Five NAS researchers elected as AAS Fellows
Five researchers from the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences have been elected as Fellows of the African Academy of Sciences (AAS). They are Prof Jacek Banasiak (Mathematics and Applied Mathematics), Prof Nigel Bennett (Zoology and Entomology), Prof Don Cowan (Genetics), Prof Brenda Wingfield (Genetics) and Prof Mike Wingfield (FABI). This brings the number of AAS Fellows in the Faculty to seven.
Prof Jacek Banasiak heads the DST/NRF SARChI Chair in Mathematical Models and Methods in Bioengineering and Biosciences (M3B2). He authored/co-authored five research monographs and was also author/co-author of over 100 refereed research papers. In 2012 Prof Banasiak received the South African Mathematical Society Award for Research Distinction, in 2013 the Cross of Merit (Silver) of the Republic of Poland and in 2014 he was awarded the first prize in the competition for the best paper in applied mathematics organised by the Centre for Applications of Mathematics (Gdansk). He is the editor in chief of Afrika Matematika (Springer), an advisory editor of Mathematical Methods for the Applied Sciences (Wiley), associate editor of Quaestiones Matematicae, as well as a member of the editorial board of Evolution Equations and Control Theory and the AIMS Library Series of Cambridge University Press. He has been a B1-rated researcher since 2008.
Prof Nigel Bennett occupies the joint DST/NRF SARChI Research Chair in the field of Mammalian Behavioural Ecology and Physiology, as well as the UP Austin Roberts Chair of African Mammalogy. He has published 320 research articles in international peer-reviewed journals, including Nature, Science, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Advances in the Study of Behavior and Trends in Ecology and Evolution. He is a Fellow of the Zoological Society of London and the Royal Society of South Africa, as well as the Academy of Sciences of South Africa (ASSAf). He has served as President and Vice-President of the Zoological Society of Southern Africa, is editor in chief of the London-based Journal of Zoology, and editor of Biology Letters. He received the Chancellor’s Medal for Research in 2003 and 2011, and the Zoological Society gold medal in 2008 as well as the Havenga Prize for Biological Sciences for his research on living material. In 2015 he received the NSTF award for research capacity development over the last 5 to 10 years by an individual. He has an A2-rating from the National Research Foundation (NRF).
Prof Don Cowan is the Director of both the Genomics Research Institute (GRI) and the Centre for Microbial Ecology and Genomics (CMEG). Prof Cowan is an NRF A2-rated researcher. He shared the first place in the Capacity Building category with Prof Brenda Wingfield in the 2014 NSTF-BHP Billiton Awards. In the same year he was awarded the University of Pretoria Chancellor’s Award for Research for 2015. He has published more than 310 research papers, review articles and book chapters, and is a member of the editorial boards of thirteen international journals. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa in 2007, member of the Academy of Sciences of South Africa in 2008, and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 2009. He received the University of the Western Cape Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Research Excellence in 2008 and the South African Society for Microbiology Silver Medal in 2009. Currently he is the immediate-past President of the Royal Society of South Africa.
Prof Brenda Wingfield enjoys significant national and international recognition for her work in molecular plant pathology and fungal genetics. She has received numerous significant awards for research, including the DST Women in Science Award (category Distinguished Woman Researchers) in 2008, and the African Union Regional Award for Women in Science in 2009. In 2014 she was awarded an A2 rating by the NRF. She was the first female researcher to receive the Christiaan Hendrik Persoon medal from the Southern African Society for Plant Pathology (SASPP) in 2015. In the same year Prof Wingfield was appointed to the DST-NRF SARChI chair in Fungal Genomics and in 2024 she received the Harry Oppenheimer Fellowship Award. She is a programme leader at the DST-NRF Centre for Tree Health Biotechnology.
Prof Mike Wingfield is the Founding Director of the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) and an A1-rated NRF researcher. He was elected as a Fellow of several scientific societies, including the Royal Society of South Africa, the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), the Southern African Society for Plant Pathology and the American Phytopathological Society. He is one of the few honorary members of the Mycological Society of America. The prestigious African Union (AU) Kwame Nkrumah Scientific Award in the Life and Earth Sciences category was bestowed on Prof Wingfield in Addis Ababa in 2013. Other accolades that he has received include the Johanna Westerdijk Award by the Centraalbureau voor Schimmelcultures (CBS) (Fungal Biodiversity Centre, the Netherlands), and honorary DSc degrees from the University of British Columbia in 2012, and from North Carolina State University in 2013. He was also awarded the Distinguished Leadership Award for International Scientists for 2024 by his alma mater, the University of Minnesota, and the esteemed Royal Society of South Africa (RSSAf) John FW Herschel medal for .
– Author Martie Meyer