Sally Frost, UKZN

UKZN’s Professor Steve Johnson has obtained an A1 rating from the National Research Foundation (NRF). This is the highest rating that the NRF awards to ‘researchers who are unequivocally recognised by their peers as leading international scholars in their field for the high quality and wide impact (ie beyond a narrow field of specialisation) of their recent research outputs.’

Johnson is a professor in the School of Life Sciences on the Pietermaritzburg campus and the Director of the UKZN Centre for Functional Biodiversity. He also holds the South African Research Chair (SARCHI) in Evolutionary Biology.  

Johnson’s research is aimed at understanding the reproductive ecology and evolutionary diversification of plants. He has a keen interest in the role of volatiles (chemical elements and compounds that can be readily vaporised) in mediating plant-animal interactions and has established a state-of-the-art laboratory for the study of chemical signals deployed by plants to attract pollinators.

He has a Google Scholar h-index of 73 and has published more than 330 peer-reviewed scientific papers and four books. He has also served as an Associate Editor for five international science journals.

‘The School of Life Sciences is particularly proud to have such a high calibre researcher in our team,’ said Dean and Head of School, Professor Ade Olanarin. ‘His continued contribution to the School, especially in the areas of mentorship and capacity building, through the activities of the NRF-funded community of practice linked to the Centre for Functional Biodiversity is very much appreciated. We wish Steve an ever more successful academic career as he continues to inspire and motivate all of us.’

Dean of Research in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, Professor Neil Koorbanally concurred: ‘Steve, we are proud to have you in our College. You are truly an inspiration for younger researchers.’

‘Being A-rated is a goal achieved by few of us as researchers and academics,’ said College Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Albert Modi. ‘The NRF rating system is a key driver in the NRF’s aim to build a globally competitive science system in South Africa. It is a valuable tool for benchmarking the quality of our researchers against the best in the world. Rated researchers as supervisors will impart cutting-edge skills to the next generation of researchers. Steve, congratulations on this brilliant success! You worked hard with a great team and you deserve this recognition and admiration.