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Nhlanganiso Madondo

The Durban University of Technology (DUT) continues to be at the forefront of research capacity development, which is in line with its Strategic Plan’s Strategic Focus Area 2: Building research and innovation for development.

Two DUT doctoral students, Nhlanganiso Madondo and Nonsikelelo Precious Mthethwa were the proud recipients in the category of Research Excellence Award for Next Generation Researchers. The announcement was made at the 2022 National Research Foundation (NRF) Awards gala event held recently in in Cape Town. The award ceremony was held in celebration of the ‘International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development’.

This award received by Madondo and Mthethwa recognises excellence in research performance by doctoral students from any discipline who are currently funded by the NRF. Eight awards were made under this category in the knowledge fields of Social Sciences, Humanities and Law; Life Sciences; Physical Sciences; and Engineering.

Madondo is studying towards his PhD in Chemical Engineering with his research focus on anaerobic digestion using bioelectrochemical system and metallic additives, where he is investigating the effect of electrochemical efficiencies on methane yield.

He could not contain his excitement upon hearing of his achievement.

“I am greatly pleased to be selected for such an academic honour for this part it is big respect and a privilege. It is not possible for me to show my thankfulness in words. I am immensely grateful for the award that is given to me, even my self-belief will be improved by this NRF award and will help me to accomplish success in the future,” he said.

For Madondo, entering such competitions is very important for students like him since they motivate and encourage them to work even harder and sincerely.

“Furthermore, competitions encourage us to feel better about the work we have completed, as well as ourselves. This promotes feelings of pride, which goes hand-in-hand with happiness,” he said.

Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation & Engagement, Professor Keolebogile Shirley Motaung said: “We need more students like Madondo and Mthethwa who can perform their best. They deserve this NRF award. Congratulations on their incredible success.”

Going forward, Madondo has submitted a manuscript (Utilization of Response Surface Methodology in Optimization and Modelling of a Microbial Electrolysis Cell for Wastewater Treatment using Box-Behnken Design Method) to MDPI Catalysts with an impact factor of 4.501; the current status of this paper is ‘pending editor decision’ after undergoing ‘minor revisions’.

“I am currently working on another paper, ‘Application of Magnetite Nanoparticles and Constant Magnetic Field on a Microbial Fuel Cell in Anaerobic Digestion’ after being invited by the guest editor to contribute to a special issue entitled, ‘Microbial Fuel Cell and Microbial Electrolysis Cell.’ This paper will be submitted to MDPI Microorganisms with an impact factor of 4.926. I am also planning to publish four more papers this year as well as a chapter of a book, which will contribute to research in my field,” he added proudly.

Nonsikelelo Mthethwa

The charismatic Mthethwa is a doctoral student at DUT in the Institute for Water and Wastewater Technology (IWWT). She was overjoyed with her win, relaying that it is a surreal moment, a dream come true in a way because not every hard working researcher gets the opportunity to be recognised and honoured in this manner, with such a prestigious award.

The 2022 Fulbright Scholarship winner is in the United States to gain skills in Next-Generation sequencing and Bioinformatics. Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS), also referred to as high-throughput sequencing has been successfully used to obtain valuable information on microbial diversity/activity in various settings, including medical, agricultural, environmental, and others.

“I am very grateful to God and to everyone who has contributed and supported me in my career journey up to this point. I could not have won without them. This includes my family and friends, my professor who nominated me: Prof Sheena Kumari, my supervisors: Prof Dennis Amoah, Prof Faizal Bux, and Prof Poovendhree Reddy, the IWWT Team, DUT staff: the DVC Office and the office of the Postgraduate Grant assistants and administrator,” she said.

She indicated that as a researcher at DUT, this means that she must continue to work hard to improve her skills as a scientist and researcher.

“It also means that I must do my best with every opportunity that comes my way, with the proper attitude. It means that I must inspire up and coming researchers who are still pursuing undergraduate degrees so that we can all contribute to the DUT ENVISION2030 by being innovative scientists, creative, entrepreneurial, and adaptable to global changes. We appreciate NRF’s commitment to human capacity development and knowledge generation; it inspires us as researchers,” she commented.

Commenting on her sterling accolade was Prof Sheena Kumari, Associate Professor- Institute for Water and Wastewater Technology,

She said: “It is an incredible accomplishment for Ms Mthethwa, and I am delighted that she has received this prestigious award from the National Research Foundation. The dedication and hard work that she has demonstrated as a postgraduate student has enabled her to receive this distinguished award. She has also received a number of other awards and recognitions in recent years, including the Fulbright Scholarship in 2022. Recognition of this kind would undoubtedly inspire young female researchers such as her to pursue greater goals and achieve greater success. This award also acknowledges DUT’s commitment to providing quality education to its students and its ability to compete with traditional universities,” she said.

Sharing his congratulatory message was Prof Faizal Bux, Director of the Institute for Water and Wastewater Technology (IWWT).

He said: “Ms Mthethwa is an extra-ordinary and model student that prides herself on striving for academic merit. Her thirst for pushing the boundaries of science especially in the field of monitoring of pathogens in wastewater using novel molecular technology is further complemented by passion and dedication to the task at hand. She is well deserving of being a recipient of the prestigious NRF Research Excellence Award for Next Generation Researchers. By being a recipient of this accolade, she has undoubtedly displayed her ability of becoming a leading scientist benchmarked to global standards and making IWWT, DUT and South Africa proud of her potential and achievements. She has also published her findings in leading web of science journals. A big hearty congratulation to Precious.”

Delivering the keynote address at the NRF Awards, the Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Buti Manamela, said it was encouraging that a significant number of black researchers and women were among the award recipients. He paid homage to all the awardees for their ground-breaking research findings.

Pictured: Nhlanganiso Madondo

Pictured: Nonsikelelo Precious Mthethwa

Waheeda Peters

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