The Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division (HEARD) in collaboration with CAPRISA, Africa Centre and the University of KwaZulu-Natal Press hosted Getting to Zero: Showcasing KZN Research on HIV and AIDS on 14 November at the KZNSA Gallery.

The event brought together over 150 people from research, education and government institutions working in the field of HIV and AIDS to discuss the latest research developments and scientific trends in prevention and treatment ahead of World AIDS Day.

The event was spearheaded by HEARD which invited partners in the field, the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South African (CAPRISA), the Africa Centre and UKZN Press to participate in showcasing the latest HIV-related research and material.

One of the highlights was the screening of HEARD’s documentary titled: Manguzi: Raising Children in Rural South Africa, which premiered recently at the International AIDS Conference in Washington DC.

The documentary provided the audience with a personal account of the challenges faced by caregivers of children in HIV- endemic communities in South Africa. The documentary follows the world’s first large-scale quantitative study of the impacts of familial HIV and AIDS on children. Life expectancy for the Manguzi area is 43 years.

According to the documentary, 5.6 million people in South Africa live with HIV which is the largest number in the world; 1.9 million South African children have lost one or both parents to AIDS and 74 percent of households care for orphaned children.

The documentary also showcased the challenges infected people face being accepted in the community.

Representatives from CAPRISA, HEARD and the Africa Centre presented work of the organisations and their current research findings.

CAPRISA’s Head of Community Programme, Ms Janet Frohlich, told the audience about their microbicide research, including the vaginal microbicide study undertaken in 2010 - the CAPRISA 004 Tenofovir Gel Trial.

The study showed that microbicides could provide women with some protection from HIV infection. CAPRISA continues to undertake research for a safe and effective microbicide that could have a profound impact on the dynamics of HIV transmission.

Dr Katharine Stott, HIV Programme Physician at the Africa Centre, said there was a provable reduction in infections but there was still a problem with HIV and TB drug resistance.

UKZN Press’s Ms Debra Prim spoke about the publisher’s range of books on HIV/AIDS. The books were showcased and on sale at the event.

HEARD’s Research Director, Dr Kay Govender, highlighted HEARD’s core research areas. He told the audience about the Young Carers Project - a multi-agency collaboration between HEARD, the Universities of Cape Town and the Witwatersrand, the University of Oxford and the South African government. The project aims to inform policy and programming in order to improve the health and wellbeing of children and their families in South Africa.

Executive Director of HEARD, Professor Alan Whiteside, thanked the audience, the HEARD team and the participating organisations for making the project happen and for its success.

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Two Pietermaritzburg-based scientists are the Top Published Researchers for 2011 at UKZN.

Professor Johannes van Staden, Head of the Research Centre for Plant Growth and Development, and Professor Colleen Downs of the School of Life Sciences, achieved the prestigious status through producing the highest number of articles published in accredited peer-reviewed journals.

The announcement was made at the Annual Research Awards and the launch of the Annual Research Report 2011 held at the Elangeni Hotel on November 29.

Van Staden - the Top Published UKZN researcher overall - had up to the end of last year authored or co-authored a total of 1 110 papers which have been published in accredited journals. For the past decade he has been in the top 0,5 percent of authors most cited worldwide.

He works in a variety of areas in Plant Sciences/Botany but specifically in the fields of plant hormones, seed germination, senescence, stress physiology, post-harvest physiology, biotechnology, and plant tissue culture, ethnobotany, secondary products and ethnomedicine.

The recipient of numerous awards and prizes in his field, van Staden is the Editor-in-Chief for the SA Journal of Botany and Plant Growth Regulation and an Associate Editor of the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.

Downs, the Top Published Woman researcher, has made an important contribution to understanding the relationships between the physiology, behaviour, and ecology of southern African terrestrial vertebrates, especially leopard tortoises, Nile crocodiles, various types of birds and small mammals.

Of her 158 peer review published papers up to the beginning of 2012, about 45 percent relate to  aspects of vertebrate ecology and conservation; about  25 percent  to vertebrate dietary aspects especially frugivory and nectarivory; about 25 percent  to aspects of vertebrate thermal biology, including thermoregulation, behaviour and coping with accelerated climate change; and about 5 percent to science education.

President of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), Dr Allan Bernstein, who was the guest speaker at the awards ceremony, spoke about the importance of research for humanity at large and the profound changes in Biology. 

He said science has become global with people collaborating with others around the world. He added that the challenges in science require scientists around the world to work together.

Bernstein congratulated UKZN for celebrating their researchers and encouraged African scholars to play a role in local research.

The Research Report revealed that UKZN had made significant strides in research productivity and research capacity building endeavours during 2011.  Both the research output and the number of publishing staff continued to rise.

The total number of research productivity units increased by 12 percent from 79 127 units in 2010 to 88 727 last year while the proportion of publishing staff increased from 73 percent to 81 percent. 

