Nuclear physicist, Vilakazi, to head Wits University research

Wits University is roping in a highly respected nuclear physicist, Dr Zeblon Zenzele Vilakazi, to flank its newly appointed principal Professor Adam Habib.

The university announced yesterday that it has appointed its former student, Vilakazi, to become its Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Postgraduate Affairs. Vilakazi will take up the critical position on the 1st of January 2014.

He comes back to Wits University a wealth of experience in research and leadership.

Vilakazi has since 2011 served as Group Executive for Research and Development at the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa)  while  also serving as the director of iThemba LABS – a position he has held since January 2007. He also currently holds an Honorary Professorship in the Department of Physics at the University of Cape Town.

“Dr Vilakazi brings a wealth of experience, insight and knowledge to Wits and the Senior Executive Team, said Habib. I am confident that he will work with the Executive to increase Wits’ quantitative and qualitative research output over the next few years. He will assist me in the hunt to attract other talented individuals to the institution. On behalf of Wits, I welcome him to the University, and look forward to working with him to implement Wits’ strategic research plan”.

“I look forward with great excitement to this opportunity of playing a key role in supporting and nurturing research at this august University, my proud alma mater,” said Vilakazi. I am working from a solid basis that has been laid by my predecessors at Wits. I am excited to be back in this environment after spending eight years in the science management system in my capacity as the head of iThemba Labs and in my role at the NRF”.

Hailing from Katlehong on the East Rand, Dr Vilakazi is married and has four children, stated the Wits University press release. The statement added that Vilakazi obtained his PhD from Wits in 1998 under the supervision of the late Professor J Sellschop, who also served as DVC: Research at Wits University. The title of his doctoral thesis is the Investigation of coherent correlated effects due to incidence of ultra-relativistic leptons on oriented crystalline matter. This was followed by a National Research Foundation (NRF) post-doctoral fellowship at the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland”.

He took up an academic post at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in 1999 where he was instrumental in establishing South Africa’s first experimental high-energy physics research group focusing on development of the High-level Trigger for the CERN-ALICE experiment at the Large Hadron Collider. He also served as a visiting scientist at the Atomic Energy Commission and Alternative Energy (CEA) in Saclay, France”.

Vilakazi also served as a chairman of the IAEA Standing Advisory Committee on Nuclear Applications from 2009 to 2011. He is a member of the Programme Advisory Committee for Nuclear Physics at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Russia and a member of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) Working Group for Nuclear Physics. In 2010 he was nominated by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader and is a member of the Academy of Sciences of South Africa. Vilakazi’s research interests include heavy-ion collisions at ultra-relativistic energies and computational physics – in relation to GRID computing. He has more than 80 refereed articles in Nuclear and High Energy Physics and is a regular invitee for talks and presentations at conferences and seminars”.

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