Nyokong studied her first degree in Lesotho, working up to a PhD at the University of Western Ontario in Canada. She then applied for and was given a Fulbright fellowship for post-doctoral study at the University of Notre Dame in the United States. On her return Professor Nyokong taught briefly at the University of Lesotho before joining Rhodes University in 1992 as a lecturer. Where she set up a research laboratory.
It’s at Rhodes that she’s developed her groundbreaking “photodynamic therapy,” which involves “injecting photosensitive molecules into the heart of a tumour,” then exposing these molecules to laser radiation. This process causes a toxic chemical reaction with the oxygen in the cancer cells.
Nyokong is also well known for her activism in science, and challenging education leaders to make science as accessible as possible. She laments that many of the science textbooks use examples that have “nothing to do” with people from South Africa.
Summary of Achievements
Her research has won her many awards including:
2013 “A” rating by the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa and third World Academy of Science (TWAS) Medal;
2012 she was awarded South African Chemical Institute (SACI) Gold Medal, named by IT News Africa as one of the top 10 most influential women in science and technology in Africa, was named one of the 13 NAMES TO CHANGE THE WORLD” by the National Center for Research on Human Evolution (CENIEH), located in Burgos, Spain;
2011 she was awarded: Distinguished Professor at Rhodes University; recognized by Royal Society in Chemistry/Pan African Chemistry Network as a Distinguished Woman in Chemistry, Invited by Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, to be a member of the UNESCO High-level panel on Science, Technology and Innovation for sustainable Development;
2010 she received two honorary doctorates from Walter Sisulu University and the University of South Africa and was inducted into Lesotho Hall of fame;
2009 she was awarded NRF President’s award as Champion for the transformation in research, CEO Most Influential Woman in Business and Government – Education and teaching sector; and L’Oreal-UNESCO award for “Women in Science” as a Laureate representing Africa and the Arab States;
2007 she was recognized by the NRF as one of the top three publishing scientists in South Africa;
2004 she was bestowed with the Order of Mapungubwe: Bronze by the State President of South Africa Mr Thabo Mbeki and she was the winner of SABC2/Shorprite-Checkers Woman of the year in Science and Technology.
She has been involved a number of committees and boards such as:
Member of the CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) Board in South Africa– 2012-2015; a member of the NRF board (2005-2011); jury member for the L'Oreal/UNESCO Regional Fellowships for Women in Science in Sub-Saharan Africa 2011; Judge: Shoprite/Checkers-SABC-2 Woman of the year-Science and Technology (2006-2008); member of Council: University of Lesotho (2005 -2008).
She is the acting Editor in Chief for African Journal of Pure and Applied Chemistry since 2007. She is on the Editorial Board for Global Journal of Physical Chemistry, Journal of Spectroscopy & Dynamics, International Journal of Electrochemical Science and Advanced Materials Letters.
She has acted as a guest Editor for the Special Issue for International Journal of Photoenergy (2011) Special Issue on Photomedicine and Photo Nanosystems and International Journal of Electrochemistry: Special Issue Surface Electrochemistry: Structured Electrode, Synthesis, and Characterization.
She reviews research applications for a number of counties including: France (Agence Nationale de la Recherche), Belgium (Research Foundation Flanders), Czech Republic research foundation projects and Evaluation of Nation Science Foundation (NSF) USA.
She collaborates with many countries on her research including: Japan, China, UK, Belgium, Germany, France, Turkey, USA, Kuwait, Brazil, Romania, Canada.