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Wednesday, 08 September 2021

PhD candidate receives prestigious award

HIGH-STATUS: PhD candidate, Akeem Akinfenwa is honoured to be recognised by South African Chemical Institute. HIGH-STATUS: PhD candidate, Akeem Akinfenwa is honoured to be recognised by South African Chemical Institute.

PhD candidate, Akeem Akinfenwa recently received a prestigious Young Innovative Chemist Award from the South African Chemical Institute (SACI). 

The Nigerian-born Akinfenwa says this is in recognition of the innovation, independence, and enterprise of postgraduate students from the Chemistry Department of CPUT. The 41-year-old student states that the award is a tangible symbol signifying approval of excellence of the awardee.  “The South African Chemical Institute is a professional and the highest body that aims to advance science and practice of chemistry in South Africa by promoting and upholding the status of the chemistry profession. Hence, the body gives awards to members at different levels in recognition of their excellence,” he enthuses.

The title of his research is: Isolation of bioactive compounds from selected plants of South African flora (Helichrysum foetidum and Aspalathus linearis) for application in the preparation of biocompatible metal nanoparticles. The research focuses on drug discovery from natural products such as plant phytochemicals for the treatment of diabetes mellitus and skin disorders. Akinfenwa says these diseases are identified as common among people with an unstable climate such as South Africa.

Reflecting on this recognition, the second born of seven children says the award would complement his PhD degree for “unlimited achievements now and onwards”. “I feel happy and pleased by the award because it shows that I am making meaningful contributions to the science and chemistry space through CPUT,” he continues.

“An award from this body means a lot that I can’t quantify. I believe I am fulfilling the CPUT graduate attributes. For CPUT I believe it will further confirm the synergies from the management, Faculty of Applied Sciences, Chemistry Department, and my supervisor [Prof Ahmed Mohammed] to produce graduates of both local and international standards.”

Akinfenwa attributes his achievement to God who “crowned” his tireless efforts with this achievement, coupled with the guidance from Mohammed, who nominated him, and the motivation letters he received from Dr Shirley Le Roux from the department and his colleagues in the department.

Akinfenwa’s (family) upbringing made him to be confident to take big challenges. “In my father’s words, ‘take up challenges so you have a story to tell, and your story can only make sense when you weather the storm’. So, this has really shaped me to undertake different challenging opportunities such as pursuing my PhD outside my comfort.”

He says the mercy of God reached him: “This makes me believe in my ability to take up challenges and the good in people around me to leverage on. On top of this is that I have a supervisor who is research active and supportive for students. Through him, I attended conferences and got collaborations with researchers to write a book chapter, research articles and reviews. All these added up for me to reach this milestone”.

Back at home, Akinfenwa is a co-founder of Distress-calls Response Initiative and he has been part of the Nigerian Community in the Western Cape, which distributes neat used clothes, toiletries, and foodstuff to the destitute and the less privileged people.

Written by Aphiwe Boyce