Professor Cristina Trois, SA Research Chair in Climate Change and Waste Management.

UKZN Researcher Awarded SA Research Chair in Climate Change and Waste Management

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Professor Cristina Trois has been awarded a National Research Foundation (NRF) / Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) South African Research Chair Initiative (SARChI) for Climate Change and Waste Management.

‘Our sincere congratulations go to Professor Trois on her appointment,’ said Professor Albert Modi, Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor for the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science. ‘The award is a clear indication of research excellence in our College. We are very proud of her and will continue to support her in her endeavours.’

The School of Engineering has been recognised for the maturity of its research group in waste resources management thanks to the national Waste Research, Development and Innovation (RDI) Roadmap. The School has been developing a coursework Master’s in Waste Resources Management with the Department of Science and Technology (DST) which is currently under review.

Part of the RDI Roadmap strategy involved the activation of two SARChI positions to develop capacity in South Africa’s waste sector, with Trois’ Chair focusing on technology and waste management strategies.

‘It’s about the impact that waste management has on climate change and vice-versa, from both the adaptation and mitigation points of view,’ said Trois.

Trois highlighted the multidisciplinary nature of the Chair, which boasts researchers from life sciences, environmental sciences, sociology, housing, planning, economics and others working in the arena. The Chair will also capitalise on existing collaborations between various disciplines of engineering.

‘It’s about societal development as well as infrastructural development,’ she said.

The position draws on Trois’ pioneering work done over 20 years at UKZN in environmental engineering, focusing on waste management and water/wastewater engineering and treatment. Her contributions to waste science, resource recovery and energy from waste include the development of the innovative ‘cellular method’ adopted in Durban’s landfill sites.

Trois, who was the first female Dean of Engineering at UKZN, runs initiatives to encourage young women to pursue science and engineering. She was a first runner-up in the 2016 Department of Science and Technology’s (DST) Women in Science Awards (WISA).

She contributed to the first leachate treatment plant in South Africa, and to the first African, World Bank-funded ‘landfill-gas-to-electricity project’ through which the city of Durban produces 10MW of electricity from waste. She is also working on the multi-national Hub for the African City of the Future.

Trois is part of the International Waste Working Group (IWWG)-Southern Africa Regional Branch, a sub-regional Secretariat for Southern Africa of the International Partnership for Expanding Waste Management Services of Local Authorities (IPLA) co-ordinated by the United Nations Centre for Regional Development (UNCRD).

A C2 NRF-rated researcher, Trois and two colleagues established the multidisciplinary Centre for Research in Environmental, Coastal and Hydrological Engineering (CRECHE) in 2001. She established a state-of-the-art analytical laboratory for environmental engineering research, developed academic coursework, supervises more than 20 postgraduate students and researchers, graduated more than 45 postgraduate students and participates in various national and international councils, societies, institutes, journal editorial and review boards, and has numerous international research collaborations.

Words: Christine Cuénod