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Five prominent female researchers at UCT have been awarded South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) Chairs in their respective fields as part of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and National Research Foundation (NRF) initiative to promote women in research.

The five new UCT SARChI Chairs are:

– Professor Tania Douglas Biomedical Engineering and Innovation
– Professor Jill Farrant Systems Biology Studies on Plant Dessication Tolerance for Food Security
– Associate Professor Nonhlanhla Khumalo Dermatology and Toxicology
– Professor Hanri Mostert Mineral Law in Africa
– Dr Amanda

Weltman Physical Cosmology
The latest SARChI call was directed specifically at women researchers as part of an effort to correct the local and global gender imbalance in research. According to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), women account for only about 30% of the world’s researchers, while only one in five countries have achieved gender parity in research.

The SARChI Women in Research initiative invited public South African universities to submit up to five research proposals, which were then assessed by a rigorous NRF – managed peer – review process.

The 42 new SARChI Chairs were announced on Wednesday 2 September by Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor, director general of Science and Technology Dr Phil Mjwara, and Dr Beverlyt Damonse, the acting chief executive officer of the NRF. UCT was delighted that all five of its applicants were successful. Prior to this announcement, UCT was home to 34 SARChI Chairs, of which nine were women (just more than a quarter). That proportion has now risen by almost 10% to 14 out of 39 (over a third). “We are not there yet, but every improvement in the gender imbalance is significant,” says Professor Danie Visser, deputy vice chancellor for research and internationalisation. “All five women have made a significant impact in their respective fields, both locally and internationally. It is my hope that they will inspire the next generation of young women to come up the ranks of research.”

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