Alta Schutte

Alta Schutte is an overachiever — a character trait she wears with pride. So it did not faze her when a fellow student called her weird because she received a distinction for every subject in her undergraduate and honours studies. “I also finished my PhD in one-and-ahalf years [at 24]. I am just driven,” she says matterof-factly. She is a distinguished scientist with a list of accolades, among them winner of the Distinguished Young Women Scientist in the Life Sciences award in 2010 and recipient of the 2011 British Association Medal from the Southern African Association for the Advancement of Science. She is also a founding member of the South African Young Academy of Science. At the age of 30 she was appointed director of the Hypertension in Africa Research Team (Hart), where she leads a group of scientists who focus on high blood pressure, especially among black people, the most vulnerable section of the population. Schutte says she has always wanted her career to have an impact on the person in the street. The opening in 2012 of Hart´s Hypertension Clinic, which offers affordable pre-screening, was another step closer to that vision. Within the clinic she heads a research project called African-Predict, which aims to identify early predictors for heart disease in black South Africans. “These results will be some of the first in South Africa that could be used to prevent the development of heart disease from younger ages,” she explains. The giant leap in her career was the awarding last August of a research grant from the South African Research Chair Initiative. This means she can finally shrug off her administrative and managerial duties as director of the centre and focus on what she is good at — studying research data and coming up with solutions. — Joonji Mdyogolo