Phenomenal, young UJ researchers’ scoop accolades at 2017 Women in Science Awards


Phenomenal, young UJ researchers’ scoop accolades at 2017 Women in Science Awards


Publishing Date: 8/18/2017 1:30 PM

Five leading women researchers from the University of Johannesburg have been honoured by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) at the 2017 South African Women in Science Awards (WISA) which was held on Thursday, 17 August 2017.

  • Dr Philiswa Nomnongo, was awarded the Distinguished Young Woman Researcher: Natural and Engineering Sciences.  This is the second consecutive year that UJ has received the award as Prof Esther Akinlabi was the winner in this category in 2016.
  • Ms Jacqueline Moodley and Ms Valentine Saasa were awarded a DST Fellowship:  Doctoral Degree
  • Ms Dimpho Takane and Ms Dorcas Lekganyane were both awarded the DST Fellowships for Master’s Degree

Dr Carol Nonkwelo, Executive Director: Research and Innovation at UJ said, “These awards represent an incredible achievement and serves as an affirmation of the University’s strategic commitment to research excellence and global competitiveness, and its desire to further establish itself as a research-focused university. We, at the university applaud these young women for their outstanding work and their contribution to Science and Technology in South Africa.’’

The South African Women in Science Awards (WISA) is an integral part of South Africa’s annual celebrations of Women’s Month and the awards recognise and reward excellence by women scientists and researchers, and profile them as role models for younger women.   The theme for the 2017 WISA was Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work, which is the 2017 priority theme for the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW).

About the WISA award winners:

Dr Philiswa Nomnongo

Philiswa Nomngongo is an Associate Professor in the Department of Applied Chemistry at the University of Johannesburg UJ where she obtained her PhD.

Dr Nomngongo’s main research objective is to develop and apply different sample preparation methods for the extraction and preconcentration of trace organic and inorganic analytes in different sample matrices prior to the chromatographic or spectrometric determination. Her research also focuses on the application of nanotechnology for environmental pollution monitoring desalination and water treatment.

In 2014 Dr Nomngongo received a L’ Oreal - UNESCO Women in Science postdoctoral fellowship. She is author/co-author of two book chapters and 34 peer reviewed articles from 2011 to 2017 in highly rated and high impact factor journals including TrAC, Trends in Analytical Chemistry Chemical Engineering Journal, Analytica Chimica Acta, Microchimica Acta, Food Chemistry, Chemosphere and Talanta.


Ms Jacqueline Moodley

Ms Jacqueline Moodley obtained a BSc honours in psychology in 2009 and an MSc in research psychology in 2013 both from UJ where she is currently enrolled for a PhD in development studies. Ms Moodley is particularly interested in children with disabilities in South Africa. 

She has published and/or contributed to eight journal articles and three book chapters on various social development research themes including disability wellbeing and mental health. She was awarded a visiting scholarship to the University of Chicago in 2016.

In 2017 she was invited to join the Global Research on Disability and Inclusion team based at Washington University in St Louis. Ms Moodley holds a professional registration as a research psychologist with the Health Professions Council of South Africa and is a member of the international Human Development and Capability Association.


Ms Valentine Saasa

Ms Valentine Saasa obtained a BSc honours in biochemistry in 2012 at the University of Limpopo where she specialised in medicinal plant extraction for diabetes mellitus management. In 2016 she received an MSc in biochemistry cum laude from UJ with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research CSIR as a sponsor. Her masters project was aimed at developing a technology to allow diabetic patients to check their glucose levels without using needles. She is enrolled for a PhD in biochemistry at UJ and is doing her research project at the CSIR.

Ms Saasa’s PhD research focuses on screening different nanomaterials for their potential use in the non-invasive diagnosis and monitoring of diseases such as diabetes mellitus and cancer. She has published articles in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology in press and articles and a book chapter in Sensors and Transducers and her presentation on the Detection of acetone in diabetes mellitus using gas chromatography mass spectrometry and tungsten oxide was published in conference proceedings.


Ms Dorcas Lekganyane

Ms Dorcas Lekganyane obtained a BSc honours in botany from UJ in 2015 and is enrolled at the university for an MSc specialising in molecular systematics and DNA barcoding. Her research interest is using DNA barcoding to aid in rapidly identifying and describing new or existing species to better understand South Africa’s rich biodiversity. 

In 2015 she won the Office of Research Grand Prize for the best oral presentation by a student at the 6th International Barcode of Life conference hosted by the University of Guelph Canada. Her work was published in the projects Barcode Bulletin. 

In 2016 she won the prize for the best MSc presentation at the Southern African Society for Systematic Biology conference at the University of the Free State. 

In 2017 at the South African Association of Botanist SAAB conference she received an award for the best MSc oral presentation along with Best Young Scientist Award best oral paper delivered by a young botanist under the age of 30 which gives her the opportunity to make a presentation at SAAB 2018.


Ms Dimpho Takane

Ms Dimpho Takane obtained a BA in politics philosophy and economics 2015 and a BA honours in philosophy cum laude 2016 from U.J. She is enrolled for an MA in philosophy at the same institution working in African philosophy with a focus on African feminism. In her current research Takane has embarked on a project to decolonise gender. 

Ms Takane hopes that her research will help Africans particularly women to acknowledge their worth and realise the extent to which the patriarchal systems of colonialism have recreated and reinterpreted the meaning and purpose of African cultures. Takane was named the best philosophy honours student at UJ in 2016. 

She is a beneficiary of the Global Excellence Scholarship and organised a discussion session between U.J philosophy postgraduates and former president Thabo Mbeki. 


Dr Philiswa Nomnongo, who received the 2017 WISA, Distinguished Young Woman Researcher award.