30 No. 3
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Pieter S. Steyn Receives Science for Society Gold Medal
Former IUPAC President Piet Steyn (2002–2003) was awarded the 2007 Science for Society Gold Medal from the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) at a ceremony held 26 November 2007 in Pretoria, South Africa. Two medals are awarded annually to individuals from South Africa who apply scientific thinking in the service of society. Steyn was honored for his many scientific accomplishments, but especially for his role in furthering science education.
|Piet Steyn (left), holding his ASSAf 2007 Science for Society Gold Medal, Naledi Pandor (minister of Education), Robin Crewe (president of ASSAf), and Wieland Gevers (chief
executive officer of ASSAf).
While president of IUPAC, Steyn played a decisive role in raising the profile of the teaching and public understanding of chemistry, culminating in the formation of the Committee on Chemistry Education to address these matters. Further evidence of his commitment to science education is SEDIBA (the Tswana word for a fountain), a project created while he was at the University of the North West in Potchefstroom, which works to upgrade the scientific and pedagogical skills of science and mathematics educators in disadvantaged communities. At Stellenbosch University, Steyn played a prime role in procuring USD 1 million from the Mellon Foundation to create postgraduate and postdoctoral scholarships for students from previously disadvantaged communities, some of whom have subsequently joined faculties at Stellenbosch and other South African universities.
Steyn has always placed a high premium on building the capacity of young researchers and sought to create opportunities for colleagues to improve their qualifications through advanced study or research positions at South African or international universities. In addition, he has been supervisor, co-supervisor or external examiner to numerous masters and doctoral students, both locally and at the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine in London.
Steyn’s research has been devoted to the isolation, analysis, structure elucidation, synthesis, and biosynthesis of mycotoxins and, to a lesser extent, other toxic and medicinal substances from plants. As a mycotoxin expert, Steyn has consistently been called upon to advise the food industry. His expertise on mycotoxins was also sought for a joint project in the 4th Framework Programme of the European Union, called “Biological degradation of aflatoxins in fermented maize and sorghum products”. This successful project involved collaboration with researchers in Germany, Denmark, Nigeria and Ghana, and was acknowledged by the EU as a “model project.” Their research findings later led to a patent on the selective and mild degradation of aflatoxin. Steyn received several awards from the South African Chemical Institute for his research contributions.
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