From 26 June to 1 July they will join 600 of the most qualified young scientists from more than 100 nationalities for this year’s meeting in Germany, with more than 35 Nobel Laureates in attendance.

According to a media release issued by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAF), the young scientists will experience a six-day programme with numerous lectures and panel discussions. Before they leave, the eleven young South Africans will also be hosted by ASSAF and the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) at a send-off meeting, where they will interact with alumni who attended the meetings in previous years. 

Alan, who grew up in Villiersdorp and matriculated from Rondebosch Boy’s High School, says he regards this as a once in a lifetime opportunity: “At the meeting, I will be able to exchange ideas with up-and-coming scientists, and draw from the knowledge and experience of established researchers.”

Alan says he has always been fascinated by Nature, and research in chemistry allows him to explore fundamental features of Nature: “Scientific research is one of the coolest jobs in the world. There is a lot of room to explore and test novel ideas. I enjoy the creativity that comes with developing a method or technique and seeing it work,” he adds.

Currently Alan is working on his PhD thesis under the guidance of Prof Len Barbour and Prof Catharine Esterhuysen in the Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science.

“I use experimental and computational methods to investigate water uptake by porous crystalline materials. Understanding the nature and origin of water sorption is important in the development of new materials for water extraction from the atmosphere and purification, particularly in Africa where potable water is scarce,” he explains.

In the process, he has developed novel instruments to investigate the various properties of porous crystalline materials: “I have been able to probe structure-property relationships in a way that has not been previously reported. For example, studying the structural properties of nanoconfined water at high humidities over a wide range of temperatures, has yielded interesting results regarding the fundamental nature of the phase changes of water.”  

After completion of his PhD, Alan hopes to continue as a postdoctoral researcher in the chemical sciences. He is also actively involved in the crystallographic community and serves on the executive committee of the South African Crystallographic Society. 

Nagraadse chemiestudent na Lindau vir Nobelpryswenner-vergadering

Alan Eaby, ’n PhD-student in chemie aan die Universiteit Stellenbosch, is een van elf jong wetenskaplikes van Suid-Afrika wat gekies is om deel te neem aan die 71ste Lindau Nobel- pryswennervergadering wat aan chemie gewy word. 

Vanaf 26 Junie tot 1 Julie sal hulle aansluit by 600 hoogs gekwalifiseerde jong wetenskaplikes van meer as 100 nasionaliteite vir vanjaar se vergadering in Duitsland, met meer as 35 Nobelpryswenners wat dit sal bywoon. 

Volgens ’n mediavrystelling wat deur die Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAF), uitgereik is, sal die jong wetenskaplikes deelneem aan ’n ses dag lange program bestaande uit verskeie lesings en paneelbesprekings. Alvorens hul vertrek, sal die elf jong Suid-Afrikaners ’n byeenkoms bywoon met ASSAF en die Departement van Wetenskap en Innovasie (DWI) as gasheer waar hulle sal skouers skuur met alumni wat voorheen ook hierdie vergaderings bygewoon het. 

Alan, wat in Villiersdorp grootgeword het en aan die Rondebosch Hoër Seunskool gematrikuleer het, sê hy beskou dit as ’n eenmalige geleentheid: “By hierdie vergadering sal ek idees kan uitruil met opkomende wetenskaplikes en put uit die kennis en ervaring van gevestigde navorsers.”

Alan sê die natuur het hom nog altyd gefassineer, en navorsing in chemie stel hom in staat om die fundamentele eienskappe van die natuur te verken: “Wetenskaplike navorsing is een van die coolste werke ter wêreld. Daar is baie ruimte om te verken en nuwe idees uit te toets. Ek geniet die kreatiwiteit wat saamgaan met die ontwikkeling van ’n nuwe metode of tegniek en om te sien dat dit werk,” voeg hy by.

Alan werk tans aan sy PhD-proefskrif onder die studieleiding van Prof Len Barbour en Prof Catharine Esterhuysen in die Departement Chemie en Polimeerwetenskap.

“Ek gebruik eksperimentele en berekeningsmetodes om poreuse kristallyne materiale se wateropname te ondersoek. Dit is belangrik om die aard en oorsprong van watersorpsie te verstaan vir die ontwikkeling van nuwe materiale vir die ekstraksie van water uit die atmosfeer en die suiwering daarvan, veral in Afrika waar drinkbare water skaars is,” verduidelik hy. 

In die proses het hy nuwe instrumente ontwikkel om die verskeie eienskappe van poreuse kristallyne materiale te kan ondersoek: “Ek kon struktuur-eienskap-verhoudings ondersoek op ’n wyse waaroor nog nie voorheen gerapporteer is nie. Byvoorbeeld, die bestudering van die strukturele eienskappe van water in nano ruimtes by hoë humiditeitsvlakke oor ’n wye reeks temperature, het interessante resultate opgelewer oor die fundamentele aard van die faseveranderinge van water.” 

Ná voltooiing van sy PhD, hoop Alan om as nadoktorale navorser in die chemiese wetenskappe voort te werk. Hy is ook aktief betrokke in die kristallografie-gemeenskap en dien in die uitvoerende komitee van die Suid-Afrikaanse Kristallografie-vereniging.