Prof Trefor Jenkins: a good man in Africa

When the Ford Foundation and the Oppenheimer Family Trust agreed, in 2004, to make a joint Endowment Grant to the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) to found the Institute for Human Evolution (now transformed into the Evolutionary Studies Institute) the university set about finding a suitable Director for the institute. When the selected candidate (Dr…

Jonathan Jansen: the talented transformer

Professor Jonathan Jansen doesn’t enjoy being in the media limelight. “I used to, but now I think it’s a drag,” says the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Free State (UFS). The reason, he says, is that journalists often get the story wrong, and the wrong idea about him. “They see me as this…

Jan-Hendrik Hofmeyr: a biochemist who believes perceptions can be shifted

In academia, change often happens slowly. Academics are born into a paradigm and, more often than not, they maintain that paradigm rather than interrogating and critiquing it. It is rare to find a researcher who is willing, much less eager, to look outside of his or her field and recognise when a paradigm can be…

[LISTEN] What do you know about the shot hole borer?

This week’s The Science Inside radio show tells the story of a tiny beetle that is threatening Johannesburg’s trees. Hear from the people working on this, Prof Wilhelm de Beer and Neil Hill. In Unscience we find out how a bug might be the answer to the world’s plastic problem. Prof Mandeep Kaur explains how she…

Diane Hildebrandt: research for improving lives

Diane Hildebrandt was born in Chingola, Zambia and came to South Africa in 1968. Her childhood was spent mostly in Rustenburg, where she completed primary school at Fields Primary School. She undertook her highschool education at Grenville High, the only government high school for English-speakers in Rustenburg at the time. The core of her matric…

Glenda Gray: guided by the needs

The road to Kliptown runs more-or-less directly south-west from the centre of Johannesburg, past the core of Soweto, and then takes a sharp turn to the right through Eldorado Park towards the bleak Walter Sisulu Memorial Square. Here, the Kliptown Perinatal HIV Research Unit (PHRU) is located, where one of Prof Glenda Gray’s many offices…

David Glasser: working towards economic benefits

On 29 September 1936, David Glasser was born in Alexandria in the Eastern Cape. A strong scholar, he was placed in St Andrews School in Bloemfontein for his primary education, going on to complete his secondary schooling at Grey High School in Port Elizabeth. Matriculating first class in 1954, Glasser was placed fifth in the…