WEB-BASED SYSTEM MONITORS THE ENVIRONMENT

WEB-BASED SYSTEM MONITORS THE ENVIRONMENT

With climate change upon us, it is imperative, now more than ever before, for students to understand the environment so they can relate to the problems of our uncertain agricultural and environmental future.  UKZN Agrometeorologist on the Pietermaritzburg campus, Professor Michael Savage, has taken this to heart: he has developed South Africa’s first web-based teaching and learning early-warning system for real-time agricultural, earth and environmental sciences data and information. 

Having lectured at the University for 35 years, Savage is cognizant that many students leave with a degree which has not equipped them with a first-hand understanding of the environment. ‘Often, this is due to the lack of exposure to the important concepts making up their environment.  Students also lack a basic understanding of concepts such as temperature, temperature scales, and the graphical display of information,’ said Savage. This problem is particularly noticeable at second-year level when students have to start collecting data for practicals and projects.  Savage maintains they lack the understanding of how to interpret the data they have collected or the data that has been made available to them.   

Hailed as a dynamic approach to teaching and research, this web system is centred on a field-based weather station located on the Pietermaritzburg campus.  However, it is much more than your traditional weather station.  It includes a wide range of instrumentation not normally found at automatic weather stations such as: soil-water content and soil-electrical conductivity and soil salinity sensors; infrared sensors for remote sensing; sensors for measuring leaf wetness, systems to compute grass reference evaporation, and a profile of air temperature sensors.  The system can also accommodate calculations related to heat index, wind chill, day length, sunrise and sunset times. 

An important feature of the project enables students to see a real-time display of the information as well as a display of the historical weather data.  Undergraduate and postgraduate students are able to access this information via a LAN connection or through Bluetooth.  They can extract data which they can manipulate, thereby reinforcing their computer literacy, numeracy, statistical and graphical capabilities. 

In addition, the system has been designed so that it can alert groups of students, via email, when a significant environmental event occurs, e.g. when the soil-water content is very high, resulting in considerable surface runoff.  A television monitor, located in a corridor in the Rabie Saunders Buildin
author email : crookesv@ukzn.ac.za

THE OMICS GENERATION IN MEDICAL PRACTICE

THE OMICS GENERATION IN MEDICAL PRACTICE

The College of Health Sciences recently hosted a Public Lecture by renowned geneticist Professor Monique Zaahl, Head of the Genetics Department at Stellenbosch University and Managing Director of GENEdiagnostics since 2009. Attended by general practitioners, physicians and specialists from KwaZulu-Natal, Zaahl’s presentation focused on how genetics has evolved over time and how this impacts on the treatment options available to medical practitioners. She also indicated how the omics generation of technologies has substantially transformed the throughput and design of scientific experiments and resulted in individualised medical care.

Zaahl noted that chromosome analysis was the beginning of Genetics which is a Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) sequence that does not change during the course of one’s lifetime. Each DNA strand in humans consists of 46 chromosomes that carry hereditary information. Genetics determine everything from hair colour, to eye colour, to gender.

In order to try and understand the human gene, the Human Genome Project was initiated in the United States in 1990. The project aimed to sequence the chemical base pairs which make up DNA and to map the approximately 20 000-25 000 genes of the human genome from both a physical and functional standpoint. The project was completed in ten years. ‘Today, a similar project can be replicated in a month due to advanced technology,’ said Zaahl.

