WC’s Nano-Chemist Represents At Prestigious World Science

Siboniso Mawandla | The Republic Mail

By Nicklaus Kruger

The University of the Western Cape (UWC) is proud of postdoctoral fellow Sarah D’Souza, who is one of seven African scholars in the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) to participate in this year’s prestigious Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting in Germany.

Zimbabwe-born nano-chemist at the University of the Western Cape D’Souza, from Durbanville in the northern suburbs of Cape Town, is one of the seven African scholars selected who are dedicated to chemistry and who qualified to attend the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. Those selected are among the best in their fields and have the potential to excel in their careers.

“I love how versatile nanomaterials are,” Sarah says. “They’ve changed the way we make advances across all fields of research, opening up new possibilities and providing alternative solutions to problems. They’re fascinating.”

This six-day meeting is currently taking place until 30 June, and will be followed in August by the sixth Lindau Meeting on Economic Sciences – at which Africa will be represented by two young economists.

Raised in the small town of Mutare, Zimbabwe, on the border with Mozambique (where her sister and parents still live) she was fortunate to experience both private, co-ed (Hillcrest Junior) and public uni-sex (Mutare Girls High) schooling, which helped her develop a broader perspective on education – and life in general.

“Coming from a small town made moving to Grahamstown to study at Rhodes University easier,” Sarah says, “and living in res gave me the opportunity to make lifelong friends, and to help newly-arriving students adjust to their new life and get involved in community engagement projects.”

Her work at Rhodes involved quantum dots – semi-conducting nanoparticles which produce a range of amazing colours when they fluoresce, and have potential application for transistors, solar cells, LEDs, quantum computing, medical imaging and more.

“Their range in applications got me hooked onto materials science,” Sarah notes, “and I never looked back.”

Sarah came to Cape Town, and UWC specifically, to do her post-doctoral fellowship because of the excellence of the nanomaterials programme at the University – and to work with Dr Edith Antunes in the Department of Chemistry, who had been her co-supervisor at Rhodes. Now she’s co-supervised by Dr Antunes and Prof Denzil Beukes at the University’s School of Pharmacy.

The Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting brings together the next generation of leading scientists – approximately 400 undergraduates, PhD students and post-doc researchers from 76 countries – to engage in exchange and dialogue with Nobel laureates.

The meetings alternate between physiology/medicine, physics and chemistry – the three natural science Nobel Prize disciplines.

According to Dr Tom Kariuki, interim executive director of the AAS, the meetings will involve different sessions designed to activate the exchange of knowledge, ideas and experience among Nobel Laureates and young scientists.

“This will enable the young scholars to have the opportunity to present their own research and discuss it with the laureates. Also, with Nobel Laureates engaging actively in the debates, these panels provide the platform for a profound survey of the state of affairs in challenging fields of research,”

It’s a platform that Sarah aims to make the most of.

“I am really motivated to be at the top of my field,” she says. “I hope I’ll always have the chance to grow my skills, take on interesting projects, and collaborate with people I can really learn from. And who knows? Maybe in ten years I’ll be on my way to winning the Nobel Prize – and one day I’ll come back to the Lindau Meeting to share my discoveries with the next generation.”

The African universities participating are Burkina Faso’s University of Ouagadougou; University of Wuerzburg, Germany, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana, the University of Ghana; the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin in Germany and the  University of KwaZulu-Natal.