Women researchers pioneering the fourth industrial revolution

The 2019 instalment of the South African Women in Science Awards (SAWiSA) celebrated the best of women in science, technology and innovation. The awards took place in Port Elizabeth on the evening of 15 August 2019 under the theme, "Making the fourth industrial revolution work for women".


The fourth industrial revolution (4IR) has been defined as technological development that blurs the lines between the physical, digital and biological domains. It integrates cyber-physical systems and the internet of things, big data and cloud computing, robotics, artificial intelligence and additive manufacturing. Compared to previous industrial revolutions, this one is evolving at an exponential rate, with potentially significant impacts on human society and dynamics.


The 2019 SAWiSA gala dinner was hosted by the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Dr Blade Nzimande. Addressing the event, the Minister said the humanities and social sciences were as critical to the 4IR discourse as the natural and engineering sciences.


"It is important that the power and potential of all of humanity is unleashed to benefit from the 4IR. Women, who account for more than half of the population of the world, have a major role to play," the Minister said.


The South African Women in Science Awards honour women scientists in a number of research areas, including the natural (life and physical) and engineering sciences, the humanities and social sciences, and research and innovation. Awards in the latter category were made in areas aligned to the 4IR.


The 2019 SAWiSA winners are as follows:


  • Distinguished Women Researchers: Natural (Physical and Life) and Engineering Sciences


     Professor Michéle Ramsay, University of Witwatersrand.


  • Distinguished Women Researchers: Humanities and Social Sciences

         Prof. Lunic Base Khoza, University of Venda


  • Distinguished Woman Researchers: Research and Innovation

        Prof. Tania Samantha Douglas, University of Cape Town


  • Distinguished Young Women Researchers: Natural (Physical and Life) and Engineering Sciences

        Dr Banothile Charity Events Makhubela

  • Distinguished Young Women Researchers: Humanities and Social Sciences

        Prof. Martinette Kruger, North-West University


  • Distinguished Young Woman Researchers: Research and Innovation

       Dr Sibongiseni Thomasia Tunzelana Thotsejane, University of Cape Town


Prof. Michèle Ramsay, the winner in the category of Distinguished Women Researchers: Natural (Physical and Life) and Engineering Sciences, holds the DST-NRF Research Chair in Genomics and Bioinformatics of African Populations. She is a Professor of Human Genetics and Director of the Sydney Brenner Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of the Witwatersrand.


Prof. Ramsay's current research interests include the role of genomics variation in African populations in the context of rapidly changing environmental and demographic conditions, and bioinformatics approaches to the identification of genetic variants that contribute to disease in Africa.


The winner in the category of Distinguished Young Woman Researchers: Research and Innovation, Dr Sibongiseni Thotsejane, developed an award-winning business process model in big data analytics that was tested in Finland, Canada, the USA, UK, Philippines and South Africa in 2011. In 2018, she was appointed as a Commissioner on the South African Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).


Dr Thotsejane's research focuses on the impact of the 4IR on marginalised communities and small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Her findings contributed to the development of South Africa's first national 4IR strategy, and the creation of jobs for 16 young people from an unemployed graduate programme she started in 2012.


Prof. Martinette Kruger, Professor in Tourism Management and member of the Tourism Research in Economics, Environs and Society research unit at North-West University, won the award in the Distinguished Young Women Scientists: Humanities and Social Sciences category.


One of Prof. Kruger's research focuses is understanding how events can facilitate tourism in a developing country and multicultural society context. She has engaged in long-term industry research projects with various festivals and events, as well as international projects involving, among others, the European Union and Thompson Rivers University in Canada.


The South African Women in Science Awards also serve as a platform to inspire the next generation of researchers, and to this end scholarships and fellowships are awarded to deserving postgraduate students. The DST-Albertina Sisulu Fellowships and TATA Scholarships are awarded to young women currently registered for master's and PhD courses. The 2019 winners are as follows:


DST-Albertina Sisulu Fellowships – Doctoral

  • Bianca Daphne Fibrich, University of Pretoria
  • Zinhle Mncube, University of Johannesburg
  • Nokwazi Purity Mphuthi, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Sikelelwa Nozipho Ndiweni, University of South Africa
  • Lindokuhle Cindy Nene, Rhodes University
  • Anneke Lincoln Schoeman, North-West University
  • Analike Blom van Staden, University of Pretoria.


DST-Albertina Sisulu Fellowships – Master's

  • Tabisa Diniso, Walter Sisulu University
  • Tankiso Hortencia Moso, University of KwaZulu-Natal
  • Nompumelelo Prudence Mtsweni, Tshwane University of Technology
  • Nobubele Phuza, Nelson Mandela University
  • Thembeka Gloria Sdinane, Nelson Mandela University
  • Simone Ashleigh Smith, University of the Witwatersrand


TATA Scholarships – Doctoral

  • Julia Lynn Healy, University of Cape Town
  • Sharon Malanda, Instituto de Empresa
  • Katekani Shingange, University of Free State


TATA ScholarshipsMaster's

  • Mokgadi Mahlatse Nchabeleng, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Sibabalo Noludwe, University of Cape Town
  • Sarah Jane Selkirk, University of Cape Town



For more information, contact Thabang Setlhare at 072 659 9690 or Veronica Mohapeloa at 083 400 5750.



Ishmael Mnisi

Ministerial Media Liaison Officer

066 037 8859

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Issued by the Department of Science and Innovation


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