Close this search box.

UJ honours outstanding researchers, including internationally-leading Prof Hendrik Ferreira, at 2014 Vice-Chancellor Awards

Prof Hendrik Ferreira, a world-leading researcher in power line communications, received the 2014 UJ Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Award for Outstanding Researcher of the Year on 13 November.​
Prof Kalama Jalama received the award for Most Promising Researcher of the Year and Prof Esther Akinlabi received the award for Innovator of the Year. Drs Francois Durand and Lara Ragpot received awards for Teaching Excellence. Mr Zafeer Nagdee and Dr Catherine Botha received awards for Most Promising Young Teacher. Ms Lucia Pelser received the award for Service Beyond the Normal Call of Duty.
Prof Hendrik Ferreira, Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering Science, Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment
Prof Ferreira received the 2014 UJ Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Award for Outstanding Researcher of the Year.
In Digital Communications, Prof Ferreira’s applied work has been focused on Power Line Communications, i.e. utilizing electrical power cables simultaneously as an electronic communications channel. This emerging technology will play an important role in the future Smart Grids for optimizing the generation and utilization of electrical energy.
In Information Theory Prof Ferreira’s fundamental work has focused on channel codes for transmitting information over digital telecommunications channels. He specializes in combining more than one desirable property into one channel code. Desirable properties include correcting transmission errors, overcoming synchronization losses, shaping the frequency spectrum, complying with channel input constraints and efficiently combining coding and modulation.
In 2013 the National Research Foundation awarded its A-rating to Prof Ferreira as unequivocally recognised by his peers as a leading international scholar in his field for the high quality and impact of his research outputs.
The same year he received the ISPLC 2013 award from the IEEE Communications Society in the USA with the citation: “For his distinguished research and educational contributions in the Power Line Communications Field and for his leadership in the organization of the International Symposium on Power Line Communications (ISPLC)”.
Prof Kalala Jalama, Department of Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment
Prof Jalama received the 2014 UJ Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Award for Most Promising Researcher of the Year.
Prof Jalama is an active researcher with an interest in the field of catalysis for alternative fuels. This year he became a member of the technical committee of the most prestigious catalysis conference in South Africa (Catalysis Society of South Africa annual conference in November 2014).
Prof Jalama has established significant research collaboration and relationships with a number of national and international institutions.
Prof Jalama is rated by the National Research Foundation as a Young Researcher with the potential of establishing himself within a five-year period.
Prof Esther Akinlabi, Department of Mechanical Engineering Science, Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment
Prof Akinlabi 2014 UJ Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Award for Innovator of the Year.
Her research areas involve solid state welding – friction stir welding and laser material processing. Her focus in friction stir welding is on dissimilar joining of aluminium and copper in a project for ESCOM, while her research in laser additive manufacturing involves the production of titanium-based functionally graded composites.
Over and beyond research work Prof Akinlabi is also an inventor. She registered a patent on the “Process for the manufacture of titanium-based composites”. A second patent is for a “Circumferential tensile tester”, able to test laser-formed curved specimens such that the mechanical properties of the material can be meaningfully derived, for use in the aerospace and automotive industries.
Dr Francois Durand, Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science
Dr Durand received a 2014 UJ Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Award for Teaching Excellence. Dr Durand is a passionate facilitator. He works collaboratively with his students, always ensuring that there is space and respect for the many different learning styles and opinions they bring both to the classroom lectures and the field trips they go on. He strives to integrate geology, ecology, biodiversity and palaeontology.
Dr Durand enriches his teaching with constant debate, many student presentations and practical projects, with visual media and the internet also in frequent use.
At the heart of all his diverse activities is his belief that teaching is “the opportunity to expose young people to the origin and diversification of life and to guide them to social and environmental responsibility”.
Zoology is the study of animals such as fishes, sponges, insects, reptiles and mammals.
Dr Lara Ragpot, Department of Childhood Education, Faculty of Education
Dr Ragpot received a 2014 UJ Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Award for Teaching Excellence. She believes that learning happens when students are active and that they learn by doing. She says teachers should ensure they have the opportunity to start from many different points and that a variety of learning tools increases opportunities for all. Lara integrates collages, drama, dance, film and art into her teaching which focuses on childhood cognitive development, particularly mathematics.
Childhood Education investigates childhood learning and development of children from birth to 12 years, including the acquisition of literacy and numeracy skills in the early ages of 5-9 years.
Mr Zafeer Nagdee, Department of Accountancy, Faculty of Economic and Financial Sciences
Mr Nagdee received a 2014 UJ Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Award for Most Promising Young Teacher. He believes lecturers today need to be willing to “unlearn and relearn” their ways of teaching. Also, that lecturers need to find new ways of connecting with students, to provide them with material that is current, relevant and inspiring. His use of social media, tablet devices and video clips assists him with this, as does his frequent interaction with accounting professionals. He introduced an extremely successful 15-minute “in-the- news” slot at the beginning of his lectures.
Accounting includes the preparation and processing of financial transactions and records of an organisation, as well as the preparation of overviews and reports to stakeholders such as directors and managers.
Dr Catherine Botha, Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Humanities
Dr Botha received a 2014 UJ Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Award for Most Promising Young Teacher. She is recognized by colleagues and students alike as completely committed to transforming her discipline from one which she describes as “combative” and which students sometimes experience as “too difficult” or “too nasty” to one which creates an enabling environment. Dr Botha strives to provide her students with a holistic, coherent learning experience, based on personal interaction, positive reinforcement and carefully sequenced incremental development.
Philosophy is an inquiry into questions that cannot be settled either by empirical evidence (as in the natural sciences) or by reasoning from accepted premises (as in mathematics).
Ms Lucia Pelser, Faculty of Engineering and the B​uilt Environment
Ms Lucia Pelser received the 2014 UJ Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Award for Service Beyond the Normal Call of Duty.
There is an increasing number of students who, despite having the grades to enter the formal tertiary education system, find it difficult to adjust and succeed.
Ms Pelser was appointed as a personal assistant to the Head of the Electrical Engineering Department in 2007. Her job description included typical office administration, but she soon became known to the students as someone they could approach to assist with academic and personal issues. Her kind and caring nature resulted in many students going to her for advice and making her their confidante.
Based on the relationships she has built with the students, staff at the University and with industry partners, a position was created where she could focus her time on assisting the faculty and the Executive Dean’s office with student matters, including bursary administration, in-service training, student employment and career guidance.
Ms Pelser works as Relationship Coordinator with the entire Engineering student cohort on both the Kingsway Auckland Park and Doornfontein campuses in the BEng, BTech and National Diploma programmes. She has played an instrumental role in starting a mentorship programme to help struggling students with academic issues, an “engineering home” where students can stay, and a food scheme to support students who are experiencing financial difficulties.


Kalala Jalama
Prof Kalala Jalama


Esther Akinlabi
Esther Akinlabi


Francois Durand
Dr Francois Durand


Lara Ragpot
Dr Lara Ragpot


Zafeer Nagdee
Mr Zafeer Nagdee


Catherine Botha
Dr Catherine Botha


Lucia Pelser
Ms Lucia Pelser
Share this