An analysis of the profile of publishing staff showed an increased participation by women and Black researchers and that the majority of the researchers occupying the Top 30 most published positions were under 50.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Professor Nelson Ijumba, said the results showed that "young and transformed" researchers were beginning to make a significant contribution to UKZN's high level of knowledge production and research excellence. ‘The broadening of the base of publishing staff and the increasing participation of women and Black researchers are the result of several capacity-building initiatives introduced by the University,’ said Ijumba.

The report says that UKZN produced 1 152 units of journal publications which was the second highest of the 23 universities in South Africa and about 12 percent higher than the 2010 output. In terms of weighted research publications, UKZN's output of 1 250 units was the third highest in the country and comprised about 11,2 percent of the national total.

The per capita research output at UKZN exceeded the national norm of 1.25 weighted output by 19 percent (18 percent in 2010).

The report also showed that the number of researchers with a National Research Foundation rating increased from 204 in 2010 to 213 in 2011.

A total of R261 million was received for research grants and contracts compared to R210 million in 2010.  In addition, UKZN received a total of R61,6 million through various National Research Foundation funded programmes.

Professor Michael Chimonyo, received the Vice-Chancellor's Research Award which recognises excellence in research by young scientists.

UKZN’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Malegapuru Makgoba was recognised for receiving the South African – German Science Award.

Professor Bill Bishai, Professor Linda Richter, Professor Patricia Berjak, Professor Rob Gous and Professor Michael Chapman were announced as NRF A-Rated researchers. 

Professor Michael Perrin, Professor Henda Swart and Professor Sunil Maharaj were acknowledged for Royal Society Awards, while Professor Nelson Ijumba, Professor Kesh Govinder and Professor Deresh Ramjugernath were awarded for the recognition of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) Awards.

The proportion of women research publishers rose from 31,8 percent in 2010 to 40,7 percent in 2011.

Women in Science Awards for 2012 included Professor Relebohile Moletsane being named the DST winner of the Distinguished Women Scientists Social Sciences and Humanities category; and  Professor Sarojini Nadar for her award for being the DST Winner in the Distinguished Young Women Scientists: Social Sciences and Humanities category.

The DST Award for the Development of Rural Women: Emerging Researchers category first runner-up went to Dr Sengeziwe Sibeko while second runner-up was Dr Joyce Chitja.

Ms Prudy Manoko Mashika Seepe and Ms Bongiwe Goodness Ndlovu were the winners for the DST Fellowship for Doctoral Studies category.  Professor Peter Alois Dankelman, Professor Sreekanth Jonnalagadda and Professor Gerald Friedel Ortmann were awarded the UKZN Fellowship in recognition of their distinguished contribution to research.

‘We congratulate all our researchers for their achievements in 2011,’ said Ijumba.  ‘Such accomplishments could not have been possible without the dedication and hard work of all in the research community.’

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Bachelor of Social Science student, Ms Gugu Madlala, will become the first disabled UKZN student to embark on a student exchange programme when she leaves for the United States in January.

Confined to a wheel-chair as a result of Guillain-Barré Syndrome, Madlala will spend six months studying media and psychology at Drake University in Iowa. 

Madlala’s journey has not been easy. In 2004 when she was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré, a rare and serious condition of the peripheral nervous system, the doctors told her there was no hope.  However, six months in hospital and seven years confined to a bed because of her paralysis did nothing to dampen Madlala’s indomitable spirit. 

Madlala woke up one morning to find she could move some of the fingers on her one hand.  The next day she could move her whole hand, followed by her other hand.  Physically her condition improved steadily until she was able to feed herself.

In January 2011, at the age of 37, Madlala told her family she was tired of staying at home and wanted to begin a new chapter in her life.  Madlala, a qualified teacher, decided to go to university and pursue her studies in a different area.  She applied to UKZN and was accepted to do a Bachelor of Social Science degree on the Pietermaritzburg campus.

Currently in her second year, Madlala said she had surprised herself by passing all her modules and even receiving some merit certificates. She applied for the student exchange programme because she wanted to prove that whatever the situation a person can still achieve their goals.

Speaking at a celebratory function for Madlala, Head of UKZN’s Disability Unit, Mr Nevil Balakrishna, said he viewed Madlala’s achievement as “a new beginning for all disabled students”.  He explained how on another level a bridge had been built between the Disability Office and the International Office – a relationship he hoped would grow and prosper. 

Balakrishna described Madlala’s achievement as ‘a big moment.  It challenges the University to recognise a sector it cannot ignore ... to equalise opportunities is a challenge – this is one example where this has happened,’ he said. 

UKZN has over 350 disabled students and about 230 of them fall within the College of Humanities.  Balakrishna said most disabled students were not able to enjoy the total university experience, but Madlala’s achievement had opened up a totally new avenue. 

‘I am going to be the best ambassador for UKZN. I want to take my experiences and help the disability unit and other students,’ said Madlala. 

