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…

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…

Prof Wieland Gevers: Institution builder of note

    Prof Wieland Gevers: Institution builder of note   In 1970, a 32-year-old Wieland Gevers faced a big decision: To stay in North America, taking up a prestigious tenured Associate Professorship at the leading Canadian university, or to return to his native South Africa. The Canadian job involved setting up a research laboratory in…

Jill Farrant: resurrection (plant) woman

Prof Jill Farrant’s life merges with water. To be more specific, she’s occupied by the ability of a rare few so-called resurrection plants to seemingly die off when none of this life-giving source is available, only to bounce back within hours once a few drops come their way. She was born in the summer of…

Kobus Eloff: Jack-of-all-trades achieves success

Twenty years ago, when the Academy of Science of South Africa was established, Jacobus (Kobus) Nicolaas Eloff, then already in his mid-fifties, was invited, as Director of the National Botanical Gardens, to become a founding member of the Academy. However, once his CV had been reviewed, Eloff’s founding membership was declined on the grounds that…