Dr Ronen Fogel, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Rhodes University

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Post-Doctoral Fellow, Rhodes University

Dr Ronen Fogel had a happy childhood, in a family that prepared him and set him on his path as a scientist, without perhaps having been deliberately fashioned to do so.

Yet he tells of how dinner table arguments among siblings were interrupted by having to leave the table, consult encyclopaedias and reference books (in the pre-internet days) and return to the table with an explanation to settle the argument, and having to rework the argument in the light of the newly gained information.

Thus his approach to information was formed at an early age and for this microbiologist there is no other way but to question, research and integrate new information that eventually leads to yet more questions.

He explains: “Finding out how stuff works, why stuff works and how all of these different components unite into an observable phenomenon has been a drive for me for as far back as I can remember.” He describes one of his life goals as helping to demystify science from being the mystical monolith into science – the engageable subject.

Fogel, a post-doctoral fellow at the bioSENS Research Group at Rhodes University, holds an NRF-DST Innovation Postdoctoral Fellowship and is already building a considerable body of research in the microbiological field. He says that for him the pinnacle of success in his career would be helping to lead, and to participate in, research to uncover new phenomena and share them with others.

He says: “At its heart, science is a collective effort by humans to understand the universe.”

He says that young scientists should learn a little about everything on the way to specialising in a chosen field. His own journey in the scientific field has been what he describes as the average experience – setback and progress, with more progress on average than setbacks.

Fogel believes that you do not truly understand something unless you can explain it to others, which is probably why an academic career suits him to a tee – learning, researching, sharing and teaching with input from not only peers and colleagues, but his parents who keep sending information and links to nanotech information.

Fogel is currently researching the use of aptamers (molecules that bind to specific target molecules), sometimes combined with nanoparticles, for both diagnostic and therapeutic purposes in human health. — Ilse Ferreira