More NRF-ratings for MUT researchers

Dr Devashan Naidoo
Dr Njabulo Gumede

MUT’s research standing keeps improving. In December, the University announced that its Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation and Engagement, Professor Nokuthula Sibiya’s National Research Foundation (NRF) rating has been upgraded to C2. In the same month the University received news that Professor Theophilus Davies, a Research Professor in the Faculty of Natural Sciences had also earned the same rating.

Now, in January 2023, three academics have been granted the NRF Y2 rating. These academics are Dr Njabulo Gumede of the Department of Analytical Chemistry, Dr Devashan Naidoo of the Department of Nature Conservation and the Centre for Algal Biotechnology (CAB), and Dr Ebenezer Oluwakemi of the Department of Chemistry.

All three researchers said the rating would have huge benefits for the University.

Dr Gumede said the ratings mean “that the research and innovation endeavours at MUT are growing, as they are now recognised nationally and internationally”. The NRF Y2 rating means that the impact of the researchers is being recognized and acknowledged by their peers, “as it has been able to add to the body of knowledge both scientifically and at a level of innovation. This rating is a result of my sustained and consistent research outputs and intellectual property portfolio over the past five years after attaining my PhD at the age of 33,” said Dr Gumede.

Dr Naidoo said the Y2 rating was an important achievement because it reflects the quality of the work that they conduct at the CAB, and MUT is now being recognised for it. “For me, it is a stepping stone to further establish myself as a promising South African scientist,” said Dr Naidoo.

Dr Naidoo added that the rating would allow them to apply to different funding instruments and “will improve our chances of success. It will also improve collaborative efforts between MUT and leading local and international Universities.”

While Dr Oluwakemi said the rating would play a crucial role in his academic career.

“It will foster the creation of a more scholarly community which is crucial for the intellectual health of MUT. I believe my spirit for research will bring together many prominent researchers to MUT in the future. Furthermore, as an outstanding researcher with extraordinary abilities, my research will significantly benefit MUT and South Africa’s next generation by focusing on science and medicine,” said Dr Oluwakemi.

Dr Gumede, together with others, has published nine articles, which have been cited 22  times. His focus area is cancer research. Dr Gumede has registered two patents. He aims to establish a research group, supervise Master’s and Doctoral students, attain national and international grants, and apply for the C rating in the next cycle.

“However, my overall goal is to attain a B-rating. I have published three research papers that were not part of this rating in 2022. One of these is a single-authored research paper in the journal of Molecules that was approved on 5 December 2022,” said Dr Gumede. Dr Gumede has co-supervised two Master’s students from the University of Limpopo. He is currently co-supervising two Master’s students from Northwest University.

Both Dr Naidoo and Dr Oluwakemi focus on Covid-19-related research. Dr Naidoo’s current research work focuses on investigating protein and peptide structures from cyanobacteria for their ability to block the action of important proteins involved in the transmission of COVID-19 in vitro and in vivo assays.

While Dr Oluwakemi’s research aims to “synthesize, characterize, elucidate, and computationalise studies of small organic molecules targeting infectious and non-infectious diseases. This will lead to the development of new proactive and therapeutic agents against human diseases such as COVID-19, norovirus, and bacterial infection,” said Dr Oluwakemi, who has co-published 15 research articles.