SANSA Space Science News
The 2015 Awards Ceremony of the College of Agriculture, Engineering & Science at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s (UKZN) held on 17 April 2015, saw Zahra Essack of the Westville Campus and Gareth Enoch of the Pietermaritzburg (PMB) Campus walk away with the SANSA-sponsored book prizes for the two best 2nd year students in Physics. Representing SANSA at the prize giving ceremony were SANSA collaborators from UKZN, Dr Sibusiso Mthembu, UKZN Physics researcher based at the PMB campus, and Dr Judy Stephenson, UKZN researcher based at the Westville campus.
SANSA eNews caught up with Zahra, currently a 3rd year BSc student majoring in Physics and Applied Mathematics at UKZN to find out what inspires her. “The desire to know more, learn more and discover, drives me to pursue a career in science”, she says. After graduating with a PhD in Astrophysics, she wants to pursue a career as a researcher, specifically into extra-solar planets.
According to Zahra, she always finds inspiration in the words by Mario Andretti who said: “Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s the determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek”, as well as from Aristotle’s wisdom that “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
During the past decade SANSA has collaborated with UKZN through its Department of Physics on various research projects. “The primary project that forms a significant part of the collaboration is SANSA’s High Frequency SuperDarn digital radar located in Antarctica,” says SANSA MD, Dr Lee-Anne McKinnell. “It is encouraging to see the interest shown by the UKZN students to undertake space science related projects. SANSA has supported over 30 students during the last 10 years at UKZN and we are now supporting our first student from the Physics School at the PMB campus who is working on the radar project”
SANSA’s continued collaboration with UKZN and sponsorship of these prizes for excellent academic performance supports our human capital development goal of building the scarce skills and expertise required for the country's Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) programme to ensure that South Africa moves from a resource-based economy to a successful knowledge base economy.
PRETORIA, Wednesday, 03 June 2015 – Building partnerships that benefit the country and the African continent were top of the agenda at the first "Space meets Industry" Business Breakfast hosted by the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) at the CSIR Convention Centre. Over 80 delegates attended the event including various industry leaders, local scientists, government officials and decision makers from National Treasury, Department of Defence, CSIR and SAA to name a few.
The event kicked off with SANSA CEO, Dr Sandile Malinga highlighting SANSA's role in addressing South Africa's grand challenges, encouraging R&D, developing human capacity, ensuring transformation and enhancing industrial competitiveness.
Panel discussions led by SANSA Earth Observation MD, Dr Jane Olwoch and SANSA Space Science MD, Dr Lee-Anne McKinnell focused on how public-private partnerships can assist in addressing societal challenges.
"SANSA aims to bring together various industry and government decision makers under one roof for a dialogue that will stimulate innovative solutions and continue to place South Africa at the cutting edge of global space science and technology," said Dr Olwoch. "The agency has the products and technology to deal with "everyday" challenges but wanted input from industry on how they could work together to, for example, use information from satellites to address poverty and unemployment.
NRF ratings are based on research outputs and impact and aim to encourage researchers to publish their outputs in high impact journals, as well as impart cutting-edge skills to the next generation of researchers. Individual ratings are based on the quality and impact of research outputs over the past eight years as evaluated by local and international peers. The rating identifies researchers who are leaders in their fields of expertise and recognises those who constantly produce high-quality work.
According to Mike Kosch, an exciting new area of middle atmosphere research is the NRF-funded 'sprites' project. Sprites are optical gas dischargers in the atmosphere triggered by lightening. "Although reported on before, we have never seen them in Africa", says Mike.
SANSA is setting up a new, three-year experiment with a video camera system in a new optical station in a large, 6 m container at Sutherland. The intention is to make recordings during summer – the thunderstorm season in South Africa – by pointing the camera northwards to capture the elusive sprites that occur at high altitudes, well above the clouds. "Some lighting goes towards the ground and we need very large positive lightning strikes, which are quite rare."