University of the Western Cape (UWC) veteran scholar, Associate Professor Carolina Ödman, has been shortlisted for this year’s prestigious National Science and Technology Forum-South32 (NSTF-South32) Awards, popularly known as the “Science Oscars of South Africa”.
Prof Ödman is a finalist for the Communication Award for her pioneering work in astronomy outreach, development and education. The Communication Award recognises a communicator who has made an outstanding contribution to science, engineering and technology (SET) through public awareness.
The annual NSTF-South23 is aimed at recognising outstanding contributions to science, engineering, technology and innovation. The 2019/20 awards mark the 22 anniversary of the event, and the ceremony will take place virtually on 30 July, due to COVID-19.
As a finalist, Prof Ödman will be recognised virtually in her category, and she is expected to participate or be represented in the virtual Awards Gala Event. Her profile and that of her work, along with a UWC logo, will be published in the Who’s Who in science, engineering, technology and innovation in South Africa booklet.
“Being a finalist in the 2020 NSTF-South32 Awards tells me that my many years of experience in this area and the vision that emerges from that experience is resonating, and that I have built something – projects, a philosophy of work and connections – that matters,” she said. “There could be no better validation, and I am energised more than ever to keep doing what works and promoting our science and our scientists to uplift our communities, and our society as a whole”.
Prof Ödman is the Associate Director of Development and Outreach for the Inter-University Institute for Data Intensive Astronomy in South Africa, which is a partnership between UWC, the University of Cape Town and the University of Pretoria. “We are a small Outreach and Development office, and our work has to be guided by ways to make an impact,” she explains. “This has been happening mostly thanks to students and collaborations. I see my role as finding ways of working that make a difference to people. We are not afraid of tackling the big issues, like science in the vernacular, and we dream big with humble amounts of funding”.
Although she was born and trained in physics in Switzerland, and obtained her doctorate in cosmology at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom, Prof Ödman has had a strong connection to South Africa, holding several positions at different organisations.
After a Marie Curie research fellowship in Italy, she became the first international project manager of Universe Awareness, an early childhood development programme centred on the inspirational aspects of astronomy. She joined the South African Astronomical Observatory as a SKA Research Fellow working at the interface between astronomy and technology, which she continues as a founding member of the “astronomy” conference series.
Her work has earned her numerous awards, including an International Astronomical Union Special Award for Astronomy Outreach, Development and Education (2018), Mail & Guardian Top 200 Young South Africans (2014), Bilan Magazine 300 most influential of Switzerland – category under 40s (2013), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science Prize for Online Resources in Education (2010).