In the long term Madlala sees herself studying further or perhaps working in the media – one of her dreams is to be Head of the SABC - or even practising as a psychologist. 

She enjoys working with people who have disabilities and currently spends her holidays at Greys Hospital, talking to and motivating patients. She said, ‘As long as my story inspires others, I will be happy.’

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An African Centre for Food Security’s short course held on the Pietermaritzburg campus recently opened with an address by Professor Albert Modi, Dean and Head of the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Titled: “Understanding Food Insecurity”, Modi said it was an honour to welcome food security practitioners from southern Africa to UKZN. He said the African Centre for Food Security (ACFS) was an important programme of the School which over the years had trained Postgraduate Diploma, Honours, Masters and PhD students from South Africa and other SADC countries. ‘It is very pleasing for us that the ACFS Director, Professor Ayalneh Bogale and his team, have placed the Centre on the African and global map.’

Modi said UKZN had a mission of being a centre of excellence for global education and solutions to African problems.

He explained that one of the problems affecting South Africa, Southern Africa and South East Asia was hunger which he defined in the context of energy-protein deficiency and vitamin-mineral deficiency. ‘Lack of access to one or both of these is food insecurity,’ said Modi.

According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), South Africa ranked 40th out of 105 countries in a Global Food Security Index which placed the US in the top spot and the Democratic Republic of Congo at the bottom. The index, conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, found that countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia were the most vulnerable to high food prices.

IFPRI argued that low food prices could also cause food insecurity, especially in low income agrarian economies. Low prices depressed smallholder farmers' incomes, disrupting their ability to produce food, and were a disincentive to produce. According to the index, economic activity in rural areas could be tied in some way to farming, and low income for farmers meant low income for all.

Sudden price changes and price shocks could force poor consumers and suppliers to sell important assets at low prices to maintain short-term food security. In the longer term, this kept families in poverty.

According to United Nations’ statistics, cited in the index, global food production needed to rise by 50 percent by 2030 to meet demand.

Modi said the average adult needed 2 300 calories a day to lead a healthy and active life. sub-Saharan Africa was the only region where the average food supply was below the daily adult requirement.

A lack of food correlated with a substantial deterioration of democratic institutions in low-income countries, as well as a rise in communal violence, riots, human rights abuses and civil conflict.

He advocated a number of approaches to solving food insecurity, including broad-based agricultural and rural development; sound public policies; and greater public investment in agricultural research and sustainable management of natural resources.

‘At UKZN, the ACFS is appropriately located in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences, within the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science,’ said Modi. ‘The expectation is that efforts to address food insecurity will be underpinned by sound basic and applied sciences. Relevant Social Science will be used to make relevant research hypotheses and correct interpretations of outcomes that will have meaningful and measurable effects on poor people and funders.’ 

Modi said the Centre emphasised indigenous knowledge to encourage a situation where targeted communities were respected as both participants and beneficiaries in research and community engagement efforts.

‘That way, we shall avoid top-down approaches which are not sustainable financially and environmentally. We also seek to influence government policy through our approaches to research, teaching and community engagements.’

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Professor YK Seedat, an Emeritus Professor in the School of Clinical Medicine, is the first recipient from Africa to receive the 2013 Pioneer award for Africa, from the International Society of Nephrology (ISN). 

The recipient of two South African Medical Association (SAMA) awards and several national and international awards, Seedat continues to make outstanding contributions in the field of medicine.

The ISN award was recently established to recognise outstanding and sustained contributions to the establishment and/or development of nephrology in the various emerging regions of the world. Nominations were sought from the ISN Global Outreach Regional Committees; and one individual from each region was selected. 

ISN President, Dr John Feehally said: 'Dr Seedat, your selection for this honour by the society reflects our recognition of your multiple roles in the advancement of medicine and medical education in South Africa but particularly for your pioneering efforts in difficult times to insure that renal replacement therapy in your country was available to all of its citizens regardless of their race or the color of their skin. You have set a standard that exemplifies the importance of diversity in the ISN mission and brought renal care in your country to an entirely new level’.

Seedat began his academic undergraduate career in Dublin in 1950. From 1957-1958, he served his internship in Medicine and Surgery in Jervis Street Hospital (Dublin, Ireland). Seedat also served as Academic Registrar of the Royal Infirmary, Manchester, England from 1967 to 1968. 

He then held various positions at King Edward VIII Hospital from 1958 to 1978. In the period between 1978 to 1994, Seedat was Professor and Head of Medicine at the former University of Natal Medical School. From 1995 to 1999 he worked as Professor of Medicine (Research). In the year 2000, Seedat was awarded Honorary Research Associate and Emeritus Professor of Medicine by the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Prestigious awards Seedat has received include the State President Order For Meritorious Service 1990; Doctor of Philosophy (honoris causa) University of Durban-Westville 1991; Doctor of Medicine (honoris causa) University of Free State 2004, Honorary Fellowship, College of Medicine of South Africa, 1998; Silver Award for Research and Teaching, Medical Association of South Africa, 1994; Citation Award Natal Kidney Association, 1995; Officer of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, May 1995. Illuminated citation Golden Jubilee Award from the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa, 2005 as well as a Life Achievement Award from the International Forum for Hypertension in Africa (IFHA), December 2005.

