Dr Rachel Chikwamba is the CSIR Executive responsible for leading the organisation’s industrial development initiative, or Project Synapse. The initiative seeks to amplify the role of innovation in improving the performance of industries, ultimately accelerating inclusive, sustainable economic growth and development.
Most recently she was responsible for leading the organisation’s legal, management services, enterprise risk management as well as facilities’ departments.
Prior to that, she was the Group Executive for Strategic Alliances and Communication, where she championed organisational alliances with local and global partners in the public and private sectors in order to advance knowledge and to address challenges of socioeconomic and industrial development through science, technology and innovation.
Rachel joined the CSIR in December 2004 from Arizona State University, US, where she served as a postdoctoral research associate. She has served at various levels of science leadership and was a member of the CSIR Strategic Research Panel for two terms. She also championed the development of the CSIR Health Research Impact Area strategy. Prior to her appointment, she was Chief Researcher and Competence Area Manager at CSIR Biosciences where she was instrumental in facilitating major global alliances, which resulted in the transfer of key technologies and skills to the CSIR, and continue to result in collaborative projects and programmes.
Beginning as a researcher, her technical experience spans the life sciences across many disciplines, notably agriculture, health and nutrition and biomedical sectors. In her organisational roles and assignments, she has gained sound understanding of science and technology application in a variety of other sectors aligned with the CSIR business. She has led and participated in several global research consortia, and has been principal investigator in many locally and internationally funded research initiatives.
Rachel sits on boards of various organisations focusing on agriculture, conservation and health, notably the Global Governing Board of ICRISAT, the Board of Directors of the Wits Health Consortium (Pty) Ltd, and the South African Medical Research Council. She was recently appointed to the African Union (AU) Panel on Emerging Technologies. The panel advises the AU and its Member States on harnessing emerging technologies for economic development. She has served as an editorial board member for several international journals and a reviewer for local and international funding organisations. She has published book chapters and peer-reviewed scientific publications.
Rachel holds a PhD in Genetics from Iowa State University in the USA and a Master of Business Administration from the Gordon Institute of Business Science at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. She is a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAF) and has held an Honorary Research Fellowship at St Georges Hospital Medical School, University of London.