New DVC, an astute scientist to captain the R&I ship

3 December 2020

She is vibrant, well-respected and a trailblazer in research, innovation and the health sciences. With only a few a weeks into her job, Dr Papu-Zamxaka, the Tshwane University of Technology’s newly appointed Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, Innovation and Engagement, takes us through her career journey and the plans she has for the university.

Dr Papu-Zamxaka, the newly appointed Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, Innovation and Engagement.

Eastern Cape born Dr Papu-Zamxaka brings with her significant leadership, knowledge and experience in managing multiple functions and large-scale divisions and initiatives, as demonstrated by her model career in both research management and research execution.

“I am extremely excited for this new chapter. Particularly exciting are the opportunities ahead of us as a university. These are indeed challenging times, the world over, which require a different set of interventions to ensure agility. The focus on third income stream will be key in these unprecedented times. Thus, stronger and meaningful partnerships with industry to drive the research agenda of the institution will be of paramount importance. The university has always had to adjust to navigate the rough seas of history and has never deviated from the focus on research, teaching and societal impact and even now, the institution will demonstrate its resilience. The current challenging times have indeed presented us with a wide of opportunities, some of which we had never thought of”, she says.

“I am excited to be part of this journey as we continue to do so.  My aspirations are to contribute to elevate TUT’s agenda and to support the commitment to excellence, to become more open, and more engaged beyond the University, and beyond academia.”

Dr Papu-Zamxaka has an impressive array of academic qualifications and professional accolades under her belt. Whilst doing her first year BSc degree at Fort Hare University, she obtained good grades; consequently, Eskom offered her a bursary, which supported her for her 3-year degree. She went to the University of Cape Town for an Honours degree in Medical Biochemistry which was fully- funded by Canon Collins Educational Trust from the United Kingdom. After completing an Honours degree, she obtained STINT Scholarship to do a Master of Science Degree in Public Health in Umea university in Sweden. On her return to the country, she was offered a Ph.D. intern position by the Medical Research Council, which was fully funded by the National Department of Science & Technology. She did her Ph.D. degree with London South Bank University in the United Kingdom. Her most recent educational training was with the University of Witwatersrand where she obtained a Project management Certificate with a Distinction. She is also an alumni of the university. Her passion for Pharmaceuticals led her to enrol and successfully obtain a BTech degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Prior to joining the university, Dr Papu-Zamxaka was Country Director: South Africa Synexus Clinical research (Accelerated Enrolment Solutions) , where she also grew the footprint of the company into Uganda and Tanzania. On her departure, she was in charge of South Africa, Tanzania and Ugandan business of this multinational research company, which has footprints in 11 countries in Europe, USA, India, China and Africa.  She also held the positions of Director: Reviews and Evaluation at the National Research Foundation (NRF), Director: Applied Research and Innovation (ARI) Grants also at the NRF. She was the Project Director: Microbide Trials Network at the Perinatal HIV Research Unit. 

She is an accomplished scientific leader, recognised both in South Africa and internationally. Attesting to her leadership in the sector, she serves on several strategic science, innovation and education boards. She was a board member at the National Research Foundation, reporting to the minister of Science and Technology and she is currently a board member of Sci-Bono Discovery Centre and at the South African Clinical Research Association. 

She also adds that her accomplishments would not have been realised without God, hard-work, drive and talent, but also without the support of a number of educational bursaries and scholarships. It is no surprise that she is hugely committed to giving back and together with her friends, they established a Christian based Non-Profit Company (NPC), called Esther-Maledzi that aims to support financial educational opportunities for young people from economically disadvantaged communities. The NPC is fully funded from their personal finances and is currently supporting six (6) students in various institutions in the country, of which TUT is one of them. The NPC also provides spiritual support through prayer. Dr Papu-Zamxaka has been successfully leading the NPC since its conception in early 2016.

Her passion for Science is enormous and has been widely demonstrated in interviews with a number of radio stations. She has also been featured on various magazines and TV documentary shows, speaking on Science matters. In addition, her burning desire to promote Science has conceptualised and produced a TV show on Sciences, which she hosted on DSTV over weekends. 

For more information on the Tshwane University of Technology, please contact Willa de Ruyter, Corporate Affairs and Marketing.
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