UJ researchers nominated for premier NSTF research awards

​The premier research awards in South Africa, NSTF-South32, have included two researchers at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) in their 2018 nominations.

Prof Heidi Abrahamse, Director of the Laser Research Centre, and Dr Kasongo (Didier) Nyembwe, senior lecturer in the Department of Metallurgy, have been recognised. Their nominations are for the TW Kambule-NSTF Researcher Awards, which highlight contribution and outputs for up to 15 years.

NSTF-South32 awards celebrate excellence and outstanding contributions to science, engineering and technology and innovation in South Africa. The awards ceremony will take place on 28 June.

Prof Heidi Abrahamse

At the Laser Research Centre (LRC), Prof Abrahamse and her team do early stage research into potential health treatments for disorders that affect millions of people in South Africa and world-wide: diabetic wounds, cancers, and stem cell differentiation for regenerative medicine among others.

Prof Abrahamse and her team use low-power lasers or light emitting diodes in photobiomodulation. This treatment reduces inflammation, improves angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels) and speeds up healing, when applied correctly to wounds and painful areas. Diabetic wounds can heal many weeks faster when photobiomodulation is used in combination with medications.

In their research on potential future cancer treatments, they utilize photodynamic techniques, where a photochemotherapeutic compound is chemically linked to nanoparticles and antibodies. These are being tested in human cancer cell lines in the laboratory. With this technique, cancer cells’ uptake of the compound is improved.

In addition, the specificity of the treatment is increased. Activation of the compound by laser light kills the cancer cells but leaves the surrounding normal cells to function, showing promise for future treatment options with fewer side effects than established chemo- or radiation therapy.

In September 2015, the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) awarded a research chair for Laser Applications in Health to Prof Abrahamse. The centre is located within the UJ Faculty of Health Sciences.

Dr Kasongo (Didier) Nyembwe

Dr Nyembwe’s research focuses on rapid sand casting. The work explores the applications of three-dimensional (3D) printing technology to metal casting in South Africa. Many questions related to rapid sand casting remains unresolved, inter alia, the adequacy of foundry properties and the localisation of raw materials for the available 3D printing systems.

The research paves the way for the adoption of 3D printing technology by the local foundry industry and its readiness to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The work also provides possible solutions to alleviate the challenges of the foundry industry and improve its competitiveness.

Dr Nyembwe’s research reinforces the position of UJ as a leading role player in Additive Manufacturing (AM) in the country. As such, the University of Johannesburg in conjunction with Resolution Circle has been selected as the institution to host the 19th Annual International RAPDASA conference on AM as a key driver of the Fourth Industrial Revolution from the 7 to 9 November 2018. RAPDASA is the Rapid Development Association of South Africa.

Dr Nyembwe is a former Head of Department and currently a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Metallurgy within the Faculty of Engineering and the Built-Environment located on the Doornfontein campus. He is responsible for the foundry technology modules in the Department. The research work, which is considered for the 2018 NSTF-South32 award, received funding and support from the Metal Casting Technology Station (MCTS). The MTCS is ISO 9001:2008 certified for metal and sand testing.

Prof Heidi Abrahamse
Prof Heidi Abrahamse
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