater challenges than their male counterparts, especially during childbearing years.’

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Office Politics – Scenes from a Sinking Ship, is the title of UKZN Lecturer Mrs Faye Spencer’s latest collection of art work being showcased at the Tatham Art Gallery in Pietermaritzburg.

The exhibit, comprising paintings, drawings and prints, explores the power plays and idiosyncrasies of the working world.  Animal forms, particularly dogs, play a metaphorical role in the works and are used to depict both the darker side of human interaction - violence, aggression and suspicion - and the more docile - trained and obedient.

Spencer, who lectures at the Centre for Visual Art (CVA) on the Pietermaritzburg campus, believes that ‘given the considerable amount of time most people spend at work, the absurd, peculiar and sometimes humorous engagements that occur in the office space are worth reflecting on’. 

Spencer says although the art works were a direct reflection of how she perceives and experiences her work environment, this was not the objective.  They speak to a much bigger context and reflect problems that are prevalent in the country and the world.

Spencer was also influenced by some of the material she has been reading for her PhD, for example, Zygmunt Bauman’s Society under Siege which looks at sociological concerns such as why we are here in this communal space and how we deal with a workplace that is not always comfortable.

Vivid colour and aggressively worked surfaces characterise the paintings which, said Spencer, contribute to the central narrative therein.  The use of different mediums such as acrylic, charcoal and wax contribute to the rough and ready look of the works and the unnatural colours in some of the paintings also depict an awkward and hostile space.

During an interactive walkabout of the exhibit, Spencer explained that the titles were important to the works.  She said that although many of the paintings appeared innocuous and cute, this was not why she created them.

Each work’s title, such as While Rome Burns, Lost-No Guidebook, Ability Confronts Duty and Incentive Reward said something about human behaviour and the nature of the working world. 

‘Many of the characteristics - character flows - depicted in the paintings are evident in abundance in office space and corporate environments. Situations wherein protagonists with very different agendas are obliged to interact and co-operate.’

Spencer said only three of the pieces in the collection had been seen before.

Spencer said she enjoyed exhibiting at the Tatham: ‘The work looks really lovely in the Olive Schreiner Gallery - it is such a beautiful space and I feel very privileged to have had the chance to show there.’

Office Politics runs until December 2.

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UKZN alumnus Mr Ben Martins was recently appointed South Africa's National Minister of Transport. 

In this high profile position, Martins has to ensure the Transport Department’s policies and programmes are in line with South Africa’s Constitution and laws.

He is more than adequately equipped to do this because of the wealth of knowledge he acquired while completing his LLB at UKZN. 

In an interview he encouraged law students to utilise their qualifications to enrich their communities.

‘The LLB is important for me because we work in a constitutional and legal environment. It helps with the formulation of policy as some of the policies are later translated into law,’ said Martins.

Students should study to enrich their communities and ensure that they acquire knowledge which helps them to make a difference.’ 

Through his commitment to improving the country's transport system, the Minister will tackle key challenging areas such as the provision of integrated  transport solutions which allow different modes of public transport to  complement each other in an effort to reduce accidents and loss of life on the  country’s roads; access to a top-class and affordable transport infrastructure;  services for rural and poor urban areas, and the issue of congestion on the  roads, especially in the metropolitan areas. 

Martins is also an artist whose work forms part of the permanent collection of UKZN’s Killie Campbell Collection in Durban, the Pretoria and Johannesburg Art Galleries and numerous private collections.

We need art, in all its manifestations, to build social cohesion in society.  A new generation of artists should continue with the tradition of providing society with a mirror to see itself,’ said Martins.

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The Music Discipline at UKZN’s School of Arts recently received a generous donation of more than 200 vinyl music records from the estate of the late Professor Elizabeth Paterson, former literary editor of the Theoria Journal.

The records will be housed in the Eleanor Bonnar Music Library where students will be able to access them for research and entertainment.

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the College of Humanities, Professor Joseph Ayee, thanked the Paterson donor family for the contribution.

‘The College is indeed blessed to receive such a donation as it will enhance teachings and research at the School of Music,’ said Ayee.

Professor Jürgen Brauninger of the School of Music also expressed his thanks and vowed to treasure and take good care of the collection.

Director of Mason’s Incorporated, Mr Graham Shellwell, who dealt with the bequest, said: ‘We are thankful to UKZN for honouring Paterson’s bequest and we hope that this record collection will enable the University to produce more ground-breaking research in the field of music. I’m sure it will be a great resource for the students.’

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Business Science students recently participated in a contest in which they presented business proposals for small start-up businesses. The event is sponsored by Business Partners Ltd and held at the close of each semester, forming an important component of the final assessments in the Integrated Business Studies module.

Students presented before an audience comprising associates from Business Partners, the Deanship, academics, support staff, parents and former Integrated Business Studies students at the Graduate School of Business auditorium, receiving remarkable reviews from a panel of expert adjudicators.

Module Director Dr Dianna Moodley commended the students on their extraordinary professionalism exhibited throughout the semester and for their innovative business ideas. She especially highlighted the mature and congenial manner in which this particular cohort of students participated in the planning and development of these presentations, displaying a notable sense of camaraderie, open-mindedness and tolerance for one another – an aspect that set them apart from former students. ‘Our students epitomised real democracy in practice and this shows promise of hope for future leadership in South Africa,’ she said.

Area Manager of Business Partners, Mr Jay Soma was impressed by the sophistication of the business proposals, exclaiming, ‘Undoubtedly, the presentations that were put up today were far better than the ones we get in reality, and for that I must compliment you’.  Dean of Teaching and Learning Professor Kriben Pillay concurred with the high quality of the presentations and Head of the School of Management Studies Professor Khanti Bhowan was impressed by the fluency of these students, which he said far exceeded that of some of his post-graduate students... “A great achievement!”

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Dr Monique Salomon of UKZN’s School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences was among 50 academics who gathered recently in Grahamstown for a conference on: “Old Land – New Practices? The Changing face of Land and Conservation in Postcolonial Africa”.

A joint initiative between Rhodes University, the University of the Free State and the University of the Witwatersrand, the main purpose of the Conference was to explore and debate whether contemporary issues on land, conservation and development had shifted in Africa and South Africa post-1994.

Salomon presented a paper at the Conference titled: “Landscapes as libraries. A history of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg from 1818 to 2009”, which was based on her PhD research.  This paper was published in Innovation Journal, Volume 41.

She argued that landscapes were an important source of information and that contemporary landscapes could be analysed as the outcome of a trajectory that was set out in the past. ‘A spatial and historical analysis of a landscape can shed light on the practices of its current users, and the opportunities and constraints they are faced with.’

Discussing deliberations and outcomes at the conference, Salomon said one of the conclusions was that land reform in South Africa was governed by a paternalistic development paradigm. Government regulations dictated what reformed land should and should not be used for.

Salomon explained that there had been a lot of publicity about the failure to turn land-reform farms into profitable large-scale commercial farms operated by beneficiary groups.

Several case studies honed in on land transfers to claimants on condition that the land remain a protected conservation area in perpetuity.

She said that in a play on the title of the conference, speakers observed that “old lands” are still ruled by “old practices”, sometimes disguised as “new promises”.

Land claimants who had signed business deals with private lodges and tourism ventures, including the widely acclaimed “success story” of the Makuleke clan at the Kruger National Park, had often seen the promise of profit overshadowed by the reality of parks running at a loss.

Co-management agreements, such as in the Dwesa Cwebe Nature Reserve, placed the rightful land owners on the wrong side of the law when they wanted to access the natural and marine resources.

‘The tragedy of the common thinking still looms large in conservation circles. The reasoning that “if we give access to one, we give permission to all to exploit nature” ignores customary practices of sustainable harvesting and use of nature’s sources,’ said Salomon.

‘Rastafarian bossie dokters (forest doctors) in the Cape cry out why they as indigenous custodians of the land are denied access while exotic vineyards are allowed to dominate the landscape.’

Salomon said attempts to match conservation concerns with social development goals had resulted in unhappy marriages founded on misguided expectations, false promises, and bad deals. Farm workers were not better off in private game reserves or lodges.

‘Community cohesion around a land claim can quickly dissolve after land has been transferred and different interests resurface.

‘Renewable energy also has negative impacts. The installation of wind turbines, for example, requires mining, displaces the same people as those affected by conservation, and are a hazard to birds and bats.’

Salomon said the role of the State in controlling people and the landscape was highlighted at the Conference as a problem. The need to “humanise” nature conservation or de-proclaim nature reserves was suggested.

‘However, it was the call for an “alternative politics from below” that resonated most with those of us who are pushing for radical land and agrarian reform.’

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Freeing rhythm from the narrow confines of music and locating it in mathematics, physics and principles of nature was the theme of the Rhythm in all its Manifestations workshop at the UNITE/School of Engineering complex.

Organised under the Business Organisational and Leadership (BOLD) umbrella, the interactive workshop was facilitated by Puerto Rican rhythm artist, Efrain Toro, a world-renowned master of percussion, author of 16 books and currently teaching at UKZN’s School of Music.

Toro’s innovative approach to conceptualizing rhythm and his engaging, fun way of relating to his subject soon had the largely engineering audience tapping and clapping along through various rhythmic exercises.

Hosting the rhythm workshop at the UNITE/School of Engineering Facility is in line with a collaborative and wider process of tapping synergy between UKZN’s School of Engineering and the School of Music.

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