UKZN’s Mr Kershen Naicker with the Clariant trophy he won.

PhD Candidate Gets Gold Awards for Best Oral Presentation at High-Level Conference

PhD candidate in the School of Chemistry and Physics (SCP) Mr Kershen Naicker received the 2017 Clariant gold medal and trophy from the Catalysis Society of South Africa (CATSA) for delivering the best oral presentation by a student at its conference in Pilanesberg.

The award is made based on the quality of the presentation and the technical merit of the work, with the novelty of research, aesthetics and scientific contribution taken into account as well.

Naicker presented on the topic: The Unsteady-State Oxidative Dehydrogenation of n-octane Using Metal Oxide-Based Catalysts. This work involves the conversion of paraffin to other value-adding products and given the annual one million tons of linear paraffin produced globally, development of such products would have considerable industrial value.

‘It was a great honour and privilege to receive this prestigious award,’ said Naicker.

‘This award is recognition of the quality research and the contributions of the Catalysis Research Group (CRG), the SCP and UKZN to the scientific community,’ he said.

Naicker’s PhD, supervised by Professor Holger Friedrich, Dr Sooboo Singh and Dr Sam Mahomed, involves investigation into a fundamental approach using bulk metal oxides combined with an unsteady state approach to understand the reactivity of lattice oxygen over n-octane.

His hope is that his research provides a basis to influence future catalytic design by establishing a better understanding of the exact reactivity of lattice oxygen from a range of metal oxides for the activation of linear paraffin.

Naicker completed his BSc in Applied Chemistry at UKZN before undertaking his Bachelor of Technology in Chemistry at the Durban University of Technology (DUT). Research underway by Friedrich and the CRG drew Naicker back to UKZN for masters and PhD studies. He says the availability of equipment and collaborative work done by the CRG made his research possible.

After completing his PhD, Naicker hopes to continue in academia to transfer the knowledge he has gained to others. He also praised academic staff in the SCP at UKZN for pushing students to reach their full potential.

Naicker, who acknowledged his parents and wife for their care and support throughout his studies, thanked his supervisors, friends and colleagues for their input and assistance with his work, and paid tribute to UKZN’s College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES), Sasol and the Technology and Human Resources for Industry Programme (THRIP) in the Department of Trade and Industry for funding his studies.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph supplied by Kershen Naicker