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Thursday, 07 May 2020

Outstanding research recognised

ACHIEVEMENT: Department of Chemistry lecturer, Professor Vernon Somerset is among the nominees contending for the 22nd prestigious NSTF-South32 Awards. ACHIEVEMENT: Department of Chemistry lecturer, Professor Vernon Somerset is among the nominees contending for the 22nd prestigious NSTF-South32 Awards.

Department of Chemistry lecturer, Prof Vernon Somerset’s contribution to his field has been recognised with a nomination for the National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)-South32 South32) Awards. 

Somerset has been nominated in the TW Kambule-NSTF: Researcher Award category which seeks to acknowledge the contribution made by an individual researcher over six to 15 years, for research conducted in South Africa.

 “It also asks that your research is taken from publications to another level where it is seen to benefit the public domain,” Somerset said.

His research activities focus on the determination of inorganic and organic pollutants in the aquatic ecosystem, air, and wet deposition samples.  “High levels of some of these pollutants will harm human health,” Somerset states.

This determines the levels of certain pollutants and linking it to the aquatic ecosystem and human health so that the risk to human health is established and highlighted. 

He adds: “If scientists can find a way to showcase to policymakers some of the science needed to improve policy decisions, you create a value chain of the research that you are involved in”.

“Being nominated means that my peers have recognised the work I have been doing in my research area for the last 19 years. It means that my focus area is assisting others in this field of research.”

His interest also falls on one particular pollutant called mercury, which he says is also a global pollutant. Somerset’s research in this area has seen him contributing to the wider international mercury research community, assisting in establishing a baseline for South Africa and assisting the Department of Environment, Forestry, and Fisheries with the ratification of the International Minamata Convention on Mercury.

“This is a good example of where research and science informed policymakers towards a convention that will be implemented globally. It is an ongoing work [and] a good model for future endeavours.”

The lecturer who dedicates his free time to his family, together enjoying good food and conversation, adds that his nomination is rewarding and an indication that his hard work has been an investment in him, his collaborators, and the students involved in the research activities and training.

“For CPUT, it should be an indication that excellence is possible, but it requires support, effective systems, investment, and the attraction of key industrial partners. My achievements are catalysed through a team of dedicated people that I can always count on, sometimes in difficult circumstances. My appreciation, therefore, goes to my family, my fellow researchers, students, and collaborators.”

Somerset’s research experience in this field has seen him being part of the technical advisory committee to review documents and research data in assistance to the government and the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury at the international level.

Written by Aphiwe Boyce


Provides coverage for the Engineering and the Built Environment and Applied Sciences Faculties.