Welcome to Stellenbosch University

​​​​​​​​​​​Centre for C​​​ardio-metabolic Research in Africa (CARMA)​

Postgraduate Training


​Post Doc

Dr Frans Everson

​Post-Doctoral Research Fellow

Qualifications: BSc (UFS); BMedSc (Hons) Pharmacology (UFS); PGCE (UNW); MSc (SU); Joint PhD (SU and UHasselt) Research Focus: Emerging cardiovascular risk factors (HIV/AIDS and air pollution) in South Africa.
Host: Prof. Hans Strijdom
Current Postgraduate students:
BSc Hons.: Jody Abrahams


Dr Olakunle Sanni

​Post-Doctoral Research Fellow

Qualifications: BSc (Biochemistry), Msc (Medical Biochemistry), PhD (Biochemistry).
Research Focus: Pulmonary Artery Pressures in Pulmonary Tuberculosis Study (Investigating the inflammatory, endothelial, and mitochondrial pathways that underpin the development of pulmonary arterial hypertension post-tuberculosis)
Host: Dr. Gerald Maarman



Danelle Botha

Qualifications: BSc (Human Life Sciences; cum laude), BSc Hons (Medical Physiology, cum laude), MSc (Medical Physiology; cum laude).
Project: Investigating a potential role for ATM protein kinase in the ER stress response in cardiovascular pathology.
Supervisor: Prof B. Huisamen, Dr M. Blignaut, Dr D. Van Vuuren. 


Nonhlakanipho Sangweni 

Email: /
Qualifications: MSc Biochemistry (distinction).
Research Group: Biomedical Research and Innovation Platform
Research Project: Prevention of Doxorubicin-induced cardiotoxicity: A mechanistic study.
Supervisors: Prof R Johnson (SAMRC), Prof B Huisamen,  Dr L Mabasa (SAMRC) and Dr D van Vuuren.


Megan Cairns

Qualifications: BSc (Biology) in Human Life Sciences (SU); BSc Hons in Physiological Sciences (SU); MSc in Physiological Sciences (SU, cum laude).
Research Project: Investigating the effects of chronic stress on cardiovascular function. 
Supervisors: Prof. MF Essop and Co-supervisors: Dr. D Joseph (SU) and Dr. M Vlok (SU). 


Charnay Cunningham

Qualifications: Bsc Medical Bioscience, BSc (Hons) Medical Bioscience (Cum Laude), MSc Nanoscience (Cum Laude).
Research Project: The effect of particle therapy on tumour angiogenesis.
Supervisors: Prof. Hans Strjidom (SU), Dr. Amanda Genis (SU), Dr. Charlot Vandevoorde (iThemba Labs), Dr. Julie Bolcaen (iThemba Labs).


Thembeka Nyawo 

Research Project:  Evaluation of mitochondrial and molecular derangements in cardiac adipose tissue during type 2 diabetes and relationship with cardiovascular risk
Supervisors: Dr C Pheiffer (SAMRC), Prof R Johnson (SAMRC) , Prof H Strijdom and Dr H Sadie-van Gijsen.


Siddiqah George 

Research Project: The effects of prolonged fructose consumption on mitochondrial function of cardiac and skeletal muscle.
Supervisors: Dr G Maarman



Joshua Matthee

Qualifications: BSc (Human Life Science); BSc (Hons) (Medical Physiology)
Project: Aspalathus linearis as possible SGLT2 inhibitor - its effects on myocardial mitochondria.
Supervisor: Professor B Huisamen, Dr M Blignaut 


Sarah Harries

Qualifications: BSc (Human Life Sciences with Psychology), BSc Hons (Medical Physiology)
Project: The anti-ageing effects of buchu and its role on ATM protein kinase signaling in ageing and cardiovascular disease.
Supervisors:  Prof B Huisamen and co-supervisor Dr M Blignaut.


Ilze Verona W​illemse

Qualifications: BSc (Humanlife sciences with Physiology Genetics and Microbiology), BSc Hons (Medical Physiology), PGCE
Project: Asphalathus linearis as a possible SGLT2-inhibitor: Investigating the anti-hypertensive effects of Green Rooibos extracts.
Supervisors:  Prof B Huisamen, Dr E Marais and Dr S Windvogel

Michael Rab​​​ela

Qualifications: BSc (Chemistry and Biochemistry), BSc hons (Biochemistry..
Project: The role of ATM in aged, obese adult rat aortic endothelial cells and cardiomyoblast. .
Supervisor: Prof B Huisamen. Co-supervisors: Dr M Blignaut 


Jacques van Heerden​

Qualifications: B.Tech and Hons in Clinical Technology: Pulmonology (CUT), B.Tech and Hons in Clinical Technology: Critical Care (CUT).
Research Group:  Internal Medicine (Pulmonology).
Project: The Impact of SARS-CoV-2 On Respiratory Function.
Supervisors: Prof H Strijdom and Prof C Koeglenberg (Int Med: Pulmonology). 


Carmen-Marie P​ayne

Qualifications: BSc Human Life Sciences with Psychology, BScHons Medical PhysiologyProject: Delineating the involvement of disrupted mitochondrial pathways in the progression from Tuberculosis to Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension in a South African cohort.
Supervisors: Dr G Maarman and Dr S Windvogel 


Barend Groenewald​

Qualifications: BSc Human Life Sciences (SU); BScHons Medical Physiology (cum lauded) (SU)
Research Group: Centre for Cardio-metabolic Research in Africa (CARMA)
Project title: Establishment of a novel, insulin resistant, high throughput H9c2 cardiomyoblast spheroid model .
Supervisors: Dr M Blignaut, Dr Chellan & Prof B Huisman 


Sara Shaboodien

Qualification: BSc (Human Life Science), BSc Hons. (Medical Physiology - Cum Laude)
Project: The novel effect of Aspalathus Linearis (Rooibos) on platelet derived growth factor-induced proliferation of rat pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells (RPASMC)
Supervisor: Dr G Maarman and Dr E Marais 


Dr Steve Jacobs

Qualifications: MBChB (Stellenbosch), BSc Hons (Medical Physiology) 
Project title: Investigating the involvement of pro-inflammatory and endothelial dysfunction markers in the progression of tuberculosis to pulmonary arterial hypertension. 
Supervisors: Dr Gerald Maarman 


Corné Gro​bler 

Qualifications: BSc (Human Life Sciences with Psychology), BSc Hons (Medical Physiology) 
Project title: The activation of ATM in response to exercise: evaluation of cardiac ATM expression in a male Wistar rat model of exercise compared to no exercise fed a normal or high fat diet. 
Supervisors:  Prof. B. Huisamen and co-Supervisor: Dr. M. Blignaut


Candice Februarie​

Qualifications: BSc Hons Molecular Biology 
Research group: VuyoLab 
Project title: Molecular mechanisms of first line TB-drug induced cardiotoxicity in a differentiated H9c2 rat ventricular cardiomyoblast model. 
Supervisors:  Dr V Mavumengwana  (SAMRC) and Co-supervisors: Dr Lucinda Baatjies, Dr Marguerite Blignaut and Mr Kudzanai Tapfuma.

Caitlin Oden​​daal

Qualifications: BSc Human Life Sciences (Biology); BSc Hons. Physiology 
Project title: Getting to the heart of chronic stress: an assessment of the effects on mitochondrial function and dynamics 
Supervisor:   Prof MF Essop and Co-supervisors: Dr G Maarman; Dr D Joseph


Ayesha Rasheed Sh​aik

Qualifications: BSc Human Life Sciences (SU), BSc Hons Physiology (SU).
Research group: Biomedical Research and Innovation Platform (BRIP). 
Project title: Investigating DNA methylation of metabolic and inflammatory genes with therapeutic potential for obesity: A cohort study in South African women. 
Supervisors:  Dr T Willmer (SAMRC) and Co-supervisors: Prof C Pheiffer (SAMRC) and Prof MF Essop (CARMA). 


Cassidy ​O'Brien

Email: or 
Qualifications: Certificate in entrepreneurship, BSc human life sciences (with psychology), Hons physiological sciences.
Project title: Explaining the role of nonoxidative glucose pathways in terms of stress-related rat endothelial dysfunction. 
Supervisors:  Prof. MF Essop


Rudzani Ramashia​

Qualifications: BSc (Biochemistry and Microbiology), BSc Hons (Molecular Biochemistry) . 
Project title: Investigating the efficacy of novel curcumin derivatives on skeletal muscle insulin resistance.  
Supervisors:  Dr Babalwa Jack (SAMRC), Prof Carmen Pheiffer (SAMRC), Dr Shantel Windvolgel (SU), and Prof Salam Titinchi (UWC). 


Logan S​mith

Qualifications: BSc Human Life Sciences with Psychology, BSc (Hons) Physiological Sciences . 
Project title: Establishing a specific, accurate, high-throughput and reproducible method for the ID of novel biomarkers which links chronic psychosocial stress and disease onset.
Supervisors:  Prof MF Essop; Co-supervisors: Dr Mare Vlok, Dr Danzil Joseph .

