Top science award for SA woman

Namhla Tshisela

Namhla Tshisela

The world's negative perception about Africa had inspired Professor Tebello Nyokong to be a leader of international standing in the field of science.

Her outstanding achievements in scientific research have earned Nyokong the 2009 L'Oreal-Unesco Award for Women in Science in Africa and the Arab States.

"Africa is not recognised for its scientific achievements. It is rather viewed as a land of chaos, war and hunger, giving the impression that Africans are incapable of solving our problems," she said.

Nyokong is the first black African woman to receive the award in physical science.

She said science was important to allow Africans to be "inventors" instead of consumers of technologies from other countries.

The judging panel comprised an international team of 17 scientists from five continents, including Nobel Prize laureates. The prize is worth R1million.

A professor of medicinal chemistry and nanotechnology at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, Nyokong was recognised for her research in the use of laser light as an alternative treatment for cancer. This therapy involves using laser light to direct a special dye to cancerous tissues in the body.

The dye is energised by oxygen in isolated tissues to kill cancerous cells.