The establishment of a Mineral Biogeochemistry Research Infrastructure Platform on the Bloemfontein Campus of the University of the Free State will expose UFS students to world-class equipment and industry partners through applied research opportunities in the field of biogeochemistry and bioaugmentation.
The construction project, funded by the Department of Science and Innovation and currently underway, is part of a national platform to promote the science of biogeochemistry as a strategic objective in South Africa.
Dr Mariana Erasmus, Deputy Director of the newly established Centre for Mineral Biogeochemistry, says, “The Mineral BIOGRIP Node is an independent, multidisciplinary research centre. It has a number of existing industry partners and clients with active projects, providing research outputs as well as services in the mining and agricultural sectors.”
The main hub or central management node is located at the University of Cape Town.
The BIOGRIP consists of four nodes:
Mineral BIOGRIP Node – University of the Free State
Atmospheric BIOGRIP Node – North-West University and WeatherSA
Water and Soil BIOGRIP Node: – Stellenbosch University
Isotope BIOGRIP Node: – University of Cape Town
Dr Erasmus says, “In each of these specialisations, the node purchases its own world-class equipment and appoints competent teams. The UFS has a unique opportunity to engage and collaborate with these teams of specialists, gaining access to world-class equipment, with the potential to increase the collaborative efforts and research output of the UFS significantly.”
To be selected, the UFS had to have existing infrastructure that could be interlinked with the larger BIOGRIP, such as a high-performance computing centre, an accredited water lab, and competent specialists. Therefore, the node is housed in the Institute for Groundwater Studies.
By hosting the BIOGRIP, Dr Erasmus believes, “There are many exciting opportunities for students to pursue relevant, applied research interests and to be part of the teams that find solutions to real-world problems in the current South African and international socio-economic system. If you are a prospective postgraduate student who has a passion for the space where water, minerals, and life come together, then come and apply your passion at the centre.”