Professor Naven Chetty, Optical Society of America (OSA) senior member.

Teaching and Learning Dean Awarded Senior Membership of the Optical Society of America

Dean of Teaching and Learning in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES), Professor Naven Chetty, has been awarded senior membership of the Optical Society of America (OSA) in recognition of his experience and professional accomplishment which elevate him in the field of optics and photonics.

Chetty was one of 219 people – and the only representative from a South African institution – to get senior membership of the OSA this year.

‘We are proud to have such a distinguished and diverse group of optical scientists and engineers join as senior members,’ said OSA President-Elect Mr Steve Fantone. ‘Their contributions to their respective fields provide the fuel that powers future advances.’

Chetty’s more than 10 years of significant professional experience in the field, more than five years of active OSA membership, and two endorsement statements from current OSA members, qualified him for the honour. Senior membership accords him the full complement of OSA member benefits and services, as well as other honours including special recognition at OSA events and in its directory and exclusive senior member programmes.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of CAES, Professor Albert Modi, congratulated Chetty on his outstanding achievement which he said had brought international recognition for UKZN.

Chetty began his academic career in UKZN’s Access Programme 13 years ago and completed his academic qualifications, from undergraduate to PhD studies, in the School of Chemistry and Physics. He was among the first class of graduates in Computational Physics at UKZN, majoring in this subject alongside Physics and Mathematics.

His career has been focused on Applied Physics, and has also included exploration of Biomedical Physics, specifically the development of protocols for and use of lasers for cancer treatment. Chetty has also dedicated much of his work to physics education to better understand how to teach the discipline effectively which has paid dividends. Much of the physics curriculum developed by Chetty early in his career for the BSc4 Augmented programme is still in use, as are College recruitment programmes for top school achievers.

Chetty, the recipient of UKZN’s 2017 Distinguished Teacher Award, is well-known for his use of educational media and learning material in his instruction, which is student-centred and prioritises enhancing the grasp by students of concepts rather than rote learning. His empathetic approach to his students and his passion for Physics has enabled him to pass on his love for his subject, and his role with the CAES enables him to put mechanisms in place for an improved teaching and learning experience for staff and students. He is currently supervising 17 postgraduate students.

Aligning with his approach to teaching and learning, Chetty, in partnership with UKZN’s Professor Bala Pillay, is a lead researcher and co-ordinator of the South African node of an Erasmus+ project involving professionalisation of undergraduate academic teaching in multiple disciplines to address the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The project involves partnerships with researchers from Frederick University in Cyprus, the University of Crete in Greece, UNISA, the Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of Southern Africa (HELTASA) and the University of the Western Cape (UWC).

Chetty acknowledged the importance of the support and encouragement of his family in his success, thanking his wife Dashina and children Eashen and Ruhie for putting up with his long working hours.

‘They sacrifice a lot in terms of my time and attention to help me focus on work and this accolade would not have been possible without them,’ he said.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied