Three Wits academics have been announced as finalists in the 2013/2014 National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) Awards, hosted in partnership with BHP Billiton.

Professor Hoosen (Jerry) Coovadia has been nominated for his outstanding contribution to science, engineering and technology (SET) over a lifetime.

He is the director of the Maternal, Adolescent and Child Health (MatCH) Health Systems at Wits and Emeritus Professor of Paediatrics and Child Health; and Emeritus Victor Daitz Professor of HIV/AIDS Research at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He is also the chairperson of the board of the KwaZulu-Natal Children’s Hospital Trust and a Commissioner for the National Planning Commission for the Presidency of the Republic of South Africa.

Previously he was the scientific director at the Doris Duke Medical Research Centre at the University of Natal and the director of BioMed HIV/AIDS Research at the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine.

He also held the International vice-chair of the Paediatric AIDS Clinical Trials Group (IMPAACT), the deputy chair of Transitional National Development Trust, co-chair of the Advisory Board to the Artists for a New South Africa’s Amandla AIDS Fund and member of the South African Academy of Science.

He holds Honorary Doctorates from the Universities of Durban Westville, Witwatersrand and Kwa-Zulu Natal; a Master of Science from the University of Birmingham in the UK; a FCP from the College of Medicine of South Africa and a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery from the University of Bombay, India.

Coovadia has published more than 338 papers on factors causing morbidity, disability and mortality among Africa’s children. He has received a number of awards including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the HIV Congress in India, the Silver Medal for Excellence in Research from the Medical Research Council of South Africa, the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights (co-recipient with Judge Edwin Cameron), the Order of the Star of S.A. for Contributions to Democracy and Health presented by former President Nelson Mandela and most recently the 2013 Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

“The award is intrinsically its own reward, but it is also comes at the end of a long eventful journey; the early years of research arose from my need for a deeper understanding of child health and disease in an impoverished environment made worse by an oppressive racial regime,” says Coovadia.

“The terrifying and unprecedented epidemic of HIV gave greater urgency and impetus to more focused and better designed explorations of childhood disorders.

“Violence in all its expressions is fundamental to our society and has been for generations – it is therefore unsurprising that the themes for my research and their outcomes by their very choice also created the violence of discomfort, disagreements and outright hostility from many quarters. Whether it was apartheid or denial of HIV, unadorned science was always the most effective rebuttal.”

Professor Shabir Madhi has been nominated for the TW Kambule NRF-NSTF Award, given to an individual for an outstanding contribution to science, engineering and technology through research and its outputs over the last five to 10 years.

He is executive director of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases and Professor of Vaccinology at Wits. He also holds the position of South African Research of the Department of Science and Technology/National Research Foundation in Vaccine Preventable Diseases and Director: South African Medical Research Council Respiratory and Meningeal Pathogens Research Unit.

Madhi completed his undergraduate and postgraduate training at Wits, qualified as a paediatrician in 1996 and obtained his PhD in 2003.

Madhi has been involved in research on vaccine-preventable diseases and on infections in HIV-infected children for 17 years. He has undertaken some of the pivotal studies that have led to policies and guidelines in South Africa and those issued by agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO).

His research demonstrating a reduction in childhood morbidity with the use of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCVs) and rotavirus vaccines prompted South Africa to be the first in Africa to introduce these vaccines in national immunisation programs. These studies also contributed to the WHO recommending the introduction of these life-saving vaccines into public immunisation programs globally.

He is currently involved in epidemiological, immunological and clinical studies on the immunisation of pregnant women with the influenza vaccine, pertussis vaccine and GBS vaccine; which are aimed at protecting young infants from diseases due to these potentially life-threatening illnesses.

Madhi has contributed to nine book chapters and over 185 peer reviewed articles, including five in the highest ranked medical journal globally (The New England Journal of Medicine).

Madhi has received a number of national awards for his research, including the NRF President’s Award for Transformation of the Science Cohort (2009), the T W Kambule NRF-NSTF Award: Senior Black Researcher over the past five to 10 years (2010), Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Research at Wits (2010) and the Medical Research Council: Life Time Achievement Award (Platinum Medal) (2013).

He was awarded an A-rating (internationally recognised) by the NRF in 2011 and was also listed as being among “100 World Class South Africans” by City Press in 2013. He is also the immediate past-president of the World Society of Infectious Diseases and has served as a consultant to the World Health Organisation (in the fields of vaccinology and pneumonia) and to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (on pneumonia and is member of its Scientific Advisory Committee).

“It is a privilege to have been nominated amongst so many other leading Scientist in South Africa for this award, which largely bears testimony to the remarkable work undertaken by members in my Research Team,” says Madhi.

Professor Lyn Wadley, Honorary Professor of Archaeology in the Wits School of Geography, Archaeology and Environment was nominated in the same category, the TW Kambule NRF-NSTF Award, given to an individual for an outstanding contribution to science, engineering and technology through research and its outputs over the last five to 10 years.

Wadley worked in the Wits Archaeology Department from 1982 to 2004. She was promoted to senior lecturer at Wits in 1988 and became Associate Professor in 1996. During this time, she initiated and completed major excavation projects in the eastern Free State at Rose Cottage and other sites and, latterly, at Sibudu Cave in KwaZulu-Natal.

In 2005 she was appointed as Honorary Professor, Archaeology, enabling her to conduct research at the University, where she continues to supervise graduate students and do active research into the African Middle Stone Age.

She is an NRF A-rated researcher. Her main research interest is ancient cognition and her experimental archaeology is geared towards understanding the mental architecture required for various behaviours.

Experiments include the production and use of compound adhesives and heat treatment of rocks, and she has examined the implications of these technologies for cognition. Wadley joined the Institute for Human Evolution at Wits (now the Evolutionary Sciences Institute) in 2008, where she continues her research as Honorary Professor.

“The NSTF regards a finalist as an institutional representative and it is an honour for me to be representing Wits and South African archaeology this year. I appreciate the confidence that Wits has in me and my research and I also thank the NRF for the ongoing support for the work that I love so much,” says Wadley.

The Awards are the flagship project of the largest and most prominent multi-stakeholder representative forum for Science, Engineering, Technology and Innovation (SETI) in South Africa. The Awards encourage and reward excellence in scientific research, technological innovation, education, capacity building and communication. The winners will be announced at a gala dinner on 3 July 2014.