His medical research is mainly on hypertension and renal medicine. He has published 362 papers in medical journals and 38 chapters in books.  He has also presented 357 papers at 127 international and 230 national congresses and societies. Seedat is a member of various societies and organisations where he has held leadership positions.

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Abafundi abenza unyaka wokugcina esikoleni  sezobuNjiniyela bukagesi, ubuxhakaxhaka nezobukhompuyutha bakhangise ngemisebenzi  yabo kumalungu omphakathi, isigungu sezobuNjiniyela kanye nomphakathi wase- UKZN emcimbini waminyaka yonke owaziwa ngele- Design and Projects Open Day osanda kuba khona nobalulekile kakhulu ekhalendeni lezokufunda.

Bekunombukiso wemisebenzi yalabo abenza unyaka wokugcina owenziwelwe ezakhiweni zesikole esingenhla  nobuwenziwa  njengengxenye yokuvivinywa kwabafundi.

Emuva kokuphela kombukiso, abafundi kanye nezivakashi ebeziyizimenywa batetemukiselwe emncimbini obuyingxenye yesibili  yokunikezela ngemiklomelo phecelezi ama -award  nokulapho bebezitika ngeziphuzo. USol. Stanely  Mneney, onguMholi osabambile kuso lesi sikole, uthe weneliseke kakhulu ngezinga lemisebenzi yabafundi ebibukiswa osukwini.    

OkaMneney unikezele ngemiklomelo emikhakheni eyahlukene esizwa yilabo ababambisene  nabo engxenyeni yezobuNjiniyela. Imiklomelo inikezelwe kwimisebenzi ephume phambili, abafundi abazishaye zonke emakhanda, kanye nalabo abathole ukunconywa okukhulu ngemisebenzi abayenzile.

USol. Cristina Trois, onguMphathi neNhloko yeSikole sezobuNjiniyela uhalalisele abafundi  wabonga nemindeni yabo ngokubeseka.Uphinde wadlulisa amazwi okuqinisekisa izinga lokuphasa elisezingeni eliphezulu kulabo bafundi abazokwenza iziqu ngesikhathi esizayo.

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African forensic medical practitioners were educated on court proceedings in a mock trial devised by UKZN’s Centre for Socio-Legal Studies (CSLS) and the Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU).

The trial was part of a month-long training course on forensic sciences and human rights for Africa organised by UKZN’s School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences, the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF), the School of Law’s Centre for Socio-Legal Studies and the newly-formed African Society of Forensic Medicine (ASFM).

The practical course, the first of its kind in Africa, aims to strengthen the networking of practitioners on the continent.

As part of the practical training, 15 doctors from all over Africa participated in several mock exercises, including exhumations of bodies, to demonstrate the use of forensic science in the investigation of human rights violations and mass disasters. 

Independent Forensic Pathology Practitioner and part-time Forensic Medicine Lecturer in the School of Law, Dr Steve Naidoo said that it is important for forensic practitioners to be able to put theory into practice and to understand how the legal system functions.

‘These practitioners do various forensic work in their countries, but they do not all have the necessary skills of how the evidence collected is used in court. It is important for them to know how to present the evidence and to respond to the questions and the various court roles,’ said Naidoo.

The final aspect of the training saw CSLS Chairperson Professor David McQuoid-Mason coaching the doctors on lawyers’ advocacy skills, criminal law, the law of evidence, criminal procedure, case analysis and how to prepare for and conduct a mock trial involving evidence from the mock exhumation that the students had undertaken during the course.

‘I basically gave the doctors an LLB programme in two hours as I have to train them on the law and how to ask questions, conduct a cross examination and present the information they have gathered according to the rules of criminal procedure. The doctors did really well in the mock trial and understood how to interpret the evidence they gathered in a court of law,’ said Mason.

Dr Martin Nnoli, a practising forensic pathologist at Nigeria’s University of Calabar said the programme was very educational.

‘It is very important for Africa to have a unified approach when it comes to forensic science. This course is the first step towards that vision. We hope this course is sustainable and continues to create a platform for forensic practitioners to exchange knowledge and ideas,’ said Nnoli.

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Dr Sahal Yacoob of the School of Chemistry and Physics has delivered a series of lectures about the discovery of the Higgs Boson which confirmed mankind’s understanding of the origins of elementary particle mass.

The discovery was made during two experiments - CMS and ATLAS - at the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) which Yacoob was intimately involved in.  The experiments are large multinational endeavours with thousands of physicists and engineers working on complex unique detectors which are 100m underground and about five storeys high.