Minette Van​​wyk

Qualifications: BSc Human Life Sciences with Psychology; BSc (Hons) Physiological Sciences 
Project title: Establishing and validating an in vivo model of chronic restraint stress in male and female wistar rats 
Supervisors:  Prof MF Essop; Co- supervisor: Dr Danzil Joseph 


Thato K​​gatla

Qualifications: BSc (Molecular and Life Sciences), Honours (Physiology, Cum Laude) 
Project title: Investigating the novel role of metallothioneins in Rooibos-induced cardioprotection using a cardiomyoblast model of Angiotensin-II induced hypertrophy and apoptosis
Supervisors:  Dr Gerald Maarman and co-Supervisor: Prof R Johnson (SAMRC), Dr Erna Marais


Sharnay Na​idoo

Qualifications: BSc Honours (Biochemistry) ; Currently doing MSc (Medical Physiology) 
Research group: Biomedical Research and Innovation Platform (BRIP).
Project:  Ubiquinone (CoQ) ameliorates mitochondria​l bioenergetics & apoptosis in an in vitro model of doxorubicin-induced cardiotoxicity. 
Supervisors: Prof R Johnson, Dr G Maarman 


Chrisstoffel Jum​aar 

Project:  Investigating the usefulness of a novel plasma 5-marker host biosignature to identify pulmonary arterial hypertension in a post-tuberculosis context in a South African cohort.
Supervisors: Dr G Maarman 


Kriston Bass​on

Qualifications: BSc in Human Life Sciences (SU), BSc Honours in Medical Physiology (SU).
Research Group: Stellenbosch University Reproductive Research Group (SURRG).
Project: The effect of diet induced obesity on fertility: A comparative study between male and female Wistar rats.
Supervisors: Dr Bongekile Skosana and Co-Supervisor: Dr Shantal Windvogel.


Hannah Fokk​ens

Qualifications: BMedSci Physiology (UKZN), BSc Hons Medical Physiology (SU) 
Research group: BRIP Cardio-metabolic group 
Project title: Understanding the genetic basis of hypertension in an African population. 
Supervisors: Prof R Johnson, Dr JR Sharma , Prof H Strijdom (co-supervisor)


Honou​rs 2022

Mia Lomba​rd

Supervisor(s): Dr T Willmer, Prof C Pheiffer and Prof F Essop
Project Title: Investigating DNA methylation signatures of SLC6A4 in South African women with obesity, using a targeted pyrosequencing approach . 


Anique Wolmarans

Supervisor(s): Prof B Huisamen
Project Title:  Evaluation of muscle cellular growth and ATM signalling in response to a rooibos extract  (E1CHA) in male wistar rats.  


Kaylee ​​Losper

Supervisor(s): Prof F Essop
Project Title: Does chronic stress trigger the development of oxidative stress in rat spleen? 


Jody Abrahams

Supervisor(s): Prof H Strijdom, Dr Frans Everson and Dr I Webster
Project Title:  Investigating the relationship between markers of endothelial function and retinal microvascular geometric morphology in an HIV-negative vs. HIV (on ART) Western Cape study population.   


Garth Wentley

Supervisor(s): Dr E Marais, Prof B Huisamen, Dr M Blignaut
Project Title:  Evaluation of cellular growth and ATM signalling pathways in response to E1CHA in male Wistar rat adipose tissue. 


Mohamed Sadam Parker

Supervisor(s): Dr M Blignaut and Prof B Huisamen 
Project Title: Evaluation of the mTOR and ATM signalling pathway in an in vitro differentiated C2C12 muscle cell model in response to E1CHA treatment. 


Stephen Southway

Supervisor(s): Dr M Blignaut, Prof B Huisamen and Dr D van Vuuren
Project Title: Investigating Mitochondrial Dysfunction in vitro in the presence of oxidative stress and the absence of ATM. 


Dinisha G​iga

Supervisor(s): Dr G Maarman
Project Title: A novel study, investigating the effects of Rooibos Aspalathus linearis in a cardiomyoblast model of angiotensin-II induced hypertrophy and apoptosis . 


Herschelle-Lee Jager

Supervisor(s): Prof F Essop
Project Title: Exploring links between chronic stress and autophagy in the liver and heart. 


Jasmine Andrews (Class Represen​tative)

Supervisor(s): Dr S Windvogel and Dr M Blignaut 
Project Title: Investigating the E1CHA Rooibos (Aspalathus Linearis) extract as a potential modulator of liver antioxidant defences in the diet-induced obese Wistar rat.


Amy Pretor​​ius

Supervisor(s): Dr K Gabuza, Prof R Johnson and Dr S Windvogel
Project Title: The establishment of a non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) in vitro model using 3T3L1-conditioned media and HepG2/C3A cells . 


Marc Lip​shitz

Supervisor(s): Dr J Sharma and Prof R Johnson , Prof H Strijdom (co-supervisor)
Project Title: Evaluating ACE and AGT gene polymorphisms 
(SNPs) contributing to hypertension in an African population.  



  Quick Links