College of Science, Engineering & Technology

Research that benefits the community

Dr Kebede Keterew Kefeni

"I am honoured to be one of the recipients of the 2019 Innovation Award and highly motivated to contribute more. I would also like to state my appreciation to the Unisa Department of Research, Innovation and Commercialisation for the recognition. Furthermore, I thank CSET Executive Dean, Prof Bheki Mamba, for his unreserved support by availing the necessary funds for our research work, and the Nanotechnology and Water Sustainability (NanoWS) research unit staff and students for their assistance whenever I need it," says Unisa’s Dr Kebede Keterew Kefeni.

Kefeni, of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology (CSET), is one of the recipients of the Innovation Award for his outstanding research study on the process for treating acid mine drainage. He aims to contribute to the mitigation of the impact of acid mine drainage on the environment and human health.

Kefeni's research mainly focuses on multidisciplinary areas such as acid mine drainage treatment, synthesis, and characterisation and application of magnetic nanoparticles for wastewater remediation. Its emphasis is on the provision of sustainable clean water and the prevention of human health by identification and remediation of pollutants. He currently (co)supervises one MTech and nine PhD students in these multidisciplinary areas at Unisa. His experience has enabled him to serve as an external thesis examiner and reviewer of several international journal articles.

Africa is making research progress in this field, particularly in acid mine drainage, but scaling up to the industrial level is rarely observed.

According to Kefeni, owing to the type and differences in composition of acid mine drainage, it is difficult to seek an appropriate technology for acid mine drainage. The most convenient techniques appropriate for optimum reduction of the toxicants to safe levels are highly recommended. In line with this, in the process developed in their research work, alkaline solutions and magnetic nanoparticles were utilised for acid mine drainage treatment below the neutral pH for almost complete removal of pollutants. Kefeni believes that Africa is making research progress in this field, particularly in acid mine drainage, but scaling up to the industrial level is rarely observed. A working environment that is not motivating or lack of appropriate funds could be some of the factors which affect the research progress.

He has published 32 articles, which received great attention from international scientific communities. He says that some of the researchers’ work that was published in high-impact peer-reviewed journals would not have been possible if they were not supported with the necessary resources.

Kefeni emphasises that in order to produce quality research work over quantity, and to grow as a researcher, one must have an interest in research, adequate knowledge to design appropriate methodology, and adhere to the research ethics. "One has to work, not for the reward, but to contribute one’s part in a lifetime that benefits the international community at large. In addition, hard work, dedication, appropriate resource and a conducive environment are paramount to be successful in research," concludes Kefeni.

* By Nancy Legodi, Acting Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2020/03/25