The Human Genome Project provides us, as humans, with a glimpse into the future. The sequence of human DNA is stored in databases available on the internet. Dr Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Director of the NIH’s Human Genome Institute has noted that, ‘Many primary care providers will begin to practice genetic medicine.’ (Nature, April: 2010)

Zaahl commented that the personal genome is the future of personalised medicine. ‘Individuals would want to get their genome sequenced so that they may use this information to understand such things as their individual risk profiles for disease, their physical and biological characteristics, and their personal ancestries. However, the challenge we’re faced with as geneticists, is who should be tested. What information should individuals have access to? And is there information we don’t want to know?’ said Zaahl.

author email : francism@ukzn.ac.za

BIOCHEMISTRY STUDENT TO PRESENT DIABETES RESEARCH IN DUBAI

BIOCHEMISTRY STUDENT TO PRESENT DIABETES RESEARCH IN DUBAI

Ms Rachel Wilson, a 23-year-old Masters student in Biochemistry at UKZN is one of 100 students in the world to receive a prestigious grant from the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), Belgium to present her research results at the 21st World Diabetes Congress which will be held from December 4-8 at the Dubai International Convention Center, United Arab Emirates.

 

The news came as a pleasant surprise to Wilson and her research supervisor, Dr Shahidul Islam who lectures Biochemistry. The grant will cover Wilson’s travel, registration and accommodation. Wilson said, ‘It’s such a great opportunity to go there and present with people who are top of their fields’. Her brother will accompany her to Dubai.

 

The focus of Wilson’s research is Type-2 diabetes and she highlights that obesity and directly-linked diabetic cases are soaring. ‘The cost to national health care budgets in many countries over a 10 year period is well into the billions of US dollars. As it stands currently, diabetes is the fourth major cause of death in South Africa after HIV/AIDS, heart disease and respiratory infections,’ she said.

 

‘However, the most positive fact about diabetes, is that it is largely controllable and in some cases, fully reversible. Intensive educational campaigning at all levels of society will minimise the crippling effect it would otherwise have on our economy,’ she added.

 

Wilson’s parents never insisted that she become a top academic achiever. ‘They did however, insist that I played sport,’ she chuckles. Wilson and her supervisor strongly believe that sport and good nutrition are key to combating some of the world’s most fatal diseases.

The CLIQ (Community-based Learning, ICTs and Quality of Life) project, based in the School of Development Studies has just finished their study on assessing the impact of ICT (information and communication technology) access on the quality of life of individuals in poorer communities of KwaZulu-Natal. During the month of September, the CLIQ-UKZN research team is visiting the participating communities to report back on the research.

The CLIQ Report summarises the experience and findings of 113 participants from four KwaZulu-Natal communities who took part in a two-year participatory research project between 2008 and 2010. The aim was to assess whether ICT can have an impact on people’s quality of life, with the more specific objectives of assisting participants in improving their lives, building the capacity of the participating telecentres’ staff and following the changes in the participants’ quality of life.

CLIQ in conjunction with the communities’ local telecentres provided participants with free computer training while participants discussed their quality of life and life goals at various stages of the fieldwork.

The findings from the research concluded that when people use computers within a supportive environment, there can be improvement in their lives. Computer training and use has an important role in development towards an information society but such   training should be linked to the needs of people in order to help them to reach their goals.  Good access to working computers connected to the Internet and human capacity support are crucial inputs for people to achieve their goals. Of note is that some participants improved their quality of life due to the empowering nature of the participatory research process, and not due to increased ICT usage.

The intention behind the community dissemination workshops is to give recognition and thanks to the participants and participating telecentres for making this project a success, as well as to give participants’ information back to them; inform participants about what the study has shown; and to present information that they could use to possibly improve their lives, in the form of the CLIQ Community Report. The Report will also serve to inform participating and other telecentres of the findings in the hope that they can use the results to improve their operations.  In terms of policy, the Report hopes to continue dialogue with USAASA (Universal Service Access Agency of South Africa) and the South African National Department of Communications regarding their provision of telecentres at community level; and to share the CLIQ experience with others who are concerned with telecentres, ICT use and quality of life.


author email : online@ukzn.ac.za

PROGRESS IN THE PREVENTION OF TUBERCULOSIS

PROGRESS IN THE PREVENTION OF TUBERCULOSIS

The KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis (K-RITH) recently hosted a guest lecture by Professor Richard Chaisson, Director of the Johns Hopkins Centre for Tuberculosis (TB) Research. Attended by scientists and medical practitioners, Chaisson’s lecture presented data on the prevention of TB within the HIV scenario.

