Young Chemists’ Symposium

SACI/RSC Western Cape Young Chemists’ Symposium 2014

On 23 October, over 100 postgraduate students from across the Cape’s four tertiary institutions – Stellenbosch University (SU), the University of the Western Cape (UWC), the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and the University of Cape Town (UCT) – descended on UCT’s Chemistry Department for the SACI/RSC Western Cape Young Chemists’ Symposium.

The aim of the annual gathering is to provide an opportunity for postgraduates in the chemical sciences to meet one another, to present their research to their peers and to benefit from discussions with those from other institutions.

Given that we live in an age of science but in a country with poor scientific literacy, one of the themes of this year’s symposium was the importance of science communication. In his opening address, Prof David Gammon, Assistant Dean in the Faculty of Science at UCT, highlighted key features of effective scientific communication by sharing a chapter from Peter Watson’s fascinating book on important ideas from the twentieth century (“A Terrible Beauty”).

The guest speaker for the day was Prof Kelly Chibale, Director of the UCT Drug Discovery and Development Centre (H3-D). Prof Chibale – a “young chemist” himself – took the audience on a tour de force as he shared some inspiring stories from his career as an organic chemist. He concluded his talk by sharing his “three most important lessons”; namely, turning challenges into opportunities (“Don’t complain – think!”), the importance of consistency in one’s work and, finally, acknowledging that there is no general formula for success but that one should capitalise on one’s own unique talents.

The rest of the day comprised short research talks by MSc and PhD students from the four institutions which spanned all areas of physical, inorganic and organic chemistry and represented applications as diverse as health and disease, environmental sustainability and catalysis. The lunch hour, tea breaks and poster session provided delegates with opportunities to engage with one another and forge new connections.

After the lunch break, the organisers screened an entertaining TED Talk by Uri Alon, a systems biologist from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, who discussed some of the practical difficulties of scientific research and spending time in “the cloud” – the unavoidable time before a profound scientific discovery when nothing seems to make sense. Many of the students could be seen nodding their heads in concurrence!

The talks and posters were adjudicated by a panel of post-doctoral students from UCT and SU.

Congratulations to Varia Nikolayenko for her winning presentation on photochromic compounds and Johnel Giliomee for her poster on block copolymer vesicles on mammalian cell scaffolds. Both from SU, the winners received beautiful coffee table science books which were generously sponsored by the RSC. The runners-up in the oral presentation category were Kathryn Wicht (2nd) and Daniel Kusza (3rd) and, for the poster presentations, Marwaan Rylands (2nd) and Sheperd Siangwata (3rd). All the runners-up were from UCT and received certificates and cash prizes.

After the prize-giving, the day concluded with the RSC’s 28th PD Hahn Inorganic Lecture by Prof Selwyn Mapolie from Stellenbosch University entitled “Functional Dendrimers: The Current Status and Future Prospects”.

We are extremely grateful to our generous sponsors: SACI (Prof Peter Mallon), the RSC (Prof Alan Hutton), Prof Susan Bourne (UCT Chemistry Department) and Dr Nelleke Bak (UCT Office for Postgraduate Studies).

The feedback from delegates was most encouraging, their enthusiasm was palpable and we were impressed by the high standard of oral and poster presentations. We are now pleased to hand over the baton to UWC for the 2015 SACI/RSC Western Cape Young Chemists’ Symposium.

Roxanne Mohunlal and John Woodland
SACI, RSC student representatives
UCT Chemistry Department

“Posters 1”
Stephen Fienberg (UCT) discusses his poster with Dr Chris Barnett (UCT)

“Posters 2”
Delegates at the poster session

“Winners, Judges, Organisers” (from left to right)
Fabrizio L’abbate (UCT), John Woodland (UCT), Dr Chris Barnett (UCT), Daniel Kusza (UCT), Roxanne Mohunlal (UCT), Kathryn Wicht (UCT), Varia Nikolayenko (SU), Johnel Giliomee (SU), Nicola Dare (UCT), Marwaan Rylands (UCT), Sheperd Siangwata (UCT), Dr Tameryn Stringer (UCT), Dr David Kuter (SU), Dr Preshendren Govender

“Winners” (from left to right)
Daniel Kusza (UCT, third place oral presentation), Kathryn Wicht (UCT, second place oral presentation), Varia Nikolayenko (SU, first place oral presentation), Johnel Giliomee (SU, first place poster presentation), Marwaan Rylands (UCT, second place poster presentation), Sheperd Siangwata (UCT, third place poster presentation)

“YCS Delegates”
All the delegates at the SACI/RSC Western Cape Young Chemists’ Symposium 2014

Santa Shoebox 2014


Santa Shoebox helpers wrapping and packing the boxes with all the goodies needed. A big thanks to them all!
We packed 30 boxes for the Santa Shoebox project this year. Thank you to all in the Chemistry Department for helping us reach our target!
CTICC were the drop off point for all the Santa Shoeboxes. There were thousands of boxes everywhere and a team making sure each box is packed with the required items. What a wonderful feeling to know that we were part of this!