2022 marked the inauguration of Prof. Bismark Tyobeka as the third Vice Chancellor of North-West University (www.NWU.ac.za) and the beginning of a new era at the South African institution. The university will seek to increase its impact on society through its internationalization agenda and increased public-private partnerships in research and education.
Prof. Tyobeka says that since NWU was founded, the university has been meeting the needs and expectations of its stakeholders.
“But we can still do more. We are ready to achieve even more and continue to play a key role in finding solutions to societal problems to unlock opportunities for our stakeholders. Therefore, we must strengthen our determination to be an internationally recognized university in Africa, characterized by committed scholarship, academic excellence and an ethic of caring.”
The rector explained that the inauguration marks the beginning of a journey that will be marked by the consolidation of NWU’s achievements and the repositioning of the university to explore new frontiers and opportunities – nationally and internationally.
Key Opportunities at North-West University
Prof. Tyobeka has announced that he will focus on key issues that will shape the future of North-West University and hence its impact on South Africa and the African continent:
- Internationalization and Africanization.
- Strategic collaborative initiatives to improve food security in the Northwest Province.
- Researching the feasibility of a mining and mining engineering school and deploying innovative energy and water security solutions on the university campus.
- Public-private partnerships and the diversification of income streams.
- The establishment of medical and veterinary schools.
- Increasing the employability of graduates and the development of entrepreneurship.
- The decolonization of the curriculum and the enduring impact on NWU’s research and community engagement programs.
said Professor Tyobeka “We aim to make an impactful contribution to state capacity building, including through the partnerships we have recently been involved in, such as the one we have with the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) (https://bit.ly/3ioN5JJ). We also pay particular attention to strengthening relationships and working together with local government.”
North-West University has long fostered a culture of research and development. Recently, researchers from the university have been collaborating with colleagues from private companies to jointly develop, commercialize and patent products.
The university is particularly well known for its high-quality range of subjects in the fields of atmospheric science, clinical medicine, education, hotel and tourism management and public health.
In addition to research projects with the private sector, the university has participated in environmental and engineering research projects with African governments.
That North-West University Content Center published on AfricaLive (https://bit.ly/3FkGwBj) now serves as a guide for critical research at the university that can uplift the region and the African continent. The most important projects of the university include:
Use nanotechnology for food security and environmental protection (https://bit.ly/3VzOOKB)
One of the greatest challenges of the 21st century is to ensure food security for the exponentially growing world population, as set out in Goal 2 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With a population of more than 9 billion, global food demand is projected to increase by 60 to 98% by 2050.
Under this irreversible pressure, grain demand is expected to reach 3 billion tons by 2050. It is worth noting that in sub-Saharan Africa, increased use of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) fertilizers and chemical pesticides is linked to meeting the SDGs to improve agricultural productivity and end malnutrition and hunger.
Now a team of seven PhD students and three research associates at NWU is using this approach in conjunction with nanotechnology to secure the food of the future while protecting our environment.
North-West University on a Quest to Save Our Fresh Water Sources (https://bit.ly/3F7tjvj)
South Africa’s freshwater sources are under pressure from various types of contaminants, and researchers at NWU are looking for ways to keep tabs on some of the elusive pollutants.
Prof. Rialet Pieters, a researcher in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Management, is an ecotoxicologist whose interests lie in organic chemical pollutants and their harmful effects on humans and wildlife.
Studies have found that the quality of available freshwater is rapidly declining due to changing weather patterns as well as human-induced activities.
Night cooking with solar is possible with thermal energy storage (https://bit.ly/3iqr2mg)
With the help of thermal energy storage, it is possible to prepare warm meals at night on solar cookers. However, some systems work better than others and there is room for improvement. This is according to Prof Ashmore Mawire of the Solar Thermal Research Group at NWU.
He recently gave a public talk presenting past and current research from the group located in the Material Science Innovation and Modeling (MaSIM) research priority.
NWU leads SA core team in fight against neuromuscular diseases (https://bit.ly/3EMh8CL)
The social and economic impact of neuromuscular diseases (NMDs) is overwhelming.
