VUT ACADEMIC TO REPRESENT SOUTH AFRICAN YOUNG SCIENTISTS AT INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE
1 November 2022
Dr Tozama Ogunleye from the Vaal University of Technology (VUT) will represent the South African Young Scientists (under 40) at the 2022 IAP General Assembly and Conference – this will be a hybrid event that will take place both virtually and in person in Arizona, USA on 1 – 3 November.
The theme of the conference will be ‘Inclusive Excellence: Harnessing knowledge for sustainable societies’ and will be hosted by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the Royal Society of Canada (RSC).
This conference, which will bring together the world’s leading senior and young science academies from over 100 countries, provides a significant opportunity to rethink the existing research structures – from involvement to engagement. The gathering also offers an opportunity to consider – in critical ways – how the present research structures exclude valuable voices and knowledge systems.
Having joined VUT in 2016, Dr Ogunleye is the Project Manager and Senior Lecturer at Dihlare Remedy within the Faculty of Applied and Computer Sciences. She holds a PhD in Organic Chemistry which she obtained from the University of the Witwatersrand and Masters in Organic Chemistry from the University of Cape Town.
Asked where and when did her journey and passion for science and academia begin, she said she has always had innate love for Maths since her primary school days in Flagstaff, a small town in the Eastern Cape Province. She adds that her adolescent afternoons were spent preparing for the Maths24 School Challenge – something that she attributes, in part, her life achievements to. Although she won multiple school competitions, she says one that set her life path – which was exciting, challenging, and impactful, was when she was fourteen years old and got an opportunity to represent South Africa at a youth science event in Vienna, Austria. There she says, she met young scientists from all over the world and rubbed shoulders with South African and Austrian dignitaries.
At her tender age of 39 years, Dr Ogunleye wears multiple caps and has sizeable accolades to her name. Locally, she is the co-chair of SAYAS where she also serves in the Policy Influence Working Group. In 2021 she was appointed by the Minister of Health to be a member of the National Department of Health Expert Working Committee on Traditional Medicine on a five-year term. In the same year, she was the co-chair for a workshop titled; ‘Priority setting and coordination of research agendas: lessons learned from COVID-19’.
Internationally, she was nominated by the Department of Science and Innovation to serve in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development-Global Science Forum (OECD-GSF) where she is part of the ‘Mobilising science in times of crisis’ Expert Working Group.
One of her most recent works which was published in Nature Reviews Chemistry earlier this year is the manuscript on Remodelling of Research agendas, where she collaborated with two of her peers, Prof Adeyemi Aremu from the North West University (NWU), and Prof Pradeep Kumar from the University of Witwatersrand (Wits). “In this article, we propose some of the priority settings that are necessary for this era. It is important to mention that the future research trajectories consciously align to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs),” she said.
On how she feels about his milestone, she said she is proud to be recognised on the world stage as one of the scientists that can contribute meaningfully to the discussions and objectives of young academies and in science broadly. “Getting a personal invitation to the General assembly and world-wide meeting is something I have not fully digested – it is an honour, and I am grateful to my colleagues for the nomination and ready to represent my country in these delegations.”
She further adds that to be noticed and recognised that she is fit to represent SA at the international level was a great honour and privilege, and also shows that the work we do at VUT and the concepts we have, are of national relevance and global competence.
“My mission is to integrate my passion in research, writing, teaching and leadership in order to advance organizations or institutions conducting scientific research which will impact positively on the socio-economic development of our societies.”