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UJ scientist awarded Royal Society 2020 FLAIR fellowship

​The prestigious Future Leaders – African Independent Research (FLAIR) fellowship has been awarded to University of Johannesburg (UJ) scientist, Dr Leah Matsinha from the Department of Chemical Sciences.

The African Academy of Sciences (AAS) and Royal Society, supported by the UK’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), announced on Monday, 11 May 2020 the second cohort of FLAIR fellowships.


Dr Matsinha is developing a cost-effective process to develop kerosene using glycerol which is produced as a by-product from bio-energy and food industries. Production of cheap alternate fuels from readily available glycerol will alleviate health problems associated with the use of wood for household cooking.

The FLAIR fellowships are recognised as one of the Royal Society’s premier research awards, and acknowledges outstanding early-career African scientists, whose research is focused on the needs of the continent.

The programme aims to develop independent research careers in African institutions and ultimately, for scientists to lead their own research groups.

The 2020 cohort joins the 2019 intake of FLAIR fellows, who are already making a significant contribution to science on the continent in their respective fields.

Professor Nelson Torto, Executive Director of the African Academy of Sciences, says, “The AAS welcomes the new cohort of FLAIR grantees to our growing postdoctoral family. Postdoctoral programmes are vital in training and developing early career researchers into research leaders whose scientific leadership will influence policies that will promote the socio-economic development of the continent.”

The Research Fellowships help release researchers from competing duties, such as teaching and administration, allowing them to focus on ambitious and original research. The awards also enable distinguished, international research talent to relocate to a UK academic institution.

Professor Richard Catlow, Foreign Secretary of the Royal Society, added: “On behalf of the Royal Society, I’d like to offer heartfelt congratulations to this year’s FLAIR fellows.

“Climate change, food sustainability, emerging disease, these are challenges facing us all, but the risks they pose to individuals and ecosystems across Africa are especially pronounced. That is why we’re proud to be part of a programme that is investing in the next generation of African scientific leaders, as they research solutions and adaptations to these challenges.

The Royal Society’s programmes are synonymous with excellence in science and its grants programmes play an important role in nurturing the next generation of researchers to be tomorrow’s scientific leaders.

Dr Leah Matsinha’s is also a winner of the 2018 Arthur E. Martell Early Career Researcher Prize. The prize is awarded to a ‘coordination chemist as an author with a substantial contribution to a high-quality manuscript published in the Journal of Coordination Chemistry in each Volume’.

dr leah matsinha
Dr Leah Matsinha from the Department of Chemical Sciences.
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