Symposium Celebrates Research and Innovation for Cities of the Future

The College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES) recently held its eighth annual Postgraduate Research and Innovation Symposium (PRIS). This instalment of the symposium, held at the Westville campus, was organised by the School of Engineering, in collaboration with the CAES Public Relations team.

The theme for the event was African Cities of the Future, intended to facilitate exploration of solutions to the socio-economic challenges exacerbated by increasing urbanisation on the African continent.

‘This event highlights the world class research conducted by our postgraduate students and provides them with an opportunity to present their work to peers, academic staff and research partners,’ said CAES Dean of Research Professor Kevin Kirkman. ‘This day provides an opportunity for students to develop and refine their communication skills.’

‘Teamwork is important for the success of research, and the abstracts confirm the need for multidisciplinary research to address the challenges of the world,’ said Deputy Vice-Chancellor of CAES, Professor Albert Modi.

‘The importance of research lies [in creating new knowledge], because it is only research that can produce new knowledge and new methods and procedures to change the lives of people,’ said Chairperson of the organising committee Professor Akshay Kumar Saha.

Saha encouraged postgraduate students to apply their minds to building the environment and the nation.

Mr Neil Macleod, an Honorary Research Fellow at UKZN and water and sanitation specialist consultant to the World Bank, presented the keynote address on the topic of the role of research in developing the African Cities of the Future.

Macleod addressed the changing nature of research and the growing focus on the developing world, and gave statistics relating to the growth of urban populations as evidence of the need for new solutions to a number of challenges. He challenged students present at the event to imagine the world differently, questioning what research they were doing to ensure a sustainable future.

‘Applied research has a very definite place in shaping the future of this world,’ said Macleod. ‘Your research will somewhere find a place.’

The programme for the day comprised 60 oral presentations and 160 poster presentations from postgraduate students in the Schools of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES), Chemistry and Physics (SCP), Engineering, Life Sciences (SLS), and Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science (SMSCS).

Thirty-one companies held exhibitions during the proceedings, with exhibitors including agricultural researchers and practitioners, laboratory supply companies, biotechnology organisations, public utilities, government departments and agencies, internal centres and programmes, and more.

Twenty-three internal partners supported the event, including the five Schools in CAES, UKZN’s Information and Communication Services Division, UKZN InQubate, the UKZN Research Office, and various centres, research units and groups, and research chairs.

UKZN InQubate held an Intellectual Property (IP) and commercialisation workshop that ran parallel to oral presentations. During this workshop, UKZN’s Professor Fernando Albericio, Dr Mark Williams-Wynn and Dr Trevor Lorimer gave presentations on bridging the gap between academia and industry, commercialising the LPX luminophorous powder process, and the commercial journey of the powerline inspection robot respectively. Mr Vishen Pillay from Adams and Adams gave an introduction to IP sand Mr Vusi Sikhosana from the Technology Innovation Agency spoke about funding opportunities and guidelines. Ms Thembalihle Ndlovu from the Department of Economic Affairs, Development and Tourism spoke about funding opportunities and guidelines, and Ms Noluthando Makhaza from UKZN Extended Learning introduced courses on offer, especially those related to project management.

Awards were presented to the top PhD and Master’s oral presentations and the top PhD and Master’s poster presentations from each School. The value of each PhD award was R16 000 towards attendance at an international conference, and the Master’s award comprised R7 000 towards a local conference. Sponsors of the awards included the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Engineering Council of South Africa, and the SCP, SLS and SMSCS.

*Award winners:

SAEES (KZNDARD award):

First prize oral category PhD candidate: Lauren Pretorius

First prize poster category PhD: Aderonke Abd’quadri-Abojukoro

First prize oral category Master’s: Takudzwa Mandizvo

First prize poster category Master’s: Kgaugelo Thobejane

Engineering (ECSA award):

First prize oral category PhD candidate: Lindelani Ndlovu

First prize poster category PhD: Oluwaseun Oyebode

First prize oral category Master’s: Vonani Mathebula

First prize poster category Master’s: Brett Reimers

School of Chemistry and Physics:

First prize oral category PhD candidate: Sharlene-Asia Naicker

First prize poster category PhD: Samaila Abubakar

First prize oral category Master’s: Kimara Naicker

First prize poster category Master’s: Nonhlanhla Joyisa

Life Sciences:

First prize oral category PhD candidate: Gabriel Aruwajoye

First prize poster category PhD: Murtala Isah

First prize oral category Master’s: Luthando Madonsela

First prize poster category Master’s: Radhini Veerappan

School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science:

First prize oral category PhD candidate: Mutua Samuel

First prize poster category PhD: Jane Oruh

First prize oral category Master’s: Prinolan Govender

First prize poster category Master’s: Prashaan Pillay

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photographs: Albert Hirasen