Meet the training providers

Commonwealth Futures Climate Research Cohort 2023/24

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Amanda Claassen Smithers

Dr Amanda Claassen-Smithers

Dr Claassen-Smithers started her academic and professional journey with a BSc (Bachelor of Science) and BSc Honours in Dietetics (North-West University, South Africa), followed by a PhD (Doctorate of Philosophy) in Sport Science and PG-Dip (postgraduate diploma) in Health Economics (University of Cape Town). After her PhD, she spent time working in industry (public, government, and private sector), where she was required to apply the latest research and innovation in a real-life environment. Throughout her career, she has remained involved with academic research and lecturing, always seeking out opportunities for the co-creation of projects between industry and academia. Dr Claassen-Smithers has been involved in the planning and implementation of various community-based projects, ranging from health, nutrition and physical activity interventions to anti-doping education programmes, both locally and in neighbouring African countries. As part of the University of Cape Town Researcher Development Academy, she now has the opportunity to assist others won their research career journey, while gaining further insight and inspiration from those they work with. 

Sonwabo Ngcelwane

Sonwabo Ngcelwane

Sonwabo Ngcelwane is an educator by profession with a master's qualification in Sociology. He also holds a PG-Dip (postgraduate diploma) in Higher Education Management and Leadership. Sonwabo joined University of Cape Town (UCT) in 2008 to lead a Social Responsiveness Unit which coordinated all community engagement activities. In 2017, the unit relocated to the UCT Research Office to spearhead the Engaged Scholarship Programme (ESP). The aim of the ESP is to work with academics to deepen and extend their understanding of the nature, benefits and challenges of different forms of engagement with non-academic external constituencies.  

Dheshnie Keswell

Dr Dheshnie Keswell

Dr Keswell graduated with a BSc (Bachelor's of Science) in Biomedical Science from the University of Kwa-Zulu Nata, South Africa. In 2010, she received her PhD (Doctorate of Philosophy) in Cell Biology from the University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa. Her PhD work focused on stem cells and pigmentary disorders. As a postdoctoral fellow, Dr Keswell worked on adipocyte stem cells and oxidative stress and their role in obesity and diabetes. From 2014-2017 she was a Research Career Advancement Fellow and joined UCT's Research Office in 2017. In this role she mentors, develops and presents workshops and seminars targeted at assisting early career academics to develop their research skills. Dr Keswell enjoys assisting researchers in realising and developing their research potential. 

Alex Sutherland

Dr Alexandra Sutherland

Dr Sutherland's disciplinary background is in theatre and performance for social and political change. She has a Master’s in education focusing on higher education and a PhD (Doctorate of Philosophy), that draws on critical psychology, applied theatre, disability studies and sociology, to examine the role of participatory arts in a forensic psychiatric hospital. For 17 years, she worked as a lecturer in Applied Theatre at Rhodes University, South Africa. Prior to her recent appointment (2023) in the researcher development cluster at UCT, she worked in the social justice sector.

Gaelle Ramon

Dr Gaëlle Ramon

A chemist by training, Dr Ramon completed her Master's in Analytical and Organic Chemistry, and her PhD (Doctorate of Philosophy) in Physical Chemistry, through the University of Lyon 1, France. Her PhD studies were undertaken at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa, followed by a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at the same institution. She then became a lecturer. In 2009, driven by her passion for people, she became a Research Coordinator in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, where she played a mentor’s role to emerging researchers. Since 2016, she has managed the UCT academic Researcher Development Programmes, inclusive of the Researcher Development Academy (RDA). Until 2018, she remained research active and supervised postgraduate students, wrote for international journals, and raised funding. In her daily work, she  navigates the co-creation space with academics and experts, inside and outside her institutions, and has been involved in many collaborative projects.