During the lectures, Yacoob gave his audiences a better understanding of the work at CERN  and attempted to clarify what is meant by the “origin of mass”, placed the discovery in the context of our current understanding of the subatomic world, shared some of the excitement in the physics community and touched on the complexity and effort behind this discovery.

When asked what the discovery of the Higgs Boson meant to the man in the street, Yacoob replied:  ‘Think of it this way. We have found the fertile seeds of a missing part of the great cosmic tree. We have planted those seeds and now we must see what grows. If it is what we believe, then it will open the way to a brand new chapter in physics.’

Durban-born Yacoob completed his BSc (Hons) at the University of Cape Town in 1999 and his MSc in 2002 before studying at Northwestern University in Evanston in the United States where he obtained a PhD in Physics and Astronomy in 2010.

Yacoob devoted two years as a postdoctoral researcher at CERN for the University of the Witwatersrand before returning to South Africa at the beginning of 2012 to take up a lectureship in the School of Chemistry and Physics at UKZN.

He has also worked at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, and at the Tevatron particle collider in Batavia, Illinios.

Yacoob is passionate about instilling a love for physics in young minds.  ‘I love teaching and imparting the knowledge that I have acquired to others,’ he said.  He was recently involved in UKZN’s National Science Week and Be a Scientist for a Week programmes. 

Yacoob remains actively involved with the ATLAS experiment at CERN and is currently working to set up a virtual laboratory link so learners can witness in real time cutting-edge physics at work.

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UKZN’s Discipline of Italian Studies and Music’s Opera Studio and Choral Academy (OSCA) was a popular attraction at the ninth Festival of Italian opera held recently at the Howard College Theatre.

Operative performances by first-year OSCA students and Italian language students showcased the talent UKZN has to offer.

Nine first-year students performed a selection of arias which had the audience on the edge of their seats.  However, it was Mr Njabula Ntombelo who stole the show with his rendition of Un foco Insolito by Donizetti. As the best performer, he received a bursary of R3000 from the Institute for Italian Culture and BPB Construction who also funded the Italian food and speciality wine for the event. 

The evening was opened by Professor Francesca Balladon of the School of Arts and Mr Costi Buccimazza, the Honorary Italian Consul.  They both expressed their appreciation for this cultural event and acknowledged Italian Lecturer, Ms Federica Bellusci, who was responsible for initiating and organising the festival. 

The Consul said the event was a wonderful celebration of community, culture and nation building and that through Bellusci’s hard work and perseverance the festival had become a fixed event on the cultural calendars of both UKZN and the Institute for Italian Culture.

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School of Accounting, Economics and Finance doctoral student Mr Michael Smith’s passion for environmental research secured him the Renewable Energy Research Excellence Up and Coming Young Researcher Award.

The award conferred by the Renewable Energy Centre of Research and Development (RECORD) recognises the contribution of established as well as upcoming researchers and novel renewable energy research in South Africa.

To scoop the award, Smith - who holds a BSocSci in Economics and Media Studies and a BSocSci Hons in Economics from UKZN – used his thesis titled: “The Financial and Economic Feasibility of Biodigester use and Biogas Production for Rural Households”, which secured him a Master of Commerce degree in Economics, summa cum laude in April.

The study, funded by the Water Research Commission and National Research Foundation, relates to a five-year project, WRC K5/1955 being conducted in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape. It aims to assess a biodigester, as a complete system, to provide energy for households, while increasing the fertility of land and improving the grassland carrying capacity for livestock.

‘My study looked at the financial implications and also the economic or societal impacts. Although the financial results showed that the systems were not financial feasible for rural household application, the economic results showed significant societal worth of these technologies. Further research needs to be done in order to bring down the capital cost of the systems,’ said Smith.

Smith, who recently made a presentation on this study at the Symposium on Energy from Biomass and Waste held in Venice, is currently working on his PhD thesis with the Water Research Commission Project (K5/1955).

His experience from the symposium coupled with winning the award and the wealth of academic knowledge from his studies has inspired him to continue with his research into the field of Waste-to-Energy (WtE).

‘My focus in this field will continue to be from an economic perspective. The field of Waste-to-Energy, which includes a vast variety of technologies that essentially convert waste into energy, has the potential to assist in resolving both our waste and energy problems.

‘My belief is that WtE technologies need to make “business sense” in order to remain sustainable, and thus economics is a vital consideration,’ said Smith.

RECORDS Centre Manager, Dr Karen Surridge-Talbot said they received several applications for the Up and coming Young Researcher Award but it was Smith who came out best. ‘The panel as a whole felt that Smith deserved it  because of his passion in empowering the poor and understanding their needs as they see them, not as people anaylse them,’ said Surridge-Talbot.

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The female condom as a potential tool of empowerment, that women can self-initiate and control, was the subject of a presentation by UKZN anthropologist Dr Maheshvari Naidu and two postgraduate students at the 4th International Social Sciences conference held at the American University of Rome in Italy.

