Dr Kenda Knowles, a postdoctoral researcher from UKZN’s Astrophysics and Cosmology Research Unit(ACRU,) was recently awarded a Postdoctoral Fellowship by the L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science sub-Saharan Africa programme.

Knowles received this fellowship based on her current project: Statistical study of diffuse radio emission in ACT galaxy clusters with MeerKAT. The primary aim of this survey is to detect diffuse radio emissions in a statistically significant, uniformly selected sample of clusters which lie, in mass and redshift, beyond the currently and previously studied selection criteria. The study of the cosmological evolution of these systems, greatly improves on the currently limited understanding of these diffuse emissions. The research also has the potential to address unanswered questions about the largest gravitationally bound objects in the universe.

Knowles has scooped numerous accolades including receiving bursaries from the Square Kilometre Array South Africa project, winning the Doctoral Fellowship category at the 2015 Women in Science Awards and being selected to attend the 2015 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Germany where she engaged with other leading young scientists from various countries.

The 2017 edition of the L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science sub-Saharan Africa ceremony celebrated 14 young female scientists. As part of the programme launched in 2010, female scientists from across sub-Saharan Africa were honoured for their work and impact in the scientific field.  Their fields of research vary across different disciplines and address key global issues. Sandeep Rai, the Managing Director of L’Oréal South Africa highlighted the power of these women scientists. ‘The world continues to face unprecedented challenges such as climate change, water scarcity, illnesses and food security among other issues.  Only a shared, controlled science, at the service of the world’s population, is able to meet the major challenges of the twenty-first century, and our researchers are the proof.’

Dr Knowles was ecstatic at receiving the L’Oréal fellowship, saying: ‘I’m humbled to be a recipient of this fellowship, and I am extremely grateful to my mentors whose support and training have been a large part of getting me here. I am so proud to see the amazing research happening all over Africa by some dynamic and driven young women.’

Words: Merissa Naidoo