Chaisson reported that between the years 2000 and 2050, the rate of new TB infections globally, is set to decline by 1 percent per year. The ultimate goal is to reduce the incidence to one person per population of a million. In order to do this, an estimated budget of $60 billion is required. At the moment, only half this value is available globally. Chaisson noted that in the United States the current rate of new TB infections is 30 per million per year. In South Africa, statistics indicate 500 000 new infections per year.

Globally, the platform for controlling TB is to first diagnose the disease. In recent years, it has been established that TB is prevalent in HIV positive people. The World Health Organization (WHO) noted in 2009, that of the 1.7 million people that died of TB that year, 400 000 were HIV positive. In South Africa, 70 percent of HIV positive individuals are co-infected with TB.

Secondly, it’s important to treat the disease. This would include finding drugs that would shorten treatment whilst still being effective for people with both Multi-drug Resistant and Extremely Drug Resistant TB. Lastly, it’s important to try to prevent the onset of the disease through the discovery of a vaccine, preventive therapy, reducing susceptibility and improving infection control.

Studies have shown that detection and treatment alone do not control TB. Chaisson proposes preventive treatment in order to eliminate TB by 2050. The WHO has published guidelines for TB prevention therapy amongst people living with HIV. These include initiating early Antiretroviral (ART) treatment in HIV positive patients, intensifying TB case finding, Isoniazid (INH) preventive therapy and infection control. In Africa only 0.2 percent of TB patients receive TB prevention therapy. However, in South Africa, there are more people on preventive TB control measures than in any other African country.

In a study published in July 2011 in the New England Journal of Medicine, scientists found that a once-weekly dosage of Rifapentine (RIF) and INH is promising as a preventive therapy regimen in humans. However, a daily dosage of RIF and INH over a three month period resulted in a cure for TB. All study participants were HIV positive but not on ART. Those participants that only took INH on a daily basis for years were also found to be cured of TB after a two-and-a-half year period. However, if the participant stopped taking INH at any given point, it would have the same effect as being on the drug for six months.

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author email : francism@ukzn.ac.za

FACULTY OF EDUCATION TO PROVIDE PHD TRAINING TO MAURITIAN INSTITUTE

FACULTY OF EDUCATION TO PROVIDE PHD TRAINING TO MAURITIAN INSTITUTE

The Faculty of Education has built a lasting relationship with the Mauritius Institute of Education (MIE) over the past four years.  In the latest development, the Faculty has agreed to assist MIE staff to pursue their PhDs.

Most post-graduate research is conducted through the traditional Master Apprentice Model, where a supervisor is assigned to a student, who models the research and teachings of the supervisor until they complete their research. The Faculty of Education has developed a COHORT Model of study, which allows a group of students to be mentored by a group of supervisors.

This model allows for students to engage in peer-reviews and take ownership of their work, together with on-going parallel support of an assigned supervisor and the cohort of supervisors.   Through this model students also receive the opportunity to engage in interdisciplinary studies, and to learn different models, theories, pedagogies and techniques of research. Since the adoption of the COHORT Model, the Faculty has observed that PhD students have been very successful in completing their research on time, and meeting all the required standards for a PhD.  From 2005 to present the Faculty has graduated 89 doctoral students.

The MIE is the only institute in Mauritius that offers initial teaching education. It now wants to expand its offering of higher degrees, training, and research scholarship in education using the COHORT Model. However, MIE has to first develop its newly appointed staff and assist them in obtaining their doctorates. 

UKZN and MIE signed a memorandum of understanding and agreement in July 2011 which allow for a group of UKZN supervisors to assist a group of MIE staff to conduct research through the COHORT model. The project will commence in January 2012.

