Nanotech pioneer Prof Nyokong to receive sixth Honorary Doctorate

“I am fortunate to get these awards while I am still alive. And my students – those who do the work – can celebrate with me.” – Prof Nyokong

Rhodes University’s Distinguished Professor Tebello Nyokong is set to receive her sixth honorary Doctor of Science degree later this year, this time from Imperial College in London.

Prof Nyokong has already been recognised with two international honorary Doctor of Science degrees from McMaster University in Canada in 2021 and Western University, Canada, in 2019. Her other awards were conferred by the University of Kwazulu-Natal in 2018, Walter Sisulu University in 2010 and the University of South Africa in 2010.

In 2022, Prof Nyokong was appointed by Pope Francis to the supranational 80-member Pontifical Academy of Sciences. She is also a Fellow of the Royal Society and a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

As she accepts her sixth honour in October, Prof Nyokong will already be conducting her ground-breaking research and teaching within the new R90 million state-of-the-art research building currently under construction. The Rhodes University Council, in 2023, resolved to name the building Tebello Nyokong Institute of Nanotechnology Innovation.

Imperial College London, consistently ranked among the world’s top universities, is renowned for its pioneering contributions to science, engineering, medicine, and business-related disciplines. It has earned its place on the global stage through cutting-edge research, innovations in technology and healthcare, and an unwavering commitment to addressing pressing global challenges.

Professor Nyokong is a distinguished South African chemist and professor at Rhodes University. She has published extensively, including patents, and received numerous accolades. Prof Nyokong’s research focuses on photodynamic therapy as a cancer treatment alternative to chemotherapy.

Her impoverished upbringing in Lesotho fuelled her determination to pursue science. She earned her degrees in chemistry and biology, including a PhD from Western University in Ontario, Canada. Prof Nyokong returned to Lesotho briefly before joining Rhodes University, where she advanced from lecturer to distinguished professor. Her pioneering work in nanotechnology and photodynamic therapy is revolutionising cancer treatment.

The formal notification, conveying her honorary degree bestowal, was made by Professor Hugh Brady, President of Imperial College. In his letter to Prof Nyokong, he expressed, “It is with great pleasure that I write to tell you that the Council of Imperial College London has resolved to confer on you the degree of Doctor of Science honoris causa in recognition of the outstanding contribution you have made in the field of chemistry.”

Professor Nyokong recalls being in a state of shock upon receiving the news. “This honorary degree was the most unexpected one. My previous ones were all connected to me somehow, but I have had no ties with Imperial College. This shows that African researchers are being independently noticed by top universities globally.”

The degree will be conferred in person at the Postgraduate Awards Ceremony at the iconic Royal Albert Hall in October 2024. This ceremony will be attended by members of the Council, academic staff, recent graduates, and their parents. The evening before the ceremony will be dedicated to celebrating the new Honorary Graduands.

“I look forward to being able to address young Imperial College graduands. I want to show them that Africa is not what they think it is. Science is not just in Europe. Africa has done well, and we are proud of who we are!” said Prof Nyokong.

Each of these accolades represents a nod to her exceptional dedication, pioneering spirit, and unwavering commitment to pushing the boundaries of knowledge in chemistry.

“I am fortunate to get these awards while I am still alive. And my students – those who do the work – can celebrate with me.” Prof Nyokong expressed.

As she receives this sixth honorary Doctor of Science degree from Imperial College London, we are reminded that true greatness is not only measured by the accumulation of honours but also by the profound impact one has on the world of science and the generations that follow. Prof Nyokong’s story is a testament to the transformative power of education, dedication, and a relentless pursuit of knowledge.

In celebrating her achievements, we honour her remarkable journey and recognise the potential within each of us to make a lasting impact on the world through passion, perseverance, and a commitment to the pursuit of excellence.

Professor Tebello Nyokong’s story inspires us all, reminding us that pursuing knowledge knows no bounds and the possibilities are limitless when driven by a profound passion for one’s field.

See her reaction to this news here: