Welcome to Stellenbosch University

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

Postgraduate Tr​aining
A key mission of CARMA is to offer world-class postgraduate training for biomedical and medical students and also to nurture the future generations of African biomedical scientists. CARMA therefore aims to act as a focal point of capacity development and career development activities for postgraduate students and the future generation of research leaders. Although it is roughly calculated that Africa requires about 1, 000 doctorate science graduates per million people, the current pipeline falls far short of this target. This has resulted in a relatively limited research capacity across the African continent, except for a few pockets of excellence. This is due to several reasons including inadequate research facilities and infrastructure, and the lack of a critical mass of experts needed to sustain and drive biomedical research. It is therefore our aim to empower and train the identified individuals in order to build the future generation of faculty and biomedical researchers to especially serve the needs of the African continent. It is also the aim to upskill the leadership potential of such individuals in order to eventually play a broader role, e.g. disseminating factual information to the general public regarding important health issues and research findings, ensuring that policymakers make evidence-based decisions regarding complex health issues, and lobbying governments for increased financial support to sustain and expand research and development within the African context. CARMA regularly arranges seminars/webinars on a wide variety of topics, e.g. scientific writing skills, the nature of science, how to successful enter the job market, etc. 


Our current student cohort is:

​Post Doc​

Dr Taahirah Boltman

​Post-Doctoral Research Fellow

Qualifications: BSc Medical Biosciences (UWC); BSc Medical Biosciences (Hons); MSc Nanosciences (Cum Laude (UWC); PhD Medical Biosciences (UWC)​
Research Focus: Altered mitochondrial function and HIV-associated
cardiometabolic disease in populations from South Africa and
Kenya (MITO-SAKen).
Host: Prof H. Strijdom

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).


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

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 


Michael Rab​​​ela

Qualifications: BSc (Chemistry and Biochemistry), BSc (Hons) Biochemistry
Project: Obesity, cardio-metabolic diseases and ageing of the vasculature - the role of ataxia telangiectasia mutated kinase.
Supervisor: Prof B Huisamen; Co-supervisors Dr M Blignaut 


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 G 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.
Supervisor​:  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) 
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 


Qualifications: BHSc. Medical Laboratory Science (Distinction) (CPUT)

Project Title:  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 


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)


Jasmine Andrews


Qualifications: BSc Medical Bioscience (UWC), BSc (Hons) Med Phys (SU)

Project Title:  Investigating the links between chronic stress and autophagy in​ hepatic and cardiac tissue from female Wistar rats. 

Supervisor: Prof MF Essop; Co-supervisor: Ms Megan Cairns

Anique Wolmarans


Qualifications: BSc Bioschemistry and Physiology, BSc (Hons) Medical Physiology
Project Title:  The effect of Cannabis and Psilocybin on the brain.

Supervisor: Prof B Huisamen; Co-supervisor: Dr Lihle Qulu

Garth Wentley


Qualifications: BSc Human Life Sciences, BSc (Hons) Medical Physiology
Project Title: Delineating the novel effects of melatonin in differentiated C2C12 myotubes in the presence and absence of pathology
Supervisor: Dr G Maarman


Stephen Southway


Qualifications: BSc Human Life Science, BSc (Hons) Medical Physiology
Project Title: Evaluating the biphasic effect of metformin in a 3D cardiomyoblast model of insulin resistance.

Supervisor: Dr M Blignaut​

Amy Pretor​​ius


Qualifications: ​​BSc Medical Bioscience (UWC), BSc Hons Medical Physiology
Project Title: Comparing the effectiveness of Imatinib and Melatonin against Endothelin-1-induced proliferation of human umbilical vein endothelial cells.​

Supervisor: Dr G Maarman

​​​Kheya Mokoena


Qualifications: ​​BSc Human Life Science, BSc Hons Biochemistry
Project Title: Is mitochondrial dysfunction a putative marker for cardiometabolic disease in people living with HIV?

Supervisor: Prof H Strijdom; Co-supervisor: Dr Ingrid Webster

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