[RU120] Shining stars of physics: Award winners announced at SAIP2024 gala dinner

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Prize winners at the SAIP2024 Gala Dinner
Prize winners at the SAIP2024 Gala Dinner

On Friday, 5 July 2024, the SAIP2024 conference concluded with a grand Gala dinner held at the Nelson Mandela Dining Hall, Rhodes University. The evening was marked by a series of inspiring speeches and the celebration of excellence within the physics community.

The event commenced with a welcoming address by Prof Makaiko Chithambo, Chairperson of the SAIP 2024 Local Organising Committee, followed by a keynote speech by Prof Justin Jonas, Emeritus Professor of Physics and leader of the SKA programme at Rhodes University. The atmosphere was filled with anticipation as attendees gathered to honour the achievements of their peers.

The Inaugural SAIP Education Award was presented by Prof Deepak Kar, a member of the SAIP Council, to acknowledge individuals who have exhibited a sustained commitment to excellence in physics education in South Africa. A joint award was made to Dr Eric Maluta of the University of Venda and Dr Derek Fish of the University of Zululand.

The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the SAIP Gold Medal by Prof Rudolph Erasmus, President of SAIP. This prestigious award was given to Professor Phuti Ngoepe, a Distinguished Professor at the University of Limpopo. Prof Ngoepe was awarded the medal for his extensive and exceptional achievements in the field of Computational Materials Physics, which have had national and international impact. His work on minerals, alloys and materials for energy storage has major implications for energy security and the economy of a country like South Africa. His stature is reflected in his strong publication record and the numerous students he has supported and mentored. He is considered an influential leader in his field and has contributed immensely to the national and international scientific community by initiating several impactful initiatives.

Student prizes were awarded by Heads of Division of the SAIP in recognition of outstanding student presentations delivered during the conference. These were divided into areas as follows:

Theory and Computational

  • PhD: Unathi Skosana (Stellenbosch), "End-to-end integration of hyperparameter tuning into variational quantum algorithms,"
  • MSc: Ofentse Matlhakola (Wits), "Probing the Dead Cone using the Primary Lund Plane,"
  • Poster: Mogau Kgasago (Limpopo), "Exploring Structural and Electronic Characteristics of Manganese Oxide Cathode Materials.  A DFT Study

Condensed Matter

  • Publication PhD: A.W Barnard (UP) - “Investigating the impact of physical vapour deposition of palladium on electron-irradiated silicon substrates”
  • Publication MSc: Semiconductor – R. A.A. Abdallah (UFS) – “Stability investigation of EU3+ doped CaF2 thin film with ZnO”
  • PhD poster presentation: Mr. Nkanyiso Ndlovu (UKZN) – “Enhanced surface characteristics and magnetic properties of PEG coated zinc- and cobalt-nano ferites via high-energy ball milling
  • PhD poster presentation: Mr. Edward Lee (UFS) – “SrVO3 tin films prepared using spin coating”
  • PhD poster presentation: Highly recommended Prize -Ms. Vhahangwele Makumbane (UFS)- “Structural and upconvesion luminescence properties of pulsed laser-deposited Y2O3:Ho3+, Yb3+ thin films”
  • MSc poster presentation: Semiconductors – Mr James Mecuur (UWC) – “Hybrid two-dimensional Perovskite Semiconductor Layers for electronic applications.
  • MSc poster presentation: Condensed Matter Physics - Mr. Lesole Ramolise (UFS)- Synthesis and thermometry properties of YV04:Bi3+ Phosphor
  • PhD oral presentation: Semiconductors – D. Hlungwani (UL)
  • PhD oral presentation: Condensed Matter – M Mulibana (UJ)
  • Honours poster (for oral) – T.K. Pamhidzayi (UJ)
  • MSc oral presentation (Condensed matter) – Kingsley Opuku (RU)
  • MSc oral presentation (Semiconductor) – Joshua Seroka (TUT)
  • MSc oral presentation (Bush Vacuum) – Johane Odendaal (UFS)

Applied Physics

  • Honours poster presentation: Mogezi Baloyi (University of Venda) “DFT Studies of Photocatalytic properties of BATiO3 Doped with V and W for Hydrogen Production”
  • MSc poster presentation: Kelsey Everts (Stellenbosch University) “Ag-nanorods in organic solar harvesting films- do they do more harm than good on the ultrafast timescale?
  • MSc oral presentation: Elizabeth Hagemann (Nelson Mandela University) “Investigation of Effects of the accumulation of debris and deterioration on the performance of CPV Models”
  • PhD poster presentation: Cade Peters (Wits) “adaptive transmission matrix estimation for complex time- varying optical media”
  • PhD oral presentation: Poland Michael (Nelson Mandela University) “Analysis of the behaviour of bypass diodes and power output of a photovoltaic (PV) module operating under partial shading”


  • Photonics in Biology award: Lindokuhle Hadebe (UJ)
  • Photonics MSc award (joint award): Le Roi Du Plessis (SU)
  • Photonics MSc award (joint award): Kelsey Everts (SU)
  • Photonics PhD Technology award: Lucas Erasmus (UFS)
  • Photonics PhD award: Cade Peters (WITS)


  • PhD: Lutendo Nyadzani (UJ)
  • MSc: Brenda Homera (RU)
  • Poster: Lexi Andati (RU)

Space Science

  • MSc: Calmay Lee (NWU)
  • Encouragement: Frans van der Merwe & Sanele Khanyile

Nuclear, Particle and Radiation Physics

  • Thabo Pilusa - University of the Witwatersrand
  • Busisiwe Mbatha - University of Zululand
  • James Mitchell - University of Cape Town
  • Njokweni Mbuyiswa - University of the Witwatersrand
  • Mikayla Chaplin - University of Cape Town
  • Vuyolwethu Kakancu - University of the Witwatersrand
  • Ayabulela Tsewu - University of Johannesburg


The evening concluded with final remarks by Prof Thomas Konrad from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, followed by a vote of thanks and the handover to the SAIP2025 organisers.

The organisers extend their heartfelt congratulations to all the awardees and express their gratitude to everyone who made the evening a success. These awards highlight the dedication and innovation within the physics community.

To read about the opening of SAIP2024, please click here.