SA chemist wins spot at Nobel meeting

3 July 2013

South African chemist Banothile Makhubela, from the University of Cape Town, is one of 625 leading young scientists from 78 countries selected to participate in the Nobel Laureate meeting on chemistry currently under way in Lindau, Germany.

The meeting gives Makhubela “the opportunity to pick some of the most brilliant scientific minds in her field”, the university said in a statement last week.

It began on 30 June and will run until 5 July and features 35 Nobel Laureates who will meet and exchange ideas with the next generation of scientists and researchers.

The Lindau Nobel Laureate meetings were established in 1951 to act as a platform for inter-generational dialogue between scientists.

Green chemistry and biochemical processes are the focus of the 63rd meeting, and Makhubela’s area of interest is organometallic chemistry, which interfaces inorganic and organic chemistry and has applications in biomedicines, catalysis and green chemistry.

Her highlight of being selected to participate in the meeting was the opportunity to engage with Robert Grubbs, who was one of the 2005 chemistry prize winners and whose research area was bio-inorganic chemistry, like her own.

She is hoping the mentorship provided through the meeting will result in the development of “scientific tools to meet the developmental challenges in Africa”.

Makhubela comes from Mzinti, a rural town in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province, and found her interest in chemistry grow because it was “more understandable than any of [her] other subjects at school”.

“This later on developed into an interest in inorganic chemistry, specifically reactions involving transition metals in organic species,” she said.

She pursued the subject at tertiary level and completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Zululand in KwaZulu-Natal. She moved to the University of Cape Town for her postgraduate studies.

Makhubela has also been selected to take part in the 2013 SciFinder Future Leaders in Chemistry programme in the US in September. This will provide insight into the largest database of chemistry and related science information, as well as the opportunity to help shape chemical inofrmation.

SAinfo reporter