Professor in South Africa Appointed to Vatican Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences

Professor Tebello Nyokong, appointed member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences on 2 June 2023. Credit: Courtesy Photo

Pope Francis has appointed a South Africa-based Professor of chemistry as a member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences

The appointment of Professor Tebello Nyokong to the Vatican-based institution that was founded in January 1994 to promote the study and progress of social sciences was made public on Saturday, June 2.

The academy that was established by St. John Paul II aims at promoting the academic fields of “economics, sociology, law and political science, thus offering the Church those elements, which she can use for the development of her social doctrine, and reflecting on the application of that doctrine in contemporary society,” the entity’s leadership has indicated.

Born on 20 October 1951 in Maseru, Lesotho, Prof. Nyokong is the Director of the Institute for Nanotechnology Innovation at Rhodes University in South Africa.

The holder of a master’s degree in chemistry from McMaster University in Canada in 1981 was awarded a doctorate in the same discipline at the University of Western Ontario in Canada in 1987.


She has received numerous honors and awards, including the Order of Mapungubwe, and the Gold Medal of the South African Chemical Institute.

Prof. Nyokong is currently researching a new cancer diagnosis and treatment methodology called “photo-dynamic therapy”, which is intended as an alternative to chemotherapy.

The new therapy is based on using the dye, which is used to color blue denim clothing, and which is inert and harmless by itself but can be activated by exposure to a red laser beam. 

The system, which has been used in some countries, does not destroy hair or healthy cells or cause nausea, according to reports.

In 2007, Prof. Nyokong was one of the top three publishing scientists in South Africa; she was awarded the National Research Foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013.

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Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.