By Rhodes University Division of Communication and Advancement
The Director of Rhodes University’s Institute for Nanotechnology Innovation, Distinguished Professor Tebello Nyokong, has been appointed to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences by Pope Francis himself. The Pontifical Academy was founded in 1603 to promote the progress of mathematical, physical, and natural sciences. Candidates are chosen by the Pope for a seat in the Academy for life based on their eminent original scientific studies and their acknowledged moral personality, without any religious discrimination.
Professor Nyokong said that when she first received the communiqué from the Pope, she deleted the correspondence, thinking it was spam. “Who receives an email from the Pope? I am not even Catholic, so this came as a surprise for me,” she said. Only after receiving a call enquiring whether she had received the correspondence did she realise it was legitimate.
“It’s a great honour indeed. I will be travelling to the Vatican in 2024. How does the Pope even know me? I do not even know, but it means there is something holy about the work my students and I are doing,” said Professor Nyokong.
Pontifical Academy of Sciences Chancellor, Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, said: “Pope Francis will bestow on Professor Nyokong the insignia of her appointment during a Solemn Pontifical Audience at the next Plenary Session in October 2024.”
Professor Nyokong is researching a new cancer diagnosis and treatment methodology called photo-dynamic therapy, which is an alternative to chemotherapy. She is often the recipient of global awards and has five honorary degrees: one from her alma mater, McMaster University in Ontario, Canada; and the others from the University of South Africa (UNISA), Walter Sisulu University; the University of KwaZulu-Natal and another of her alma maters, Western University in Ontario, Canada. She is an honorary fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry.
Rhodes University Vice-Chancellor Sizwe Mabizela said “We are incredibly proud of Distinguished Professor Nyokong, and we congratulate her on this huge recognition. This recognition is fitting for someone of Professor Nyokong’s calibre. Her many years of ground-breaking intellectual contribution, hard work, dedication, and commitment to this research-intensive University do not go unnoticed. She continues to contribute to our vision of being foremost in the generation and advancement of locally-responsive and globally-engaged knowledge dedicated to creating a just and sustainable world,” concluded Professor Mabizela.