Dean of the Faculty of Education, Professor Michael Samuel, played an integral part in pioneering this project and is very excited about this unique opportunity to expand UKZN’s influence. ‘This is an offsite delivery of the PhD programme, therefore, MIE students are not required to move to KwaZulu-Natal in order to receive training.  We will register them as UKZN students, allowing them to make use of the digitised library books and e-journals for research, email services, and to host Skype meetings with the students,’ he explained.

However, communication will not only
author email : mavaneni@ukzn.ac.za

PROFESSOR STRENGTHENS LEADERSHIP FOCUS OF AFRICAN JOURNAL

PROFESSOR STRENGTHENS LEADERSHIP FOCUS OF AFRICAN JOURNAL

Professor Kriben Pillay, Associate Professor and Research Co-ordinator in the Leadership Centre, has been elected to the editorial board of the ISI accredited African Journal of Business Management.

In confirming the election, the Board stated that Professor Pillay was elected on the basis of an impressive curriculum vitae, with relevant areas of expertise, which include leadership, organisational learning and social models of transformation. The Editorial Board added that they believe that Professor Pillay will be a great addition.


author email : pillaykri@ukzn.ac.za

UKZN PROFESSOR EDITS ROY CAMPBELL’S DAUGHTERS’ MEMOIRS

UKZN PROFESSOR EDITS ROY CAMPBELL’S DAUGHTERS’ MEMOIRS

Remembering Roy Campbell: The Memoirs of his Daughters Anna and Tess, edited by Professor Judith Coullie, UKZN English Studies, was launched on August 10 at Durban High School’s Seabrook Coffee Shop.

Professor Michael Chapman, English Studies Senior Research Associate, who co-edited the Collected Works of Roy Campbell, published in 1982, delivered the opening address at the launch.  He was amongst the first to congratulate Coullie for her outstanding work on the book. He read positive reviews of the book and an extract from it to the audience, and noted that Coullie had captured the essence of the Campbell family that most people were not aware of. 

In her speech, Coullie outlined why the memoirs of Campbell’s daughters (Teresa and Anna) convey the lives of the Campbell family and their history and why the memoirs are an important corrective to the autobiographical works written by Campbell. ‘In many respects in his autobiographies, Campbell   misrepresents himself.  In some of his misguided attempts to write about himself, his words are too eager to expose an image of extreme masculinity and power.’  She noted that in his autobiographies, Campbell also leaves out much that his daughters tell us about his life: Anna and Tess recount some of the consequences for the family of his notorious drinking problem, for instance, and show how this and his rejection of communism were of no help to his reputation.

‘While the memoirs by Tess and Anna reveal a very creative, kind and caring father and husband to his wife, Mary,’ Coullie added,’ they also  reveal a childhood of intermittent neglect and struggle for the daughters. Their parents’ marriage was, for some years, an open one, which allowed  their mother, Mary, to leave them with their grandmother for months on end, and for Roy to slide deeper in alcoholism.’  The sisters both suffered from mental breakdowns later in life, which might be attributed in part to the difficulties encountered during childhood.

The book is, however, also filled with intimate moments of Roy as a family man who found it difficult to be without his wife and daughters. These emotions are described in his poems, some of which are reproduced in the Memoirs.

Remembering Roy Campbell

The 40th John Milton Moot Court Final hosted by the Faculty of Law was held recently on the Pietermaritzburg campus.  ‘UKZN continues to provide students with excellent legal education. This was particularly evident in the manner these students presented their arguments,’ said the judges, the Honourable Mr Justice Koen and the Honourable Mr Justice Seegobin.

Four final year law students, Mr Daniel van Zuydam, Mr Stuart Tarr, Ms Hlengiwe Mkhize and Ms Carmen Schoon argued their cases before the bench. The students were required to submit their heads of argument to the judges prior to the court presentations.

