Scientists, academics and post-doctoral students engaged young minds through interesting exhibitions duringthe first day of the annual Department of Science and Technology(DST)-National Research Foundation (NRF) Centre of Excellence (CoE) Director’s Forum.
Hundreds of school learners and university students participated in an interactive exhibition showcasing the work of the 15 Centre’s of Excellence. The learners and students, all mathematics and science enthusiasts were given an opportunity to experiencethe world of cutting edge research.
Taking place at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Howard College, the venue was a hive of activity as leaners and students were treated to a variety of engaging activities covering research areas like, Food Security, HIV/Aids, Mathematical and Statistical Science and Biomedical TB research to mention but a few. Three lucky pupils also won iPads.
Centre’s of Excellence (CoE) are physical or virtual centres of research that concentrate on existing capacity and resources to enable researchers to collaborate across disciplines on projects that are locally relevant and internationally competitive. Since 2004 (15) CoE sand one National Institute, was established, to take a lead in researching various areas that are of national interest.
It was the first time the CoEs showcased their work to high school pupils in a bid to encourage them to pursue careers in mathematics and science. Addressing the learners, DST Deputy Director-General Dr Thomas Auf der Heyde said that science and technology was at the heart of economic development. He added that the DST was working to shift the country’s economy from a resourced based to a knowledge economy. He said, instead of exporting raw materials, the country is investing in the requisite science and technology skills to ensure that beneficiation of raw materials takes place locally.
Dr Auf der Heyde further added that science was a discipline that brought people together as it builds bridges between cultures and countries. He said, this was particularly the case when tackling global challenges like climate change, where nations must work together to find sustainable solutions.
The CoE Directors’ Forum is held annually, with the purpose of providing a platform for the CoE community to enable the exchange of information on the CoE’s activities, accomplishments, best practices in research and training, discuss common issues, share their performance and impact and to also showcase some of their projects through exhibitions.
Dr Gansen Pillay, Deputy CEO NRF, who addressed the event said that “as the country continues to gear itself up for the implementation of the National Development Plan (2030); the NRF believes that it is imperative that the CoEs, as important national assets, should position themselves and take the lead in addressing some of the burning issues that face our country, while also ensuring that they remain globally competitive and innovative. Given the current economic climate, the CoEs should now more than ever before also strive to become socially, environmentally and economically sustainable, hence the subject of sustainability has informed this year’s theme of Future Sustainability of CoEs: Perspectives and Possibilities.