Two emerging female scientists at Stellenbosch University were awarded research grants recently as part of the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science South African National Young Talents Programme.
Dr Rouxjeane Venter and PhD student Emogine Mamabolo received the grants in the postdoctoral and doctoral categories respectively for their ground-breaking research. They were among six women scientists from across South Africa who were recognised at an award ceremony for the 2020 and 2021 winners in Johannesburg last month. These grants are awarded within the framework of the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science partnership launched in 1998.
As a member of the Clinical Mycobacteriology and Epidemiology Group in the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, Venter is involved in a study that aims to get a fast and accurate diagnosis for patients with drug resistant-tuberculosis (DR-TB) so that they can be placed on effective treatment sooner. Often patients with DR-TB do not get the correct treatment from the start or are placed on treatment much later due to delays in proper diagnosis. Venter and her team look at ways of using material from used diagnostic tests, which would normally be discarded, to see if they could be used for further testing. They are currently testing a design prototype that will allow them to do this. This research will result in patients being placed on effective treatment sooner and will save on the costs and resources associated with the collection and processing of additional specimens.
Commenting on her achievement, Venter said it is a great honour to have been awarded the grant.
“This award will not only allow me to expand on our research and present our findings on an international level, but it also opens many doors to other opportunities that will accelerate my career path. One of the benefits of the award is that we attend a training course that allows us to develop skills and tools to become leaders in our fields.
“I think we have so much to offer the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) field as a continent and it is so inspiring and a privilege to be counted among these incredible individuals," Venter added.
Mamabolo, who is from the Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology, uses biological, chemical and physical properties of soil to develop an integrated soil health assessment tool. The tool will also be useful for effective decision-making about land management and will benefit non-experts, farmers and policymakers. Mamabolo's research is motivated by the fact that South African farmers are searching for reliable and easily measured indicators of soil health to monitor the sustainability of their enterprises. Through her work, she also wants to address the lack of a clear and broad understanding of soil health in the country.
Mamabolo said the fact that she's been awarded a grant is an indication that her work has an impact and can potentially address some of the global challenges we are facing.
She added that the grant will boost her career and development as an academic researcher.
“It will also expose the relevance and impact of my research work to society at large, potential collaborators and policymakers to bring forward understanding, collaboration and innovation. It will also strengthen my capacity as a grant holder/writer to be able to secure other funding opportunities in the future."