Postgraduate students and researchers from Stellenbosch University certainly raised the bar when they walked away with eight of the 14 awards made during the Physiology Society of Southern Africa's (PSSA) annual conference recently, held in collaboration with the African Association of Physiological Sciences (AAPS).
This includes the Axiology Life Time Career award, which was made to Prof Faadiel Essop, director of the Centre for Cardio-metabolic Research in Africa (CARMA) in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. The award honours a well-established physiologist with an excellent national profile and a high level of international recognition.
Prof Essop was also elected as president of AAPS, while Dr Balindiwe Sishi from the Department of Physiological Sciences in the Faculty of Science was elected as treasurer to the management committees of AAPS and PSSA. Furthermore, for her poster on the identification of potential biomarkers for cardiotoxicity induced by cancer and/or Doxorubicin therapy, Dr Sishi won the best general poster award. Dr Bongekile Skhosana, a senior lecturer in Medical Physiology in FMHS, earned a second place after Dr Sishi for her work on histological changes in reproductive organs induced by obesity.
MSc-student David Evans received the Johnny van der Walt-award for the best student poster. Working under the guidance of Prof Carine Smith in the Division of Clinical Pharmacology in the Department of Medicine, his research assesses the in vitro feasibility of a human-macrophage-based drug delivery system in zebrafish larvae. In the second place was MSc-student Maia Rawlins. With Prof Kathy Myburgh as study leader, she investigates interindividual variability and satellite cell pool expansion following high intensity interval training. Prof Myburgh holds the SARChI research chair in integrative skeletal muscle physiology, biology and biotechnology.
PhD-student Lesha Pretorius, supervised by Prof Smith, won the award for the best/innovative method in her research on the contribution of gastrointestinal secretome to sex bias in irritable bowel syndrome. Together with PhD-student Tracey Ollewagen they came second and third respectively in the Wyndham Student Oral Competition. Tracey's work focuses on understanding the cellular and molecular role players that contribute to ultrastructural changes in rheumatoid cachexia. Her main supervisor is Prof Smith, with Prof Myburgh as co-supervisor.
The online AAPS/PSSA conference was attended by academics and students from elevent South African universities and seven African countries (Egypt, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, Sudan, Zambia and Zimbabwe). The conference was hosted by the University of Witwatersrand's School of Physiology. Prof Willie Daniels, chair of the local organising committee, noted in his opening address that the research presented is a reflection of Africa's growing footprint in the field, with collaborators from various countries, including Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Iran, Ireland, Kingdom of Saudi-Arabia, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States of America.