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Dr Adriana Marais and Mr Sphume Ndlovu.

Two high-achieving UKZN physics students will attend one of the world’s most prestigious scientific gatherings, the 66th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau, Germany, at the end of June.

 Post-doctoral researcher Dr Adriana Marais and doctoral candidate Mr Sphumelele Ndlovu are among six South Africans who have been afforded the honour.

This year’s meeting, dedicated to the field of physics, has attracted 400 young scientists from all over the world to interact and exchange knowledge and ideas with 31 Nobel Laureates.

The meeting encourages dialogue and knowledge exchange between academics in the three natural science Nobel Prize disciplines – physiology and medicine; physics, and chemistry, with the focus alternating every year.

 The programme features lectures, panel discussions and master classes.

Ndlovu, who began his academic career in UKZN’s Science Foundation Programme (SFP), is excelling in his work at the National Research Foundation’s Space Geodesy Programme at the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO).

 He is currently working on a project unique to both Africa and the southern hemisphere, centred on the measurement of the earth-moon distance. He has also been involved in developing a mathematical tool to optimise efficiency and estimate the signal path parameter of a Lunar Laser Ranger (LLR) system at HartRAO.

Marais, well-known in South Africa for her selection among the top 100 candidates for a journey to Mars, is undertaking research on quantum effects in energy transfer in photosynthesis as well as the origins of prebiotic molecules and life itself through UKZN’s Centre for Quantum Technology.

The young scientist has received numerous accolades for her scientific work, including the Royal Society of South Africa’s (RSSAf) Meiring Naudé Medal, a Department of Science and Technology (DST) Fellowship Award in 2010, a L’Oreal-UNESCO Regional Fellowship for Women in Science in Sub-Saharan Africa, and a L’Oreal-UNESCO International Rising Talent Grant for Women in Science in 2015.

‘What an honour and a privilege to have the opportunity to interact with some of the best minds of our time,’ said Marais of her selection. ‘I’m so excited to be attending the meeting. Among the Nobel Laureates who will be there is theoretical physicist Professor Gerard ‘t Hooft, an ambassador for the Mars One Project. I am over the moon! It will be a long wait until the meeting starts in June.’

Christine Cuénod