The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) has announced the appointment of Prof. Himla Soodyall as Executive Officer with effect from 1 November 2018. She will succeed Prof. Roseanne Diab who is retiring.


Soodyall is Research Professor in Human Genetics at the University of the Witwatersrand and Principal Medical Scientist at the National Health Laboratory Service.


She is renowned for her groundbreaking genetic research into the peoples of sub-Saharan Africa, which has identified some of the oldest DNA found in living people today, adding weight to the theory that modern humans evolved in the area now known as southern Africa.


She was awarded the National Order of Mapungubwe: Bronze, by President Mbeki in September 2005 for her contribution to science. In the same year, she was appointed the sub-Saharan African principal investigator on the Genographic Project − a five-year, worldwide project undertaken by the National Geographic Society to map humanity’s migratory history.


In 2017, she was rated one of the top-ten most visible scientists in South Africa in a study by the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST) at Stellenbosch University.


Prof. Soodyall became an ASSAf member in 2003, was elected to the ASSAf Council in 2011, and was appointed General Secretary in 2014.  As General Secretary she has been active in drafting strategies and young scientists’ activities.


As a high-profile ambassador for science, in South Africa and internationally, Soodyall brings with her not only top-quality research experience, but also a knowledge of governance and public administration, as well as engagement at all levels.



Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf)


ASSAf was inaugurated in May 1996. It was formed in response to the need for an Academy of Science consonant with the dawn of democracy in South Africa: activist in its mission of using science and scholarship for the benefit of society, with a mandate encompassing all scholarly disciplines that use an open-minded and evidence-based approach to build knowledge.


ASSAf thus adopted in its name the term 'science' in the singular as reflecting a common way of enquiring rather than an aggregation of different disciplines. Its Members are elected on the basis of a combination of two principal criteria, academic excellence and significant contributions to society.


The Parliament of South Africa passed the Academy of Science of South Africa Act (Act 67 of 2001), which came into force on 15 May 2002. This made ASSAf the only academy of science in South Africa officially recognised by government and representing the country in the international community of science academies and elsewhere.


Patricia Scholtz

Communication Manager

Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf)


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