Outstanding Reviewer Award for Physics Lecturer

Senior Lecturer in the School of Chemistry and Physics (SCP), Dr Aniekan Ukpong has received an Outstanding Reviewer Award from the Institute of Physics (IOP) in recognition of the high quality and timeliness of his reviews of research in the Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter during 2019.

Ukpong was one of 67 outstanding reviewers recognised by the journal but the only reviewer from an institution in Africa.

The key to effective reviewing, according to Ukpong, is to be able to clearly discern the research work presented and discussed in a manuscript, and to place it in the broader context of the current state of knowledge in that field. This requires constant reading to stay abreast of developments in the field and a dedicated interest in the specialist area of condensed matter physics.

Taking this approach has enabled Ukpong to determine, timeously, whether the contribution is original or not, and to ascertain how research presented falls within fundamental condensed matter science. He prioritises providing valuable feedback to authors, whether work is accepted or rejected, in order to promote learning.

Ukpong has a C3-rating from the National Research Foundation and more than 20 years’ experience in condensed matter and materials physics research. His research is focused in the fields of theoretical and computational condensed matter and materials physics.

He received a PhD in Physics from the University of Cape Town and went on to complete two postdoctoral fellowships, one in computational thermodynamics of strong materials at the University of the Witwatersrand, and another in the quantum mechanical studies of novel materials at the University of Pretoria.

Ukpong joined UKZN in 2016 and established the Theoretical and Computational Condensed Matter and Materials Physics (TCCMMP) research group in the SCP, running the group’s activities under the Centre for High Performance Computing Research Programme. Postgraduate students linked to the TCCMMP are conducting research at UKZN, the University of Cape Town and the University of Johannesburg, and the group is actively recruiting postgraduate students keen to work on projects that explore the importance and application of physics in industry.

Ukpong’s current research involves developing a basic understanding of the topological behaviour of electrons in materials. Using high-performance computations, the TCCMMP is examining how the physical properties emanating from this behaviour can be harnessed for use in emerging technologies.

Words and photograph: Christine Cuénod