The students, Ms Nokwanda Nzuza and Ms Kholekile Hazel Ngqila, were also student team members on the project which looked at assessing the female condom as a viable female initiated alternative within the discourse and praxis around female sexuality and female empowerment.

Their paper was based on the findings and recommendations stemming from a large study on female condom use. The study worked on the assumption that this kind of critical inquiry could also be used as a viable “entry point” for raising awareness of other health interventions for women.

The conference was also seen as a vital platform and part of the process of mentoring and capacitating promising senior students and young emerging scholars.

Dr Naidu said presenting to a gathering of international academics and also hearing about other research in the field was an important part of the intellectual growth for young researchers, and provided an opportunity for the young scholars to hear critique, and, more importantly, to be able to respond to “international critique”.

Positive feedback was received which served to further inspire the student presenters. Research and capacity building were further emphasised during student sessions around “writing for publication” and culminated in revising and submitting the research for publication, and will appear in accredited journals in 2013 and 2013.

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The College of Health Sciences’ (CHS) Teaching and Learning office hosted a stimulating Health Professions Education Research Symposium as a prelude to the 6th South African Association of Health Educationalists (SAAHE) Conference being held for the first time in Durban in June next year.

The SAAHE Conference takes place at the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH) at UKZN under the theme: “Information to Transformation”.

SAAHE’s focus on improving the quality of teaching and learning in health sciences education aims to enhance the delivery of high quality, affordable and sustainable health care to South Africans in both the public and the private sectors.

Health Sciences Education is one of six innovative research themes identified by College management to align its strategic endeavours to those of the University.

Professor Fikile Mtshali, College Dean for Teaching and Learning, said the new theme was reinforced by the CHS mission to facilitate and ensure high quality research that would underpin and inform teaching, clinical practice and community service; generate credibility with stakeholders, and build global recognition for innovative solutions to health issues and problems.

‘The innovations in the teaching and learning cosmos are aimed at ensuring that the students, the College and the University community are best served through the practice of scholarly supervision.’

The symposium united delegates from a variety of institutions of higher learning and included an address by Professor Juanita Bezuidenhout, an Anatomical Pathologist based at Stellenbosch University.

Bezuidenhout’s presentation was titled: “Hope begins at home: where does Health Profession Education Research fit into producing health professionals for the 21st century”.

Bezuidenhout reflected on Flexner’s Report - the historically significant book-length study of medical education in the United States and Canada -  and said currently all was not well in the world. There were gaps and inequity in health; new infections, environmental and behavioural risks at a time of rapid demographic and epidemiological transitions; and health systems were more complex and costly, placing additional demands on health workers. She outlined several systematic problems that hindered health workers from achieving common purpose.

She said the underlying principles for success included developing a culture of critical investigation and inquiry involving policy-makers, and fostering global networks and collaboration.

The symposium aimed to allow delegates to reflect on teaching and learning related research and collaborations; engage in consensus building to establish the aim and objectives of the Health Sciences Education theme; identify emerging subthemes and other critical subthemes to build a well-rounded Health Sciences Research area; generate strategies to enhance research capacity, interest and grounding in Health Sciences Research Education; and provide guidance on how to access available research resources and funding opportunities.

The symposium was supported by Professor Rob Slotow, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the CHS, who said the College strategy highlighted the need to move from a practitioner training approach to a research-led endeavour that enhanced evidence-based best-practice. Slotow said it was important for delegates to discuss the importance of reflective practice, and the value it could add to the teaching and learning endeavour.

Dr Veena Singaram, Regional Chair for SAAHE KwaZulu-Natal and the CHS’s Health Professions Education Research Committee, said the symposium had also been an opportunity for novice and experienced CHS staff and postgraduate students to collaborate and share expertise in this emerging research area.

The symposium concluded with a workshop focusing on a consensus building framework for research strategies in health professions education.

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UKZN’s Centre for HIV/AIDS Networking (HIVAN) recently rebranded as info4africa introduced their new revamped look along with a new logo at an event held at The Priority Zone in Durban. 

The launch was attended by representatives from a wide range of organisations including community initiatives, funders and partners. 

HIVAN boasts a long history of working in the field of HIV, AIDS and TB and has already built a country-wide database of more than 12 000 support service providers. They disseminate the database through a hard copy directory series in which 20 000 directories are distributed annually, assisting service providers in all sectors.  Info4africa also engages in a variety of face-to-face networking activities including forums, workshops and training.

According to the Director for info4africa, Mrs Debbie Heustice, HIVAN’s focus has expanded and matured with these changes such that their database, wider networking and capacity building activities now broadly reflect service provision in health, wellbeing and development in South Africa.

‘With this broadening of focus we felt it was time to change our name to one that more fully conveys the scope of our products, activities and expertise. Through a consultative process with our partner organisations and our staff, we are now very pleased and proud to announce our new name and tag line,’ said Heustice.  

She added that the new brand ‘speaks to our history and gives us a broader stage on which to engage with all stakeholders in the years to come.’

The info4africa team decided to link the launch of their new look with their community initiative partnership with the eThekwini Municipality. This initiative focuses on creating Zulu hot pots, designed by Umcebo Design.

The proceeds of the sale of the pots would be channelled back to the crafters’ community, as the Ubunye Co-Operative is a community upliftment project based in Mzimela.

Info4Africa’s database is available in  directories for each Province (Series 6 in production); on mobile phones -  call *130*448# (free call except on Vodacom whose users must dial *120*448); SMS 45080; at; or at 

Also follow them on Facebook: or on Twitter: 

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Three young academics from the Discipline of Human Physiology attended a conference held in Johannesburg for women in science, research and technology.

Dr Veneesha Thaver, Miss Cassandra Subiah and Ms Lihle Qulu united with other women scientists and technologists from industry and academia at the conference organised by All Sectors Business Communications (ABC) South Africa and themed: “Overcoming Barriers, Innovation and Retention”.  

The conference created a platform where delegates could share knowledge and experiences and debate issues including what has worked for them and the best way to attract more women researchers into the industry, as well as how to retain them.

Thaver, a dedicated researcher of cancer with further interests in tuberculosis, said the conference provided an opportunity to think out-of-the-box and grow as an emerging researcher. She enjoyed meeting industry role players in her field and exploring opportunities for collaboration.

Thaver’s cancer research examines the mechanism of 2-methoxyestradiol-induced apoptosis and growth arrest in human breast cancer cells in addition to an investigation of targets for the sensitization of these cells to 2-MeO-E2’s chemotherapeutic effects. Her TB focus is on the isolation and characterisation of the intracellular bioactivity and mechanism of antimycobacterial action of Euclea natalensis-derived naphoquinones (traditional medicinal plants) on the H37Rv strain of Mycobacterium Tuberculosis.

Passionate about neuroscience and helping individuals who suffer from potentially debilitating addictions, Subiah completed a masters degree which investigated how hormones, vasopressin and oxytocin could treat methamphetamine caused by the white crystalline powder commonly known by the street names “Chalk, Crystal Meth or White Cross”,  which was usually taken orally, intranasally (snorting the powder), by injection, or by smoking.

The study was titled: “The effects of vasopressin and oxytocin on methamphetamine–induced place preference behaviour in rats”.

Subiah said the addictive state had been linked with inappropriate activation of learning and memory pathways in the brain. ‘Vasopressin and oxytocin are both involved in learning and memory processes and so their roles in addiction were of interest to us. We used a vasopressin antagonist and oxytocin as possible treatments against relapse behaviour in methamphetamine addicts.’

Qulu, an aspirant lecturer, said she was excited about becoming an academic. Qulu has worked closely with Dr Musa Mabandla, Senior Lecturer and Academic Leader for Research in the School Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences, and felt the conference helped teach students applied knowledge in their respective fields, aside from being a “fantastic” networking opportunity in a male-dominated field.


Qulu’s on-going research project focuses on the effects of prenatal stress and the effect it has on neural differentiation of the offspring exposed to febrile seizures.


Early this year, both Qulu and Subiah published their first authored articles in the journal Metabolic Brain Diseases. ‘The paradigms we’ve focused on include learning and memory, as well as seizure severity in animals exposed to prenatal stress.’ 

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During a recent visit to the University of the Witwatersrand’s (WITS) School of Anatomical Sciences, delegates from UKZN’s Clinical Anatomy Discipline discussed how technological advancements could improve the overall quality of research, teaching and learning in the fields of anatomy and physiology.

The visiting delegation, supported by Professor William Daniels, Dean and Head of UKZN’s School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences, spent the day touring the host institution’s facilities, sharing ideas and discussing best practices along with potential research areas for cross-institutional collaboration.

Dr Okpara Azu, Senior Lecturer of Clinical Anatomy and prolific researcher of plastination in the Discipline, said the visit was to assess the teaching of anatomy and histology; how students were assessed and examined; and how high-end technology facilitated this process and all research endeavours.

Azu said the annual intake of students into the Discipline and the MBChB Programme at UKZN required radical steps to cope with the high quality throughput results expected. ‘The actual training of a doctor begins when they engage in real life situations.’ This meant that there was a continuous demand for teaching and learning resources such as cadavers, and a need to increase capacity for staff and teaching assistance. 

With scarcity of the necessary teaching resources, Azu said it was important to keep up with the quest to explore alternatives by moving towards the use of plastinated specimens.   

Plastination – the technique or process used in anatomy to preserve bodies or body parts so they stay lifelike and indefinitely antiseptic – allows for several applications of plastinated specimens to be imaged in three dimensional simulations that can also be very useful in other departments such surgery, radiology and pathology.   

Mrs Shoohana Singh, Senior Laboratory Technician for human physiology at UKZN, said technology was an inevitable part of teaching histology - the study of the microscopic anatomy of cells and tissues of plants, animals and humans. ‘Histology helps students understand how a cell functions, its location and how its structure is aligned to perform the function.’ 

Singh said WITS had moved away from desktop microscopes to digital teaching and learning. ‘Many national and international universities are moving towards virtual miscopy.’ 

Singh argued that some students would never use a microscope after the “lab time” at university. She said the curriculum was fast-paced with high demands of student throughput annually. These students struggled with the use of the microscope and more focus was spent on the technical aspect of the microscope rather than examining the tissue under the microscope. 

While some students experience difficulty using microscopes, others have eye problems and the microscope is not conducive. ‘Students don’t all move at the same pace.’

Singh said new technology such as virtual histology could help create a digital library of slides for teaching, learning and research. ‘I feel this is the way to go at undergraduate level. At postgraduate level, students would be using more high-end research equipment and these students are usually more experienced at that stage to handle the microscope.

‘With the use of the internet and virtual histology you could actually teach students in the comfort of their homes. Virtual histology is cost effective as continuously replacing slides and microscopes can be very expensive. It also allows for software upgrades, you can digitalise student evaluation and tutorials could be done online and live,’ said Singh.

The delegates agreed that there was a need for strong advocacy for medical teaching and learning. Possible collaboration would be on comparative studies between students from both institutions and their use of eLearning facilities. 

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The School of Engineering hosted its annual Banquet and Awards Evening at the Durban International Convention Centre celebrating with its various stakeholders the achievements of the past year.

Giving the keynote address, Dean and Head of the School of Engineering, Professor Cristina Trois, spoke of the pride she had in the School, her colleagues and students. She was confident the School would only grow stronger in the future.

Awards were presented in various categories to the best students, lecturers and researchers who had made significant breakthroughs as well as to industry partners for their sponsorship and contribution to the School and its operations. 

Special awards were presented to two groups from Mechanical Engineering - the Baja Bug team which finished second overall in the SASOL BAJA SAE Competition and the Apalis Solar Car Team which completed the greatest distance out of the South African teams in the SASOL Solar Challenge.

The Banquet and Awards Evening also provided the platform for the launch of the School of Engineering's Capital Campaign which aims to raise funds for the development of Engineering at UKZN.

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The UKZN International Relations office hosted an orientation programme for eight students from the Howard College and Pietermaritzburg campuses going overseas on student exchange programmes next year.

The Orientation was facilitated by Mrs Preshantha Reddy who is the Student Exchange Co-ordinator.

The orientation programme highlighted what students need to do before leaving the country, how they should conduct themselves while overseas as well as the tasks they need to complete when they return.

Applications for the UKZN Student Exchange Programme open in February and students who would like to apply need to meet the 65 percent average mark requirement and be able to find equivalent courses abroad. Students should look out for the posters and LAN notices that advertise the programme.

Ms Chuma Mapoma, a Drama student who will be going to Pitzer College in California, said: ‘I am so excited to be part of the programme and am looking forward to going abroad and learning about other cultures as well. I love the US because it has a bigger drama audience.’

Disabled student Ms Gugu Madlala (38) is going to Drake University in Iowa.  ‘I am very excited about the opportunity, I hope that other disabled students will be encouraged to grab every opportunity that comes their way and not undermine themselves for their disabilities. I really thank God who is my helper. I couldn’t walk or move from my bed for seven years but today I can at least use a wheelchair and believe that one day I will be able to walk again.’

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The Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) community comprising 501 participants from 65 countries, including UKZN representatives, the World Health Organization, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, pharmaceutical companies, academia and governments of endemic countries, convened at the World Bank in Washington DC recently.

UKZN’s representatives were Dr Zilungile Kwitshana and Dr Eyrun F Kjetland.

NTDs are highly endemic in rural and semi-urban informal settlements of South Africa.

Dr Dirk Engels of the World Health Organization in Geneva advised the UKZN members on how to proceed with the country’s master plan for the control of NTDs.

Kwitshana, Kjetland, Professor Myra Taylor, Professor Meera Cheggan and Professor Chris Appleton are part of the Parasite Control Task Force that was established by Kwitshana together with the National Department of Health’s Director of Communicable Diseases Director, Ms Tsakani Furumele, and Deputy Directors, Ms Takalani Nemugadi and Mr Wayne Ramkrishna.

The meeting aimed to provide the resources necessary across sectors to remove the primary risk factors - poverty and exposure – for neglected tropical diseases by ensuring access to clean water and basic sanitation, improved living conditions, vector control, health education, and stronger health systems in endemic areas.  According to the meeting, both health workers and teachers are key in the delivery of health to children.

Many endemic countries have succeeded in reducing the suffering caused by the NTDs. A variety of African countries have taken action against the diseases using the free drugs donated by 30 drug companies and a major injection of funding for treatment and control.

South Africa is yet to come on board, but has a draft plan for control of the NTDs. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Julie Jacobsen emphasised the importance of South Africa’s participation.

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