The University of Botswana through the Office of Research and Development hosted a University Research Awards Ceremony at the UB Conference Centre on November 15, 2019 to recognise research excellence.
Six distinguished staff received the awards in different categories starting with early career researchers to senior researcher. The Research Awards Ceremony is a premier occasion where the University recognises its academics whose research has international impact, whilst remaining locally relevant.
The Minister for Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, Dr Douglas Letsholathebe, gave a keynote address during which he outlined government’s research agenda for the next five years.
The ceremony was attended by among others, government officials, University of Botswana Council Chairman, Dr Joseph Makhema, representatives from parastatal organisations and private sector.
The Researcher of the Year Award went to Professor Bagele Chilisa. Professor Chilisa is the first Motswana to attain the position of full Professor in the Faculty of Education. She is an internationally recognised researcher and evaluator who is a member of the United Nations Development Program Evaluation Advisory Panel, and has served as an evaluator for the Netherlands Science for Global Development Program, the African Development Bank, and the South African National Research Foundation.
She was the first UB staff to win the prestigious USA, National Institute of Health Research Award on capacity building on HIV and AIDS amounting to US$2.4 million. She is currently the Principal Investigator of a USA NIH research award on HIV related cancer amounting to US$1.7 million. She is currently managing two on-going interdisciplinary research programs on HIV involving 20 UB staff from several faculties.
Her research has involved collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University, Harvard School of Public Health, Sussex University and the Human Science Research Council in South Africa. She has supervised more than 50 Masters and PhD dissertations and has served as external examiner for PhD thesis in the SADC region and elsewhere.
She is author of “Indigenous Research Methodologies” which is used as a textbook across disciplines in 27 Universities in the USA and Canada and many other universities across the globe. Professor Chilisa has more than 80 publications in the form of books, chapters in books, monographs, and journal articles. In 2007 Prof Chilisa won the UB Research Team Leadership Award.
Ms Julia Gaorekwe received the Vice Chancellor’s Award for Research Administration. Ms Gaorekwe is an internationally certified Research Ethics Officer working in the Office of Research and Development at the University of Botswana. Julia is committed to respect for human values through ethical research practices grounded on international and national research regulations.
Ms Gaorekwe is a member of the Shadow Advisory Group of a European Union funded Project which comprises European and African Universities, amongst others. In addition Julia is Board member of the Western Institutional Review Board based in the USA, a co-opted member in the African Engagement Portfolio within the Southern African Research and Innovation Management Association (SARIMA) and a member of the Project Management Association (Botswana Chapter). Julia has been awarded the SARIMA Earlier Career Excellence Award in 2018.
Dr Emily Bennitt was awarded the Vice Chancellor’s Award for Publishing. Dr Bennitt first came to Botswana from the United Kingdom in 2007 to conduct her PhD on Cape buffalo in the Okavango Delta. Dr Bennitt has been working at the Okavango Research Institute as a large herbivore ecologist since 2014.
During this time, Dr Bennitt has been involved in projects on zebra, blue wildebeest, impala, tsessebe, springbok, rhino, human-wildlife conflict and leopard. Dr Bennitt works collaboratively with multiple research organisations in Botswana and beyond. It is through collaboration with the Royal Veterinary College (University of London), that she was able to publish the two Nature papers that have earned her this award.
The Vice Chancellor’s Award for International Collaboration went to Professor Pauline Dube. Professor Dube is an Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Science, and a world-renowned global environmental change scientist. She got the Vice Chancellors Award for International Collaboration. Professor Dube has held visiting Research Fellowship positions at Griffith University, Australia and University of Oxford, England.
Professor Dube oversees global environmental change research initiatives as Vice Chair – Science Officer of the International Geosphere Biosphere Program; and led the IGBP synthesis work focusing on enhancing research and publication capacity in the Asia Pacific region.
Local, regional and global recognitions include appearing on the inaugural list of the 100 Most Influential People in Climate Policy 2019; University of Queensland, Australia, 2018 International Alumnus of the Year Award; 2017 outstanding researcher for African Researchers Booklet- Science in Africa; Co-Recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize Certification in recognition of significant contribution on the status of evidence on climate change through the IPCC.
Dr Tshepang Tshube a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Physical Education, Health and Recreation received the Emerging Arts/Science and Technology Researcher of the Year. Dr Tshube is an active researcher in Southern Africa publishing in areas of dual-career, life skills, mental skills, coach-athlete relations, and elite athlete retirement transition. In addition to his academic work, Dr Tshube is a member of the Botswana National Olympic Committee High-Performance Commission.
He provides sports psychology services to team Botswana. He accompanied team Botswana to the 2016 Olympic Games, 2018 Commonwealth Games and several Africa Championships.
He has been awarded the 2013 IOC Graduate Scholar Award, and the 2017 African Alliance Award. His current projects include the Life Skills for Academic Outcome project funded to over P300 000 by the BTC Foundation.
Professor Bhagabat Parida scooped Senior Arts/Science and Technology Researcher of the Year Award. Professor Parida is a Professor of Hydrology and Water Resources Engineering with 37 years of teaching, research and industrial experience. During his time at UB, he has served the Department of Environmental Science of the Faculty of Science and the Department of Civil Engineering of the Faculty of Engineering and Technology.
Professor Parida has been responsible for establishment of the NEPAD Southern African Network of Water Centres for Excellence (Botswana) as its founding coordinator. In the past 10 years, he has worked on internationally funded projects amounting to P 7.7 million.
He has supervised M.Sc., M. Phil and Ph.D. students and published more than 80 publications. His contribution to research has also been recognised by UB in the past as the Best Science Researcher in 2009 and as the Best Researcher in 2019 by the Faculty of Engineering and Technology.