The doyenne of seeds: Patricia Berjak

Professor Patricia Berjak was born in Johannesburg on 29 December 1939. After attaining her BSc (Hons) cum laude in biochemistry from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in 1962, Berjak moved to Natal, where she spent a year as a teacher before taking up a post at the University of Natal, now known as the…

Jill Adler: the engaged maths scholar

Most academics spend much of their time teaching. But few South African high-school teachers end up becoming world-renowned researchers with an A-rating from the National Research Foundation. Yet, this is what Professor Jill Adler has done. A teacher by training, an activist at heart, she has bucked many trends to become one of the world’s…

Picking a rhino’s brain

Is a black rhino’s brain similar to that of a white rhino? Not quite, according to researchers from the University of the Witwatersrand. They say that the subtle differences seem to be because of the animals’ diet and the size of their respective home ranges. The research was conducted by Adhil Bhagwandin and Paul Manger…

Salim Abdool Karim: a crusader for HIV research

Salim Abdool Karim is a revolutionary in everything he does, be it opposing apartheid rule, challenging AIDS denialists, or revamping South Africa’s medical research funding. Along the way, he has ruffled some feathers. But ‘Slim’, as he is known to most, gets away with it because his actions are designed for the greater good, and…

Meeting the humans behind the Nobel Prize

It’s 11.25 on a Tuesday morning, and I’m nervous as hell. In just five minutes, I’ll be sitting down for an interview with Prof Bernard Feringa, 2016’s Nobel Prize Winner in Chemistry. You might not have heard of him, but you probably know his work: he built the nanocar, back in 2011. What do you…

Quarraisha Abdool Karim: protecting women against HIV

Few AIDS researchers have done as much to help the plight of poor, rural women in South Africa as Quarraisha Abdool Karim. This is her story, as published in the Academy of Science of South Africa’s book “Legends of South African Science“. It is part of a series of profiles about leading South Africans that…

Legends of South African Science

For the next few months, Scibraai in collaboration with the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) will feature the life stories of 53 South African science legends. These stories were all included in the 2017 book “Legends of South African Science“.  The book features Academy Members who rank among the top achievers in the…