Academic a finalist in M&G 200 Young South Africans

Dr Monray Williams, a senior lecturer in the subject group Biochemistry at the North-West University (NWU), has been announced a finalist in the Mail & Guardian 200 Young South Africans for 2024 in the Science, Technology, and Innovation category.

This annual feature by the Mail & Guardian newspaper celebrates 200 young South Africans, aged 35 and under, who are making significant contributions in their fields.

Dr Williams says being listed as one of the 200 young South Africans for 2024 is a tremendous honour. “It signifies recognition for the hard work and dedication I've put into my field, and it's an affirmation that my efforts are making a positive impact."

He says this acknowledgement highlights his achievements and serves as motivation to continue pushing boundaries and striving for excellence.

Reflecting on his journey, Dr Williams shares his academic and research background.

"My passion for biochemistry was ignited during my undergraduate studies, when I was deeply inspired by the potential of this field to solve real-world problems,” he says.

Dr Williams pursued a BSc, BScHons and MSc (cum laude) in biotechnology at the University of the Western Cape. During his MSc studies he focused on developing a point-of-care device (lateral flow device) capable of detecting HIV-1 within the window period with better accuracy than kits currently available on the market. This technology was patented internationally.

"My interest in HIV-1 research grew, particularly regarding the effects of HIV-1 on the brain, and inspired me to register for a PhD in neuroscience at the University of Cape Town. My PhD investigated mechanisms responsible for HIV-1 patients developing a type of brain damage similar to that seen in dementia patients."

Dr Williams joined the NWU as a lecturer in human metabolomics and biochemistry in 2020 and was promoted to senior lecturer in 2022.

"Since my appointment my journey at NWU has seen me go from strength to strength, thanks to the great working environment. I have published 18 research/review papers, generated R780 000 in research funding, graduated two MSc students and four honours students, and currently supervise/co-supervise two PhD students, three MSc students, and one honours student. In 2023, I was awarded the 'Highly Promising Next-Generation Researcher' by the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences."

Dr Williams has also been awarded the Novice Teaching Award (Best Portfolio) in 2022 and the Online Teaching Award in 2023 for implementing innovative teaching methods in training future biochemists.

“One of the significant challenges has been managing the dual demands of research and teaching. Ensuring that I maintain high standards in both areas requires effective time management and prioritisation," he says.

"Developing innovative projects, particularly in biotechnology and neuroscience, often requires substantial financial support. I consider myself to be an idealist, which drives me to continually strive for excellence. However, this ambition presents the ongoing challenge of managing and maintaining a healthy work-life balance, a skill I am still in the process of mastering."

He emphasises the importance of biochemistry and the sciences in South Africa. "We are now at a pivotal moment where the work being done in South Africa is attracting significant international interest. This is an ideal opportunity to create collaborations and make tangible contributions to the global scientific community. As young professionals, we must capitalise on this opportunity to continue putting South Africa on the map."

Dr Williams advises young professionals to choose a field that genuinely excites them and will motivate them to persevere through challenges and setbacks.

“Continuous learning is crucial, and networking and collaboration are essential for professional growth. Establishing connections with peers, mentors and industry leaders can open doors to new opportunities and provide valuable insights. Maintaining resilience in the face of setbacks, focusing on creating meaningful impact, and advocating for innovation will help carve out a successful and fulfilling career in technology and innovation.

"I live by the motto that if someone else can achieve greatness, so can I, even if it takes a bit longer. Believe in your ability to accomplish remarkable things."


Dr Monray Williams

Submitted on Thu, 07/04/2024 - 14:21