Principal researcher: Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)

Fulufhelo Nelwamondo

Fulufhelo Nelwamondo obtained his PhD in electrical engineering by 25, was made visiting professor at the University of Johannesburg a few months later, and is now a senior researcher at the CSIR, where he turns the far-fetched technologies of crime thrillers into everyday reality.

A leading expert in fingerprint analysis, Nelwamondo has made discoveries any TV detective would die for, including an algorithm that increases the speed and accuracy with which partial fingerprints can be matched. He has also done award-winning work in artificial intelligence, most notably the development of techniques to make sense of online polls with corrupt or incomplete data. An extension enables effective computer modelling on the spread of HIV as well as evaluation of efforts to stop the disease.

Nelwamondo has achieved many breakthroughs and published widely in books and journals, but his proudest achievement remains being South Africa’s youngest recipient of the Harvard- South Africa fellowship.

— Ian Macleod