These diseases, which include motor neuron disease and muscular dystrophy, can lead to premature death or lifelong disability and are estimated to affect one in 400 people – or about 20 million children and adults around the world.
On the international front, however, there is hope. Accurate genetic diagnosis, gene discoveries and new therapies are having a positive impact on patient care and well-being in developed countries.
This is not yet the case in developing countries with under-screened populations such as South Africa, where more research is urgently needed to develop effective genetic diagnoses and treatments for rare inherited diseases such as NMD.
Here, North-West University (NWU) has an important role to play, both as a partner in an international collaborative study and as the coordinator of the South African core team that will study NMD in the region.
The plastic problem: NWU researchers point to large data gaps (https://bit.ly/3gH1JeY)
University researchers have discovered major data gaps related to plastic marine pollution in South Africa.
The research showed that more spatial and temporal data is needed (especially for freshwater bodies) to tailor a plastic policy for the country. This identifies vulnerable areas, areas of highest threat, and processes that can be impacted.
Put edible insects on the menu (https://bit.ly/3ubBTmG)
Many South Africans perceive insects as disease vectors and crop destroyers rather than the critical roles they play in food security, soil improvement, nutrition and pollination.
In fact, in the Northwest, Limpopo and Mpumalanga, flying ants, locusts, mopane worms, African metal beetles and edible stink bugs are delicacies.
To educate the public about this multi-million dollar industry, researchers from North-West University (NWU) and Rikkyo University in Japan were tasked with decoding indigenous knowledge systems of the mopane worm and the edible stink bug for use in school curriculum.
Getting the best out of medicinal plant extracts with nanotechnology (https://bit.ly/3XKvoVd)
A North-West University (NWU) graduate brings together ancient plant knowledge and the latest nanotechnology to bring out the best in medicinal plant extracts.
According to a United States national nanotechnology initiative, nanotechnology is currently revolutionizing the technology and industrial sectors. These include information technology, homeland security, medicine, transportation, energy, food safety and environmental sciences, among others.
MSc graduate Pule Silent Seboletswe recently researched how nanotechnology can help find solutions to problems related to the use of natural products for therapeutic purposes.
Assessing the potential of South African medicinal plants to treat depression (https://bit.ly/3imG3Fy)
The academic Dr. Makhotso Lekhooa of North-West University (NWU) is investigating the possibility that a native plant can be used to treat depression.
This research is very accurate as the World Health Organization (WHO) states that 4.4% of the world population suffers from depression while in South Africa this percentage is 4.6%.
In addition, South Africa also has a poor response rate, with less than 50% of patients achieving remission and struggling with unwanted side effects.
The research topic of Dr. Lekhooa was “Evaluating the Effects of South African Medicinal Plants Such as Sceletium Tortuosum in an Animal Model of Depression”.
NWU researcher works on international mushroom study (https://bit.ly/3ASQVkY)
The fungus that spoils the bread doesn’t work alone. It has guests hidden deep within its cells – bacteria – with which it has a mutually beneficial relationship that can be positive or negative for humans. Understanding and changing this relationship can have profound implications for the food, medical and agricultural industries.
This is the focus of a four-year international collaboration between North-West University (NWU) and two universities in the United States.
Tree plantations damage ecosystems (https://bit.ly/3gGEVfA)
Replacing native forests with tree plantations damages soil at the microbial level as it impacts soil fertility and the health of the planet.
This is one of the conclusions of North-West University (NWU) academic Prof. Olubukola Oluranti Babalola, who together with Dr. Adenike Eunice Amoo recently conducted pioneering research to study the impact of land use change on soil bacterial communities and properties.
“Soil microbial communities are an important part of ecosystems and have the ability to enhance ecosystem services. However, some aspects of the ecology of forest floor bacterial communities are still unknown,” says Prof. Babalola.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of North-West University.
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Explore North-West University’s content hub on AfricaLive for more projects and partnership opportunities that can shape Africa’s future (https://bit.ly/3EMi5uP)