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Prestigious fellowships awarded to SU doctoral students
Author: Alec Basson
Published: 09/11/2017

Three doctoral students from Stellenbosch University (SU) were honoured with the L'Oréal-UNESCO Regional Fellowships For Women in Science (FWIS) in Sub-Saharan Africa on Wednesday (8 November 2017). The awards ceremony was held in Johannesburg.

Cynthia Tamandjou (Division of Medical Virology), Therina Du Toit (Department of Biochemistry) and Carol Mahachi (Department of Physiological Sciences) each received 5000 Euros for the quality of their research. The fellowships will also help them continue with their doctoral studies. This year, fourteen fellowships were awarded to female scientists in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Cynthia Tamandjou is doing her doctorate on Hepatitis B virus mother-to-Child-transmission in Namibia: transmission dynamics and possibilities for elimination. Her research aims to assess the feasibility of preventing mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B virus in Namibia, using available cost-effective methodologies. This work is meant to shed more light on the high prevalence of chronic HBV infection in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

Tamandjou said she is very thrilled and delighted to have her work acknowledged and considered of value for the continent and to the science community; and more importantly being recognized as a woman in research in Africa.

“This award really gives me the confidence and the certitude that my work is of great significance and is of high quality, benefiting our motherland – Africa. I feel very proud of myself; proud of not giving up despite all the difficulties I have faced and proud of what I have achieved so far."

Therina Du Toit's research focuses on The profiling of C11-oxy steroids by UPC2-MS/MS quantification in clinical conditions characterized by androgen excess and in steroid abuse. Her doctoral study aims to establish the role of certain steroids in the development and progression prostrate cancer.

It is a privilege to receive the award and a wonderful feeling to know that her hard work is worthwhile, Du Toit said.

“This award offers me the opportunity to expand my research at Stellenbosch University and also to present my findings at national and international conferences. For any young research that considers science – the field is vast and interesting, if you not the 8-5 type, then research is for you, it is challenging and you will never be bored."

Carol Mahachi, who works at the University of Zimbabwe, is doing research on Inflammation Markers Associated with Kidney Disease in HIV positive patients. She focuses, in particular, on kidney disease in HIV positive patients living in poor resource settings such as Sub-Saharan Africa.

Mahachi, who works at the University of Zimbabwe, said she is very honoured to receive this award, which will open more doors for research in kidney disease and inflammation.  

“I have been blessed to have women role models such as my supervisor Prof Kathryn Myburgh and the late Prof Lucy Malaba who have been my inspiration. Not forgetting Prof Rafique Moosa, my co-supervisor, who has been very supportive in my journey. To other women researchers, let's keep the love of Science alive to improve the lives of people in our society."

Congratulating the students on their achievements, Dr Therina Theron, Senior Director: Research and Innovation at SU, said she is extremely proud of the fact that they have been acknowledged and supported by the L'Oreal Foundation.

“I hope that this will enable them to continue to make the world a better place through their research, and that they will serve as role models to many younger girls to follow scientific research careers."

Theron added that the world needs more women bringing their exceptional talents and creativity to the scientific profession.

“Promoting gender balance in science and advancing the scientific careers of women is a strategic priority for Stellenbosch University," she said.  


Since 1998, the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science programme supports talented young women scientists all over the world with their doctoral or post-doctoral research projects. More than 2,500 researchers from 112 countries have been distinguished for their extraordinary discoveries and outstanding accomplishments that contribute to making the world a better place.