The first case was “Julia Moelman versus Equality for Women”, argued by Van Zuydam, representing the appellant and Tarr, representing the respondent. Moelman was accused by a non-governmental organisation, Equality for Women, of hate speech in terms of the Promotion of Equality and the Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (No.4 of 2000). It was alleged that she made a number of inappropriate statements regarding the complainant in the Zuma rape trial.

The second case, “The State versus Joe Jacobs”, was argued by Mkhize, representing the state and Schoon, representing the accused. This case dealt with Philip Jacobs, a 10-year old boy who dislodged his father’s handbrake whilst pretending to drive. The car damaged the gate. Philip’s father, Joe, was furious and punished Philip by hitting him three times on his backside and his legs. Philip’s mother decided to lay criminal charges against Joe. The issue in this case was whether a parent’s common law right to chastise his or her child is constitutionally valid.

Mkhize said: ‘Although I have a shy personality, this competition has instilled renewed confidence in the manner with which I handle my arguments...I have also learnt a great deal from my peers who participated in this competition.’

Abasebenzi, amalunga eStudents Representative Council (SRC) ezikhungo zeTheku, kanye nabafundi bakuleli behambisana nabafuni abaphuma emazweni aphesheya abafunda e-UKZN, bajabulele ukutatanyiswa ngesikebhe ebesisuka emtateni weTheku, iPort of Durban sibheke ezilwandle, sajika ngaseBluff. Loluhambo lahlelwa yi-International Student Office eNyuvesi, lwaba yimpumelelo ekupheleni kwenyanga uNcwaba.

 

Umfundi, uNksz Yvonne Kosztorits ophuma ezweni laseJalimani uthe, ‘angisoze ngalukhohlwa loluhambo’. Ngaphambi kokuncebeleka ngesikebhe, abafundi bathokozele ukosiwa kwenyama khona emtateni, okungukudla abangakujwayele emazweni aphesheya.

 

‘Lulosuku lube yimpumelelo emangalisayo,’ kusho uNksz Nombulelo Bezu osebenza kwi-International Student Office esikhungweni seNyuvesi iHoward College. ‘Abafundi batheleke ngobuningi babo kuloluhambo, kanti izihambeli zakuleli  ziyithokozele ngempela inyama eyosiwe,’ kuphimisa uBezu.

 

Abafundi bathe lulohambo lilethe ithuba lokwakha ubungani obusha, lokuxhumana nokufundisana ngamasiko, kanye nokucebisana ngenqubo efanele ukuze baphumelele ezifundweni zabo. Abanye babafundi bakuleli bathe ngokuxhumana nabafundi abaphuma phesheya nabo sebelangazelele amathuba, iStudy Abroad kanye nama-International Exchange Programmes, akhishwa yi-UKZN kubafundi abafisa okuyofunda kumaNyuvesi aphesheya.

 

Batheleka ngezizathu ezahlukahlukene e-UKZN abfundi abaphuma emazweni aphesheya. Kuzona kubalwa: izinhlobo zezifundo neziqu ezitholakala e-UKZN kuphela; ukuzofunda eNyuvesi ethembeke mhlabawonke ngeNingizimu Afrika; kanye nezinhlelo ze-International Relations Office neResearch Office ezinika abafundi base-UKZN nabamanyuvesi aphesheya amathuba angamaningi okuba baqhube izifundo zabo kulezo zikhungo zamanyuvesi ekuvunyelwene ngazo.


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author email : memelal@ukzn.ac.za

MECHANICAL ENGINEERING RUGBY WORLD CUP 2011 FAN PARK

MECHANICAL ENGINEERING RUGBY WORLD CUP 2011 FAN PARK

On September 9, the School of Mechanical Engineering opened their fan park to provide staff with the opportunity to support their favourite rugby team during the 2011 Rugby World Cup that is being held in New Zealand from September 9 to October 15. 

The leadership in the School recognises that supporting sport is an ideal way to break down barriers and provide effective team building amongst staff from different cultures.  The fan park has been modelled as a mini stadium with all the flags of the participating countries being flown in the room.  Palm trees, balloons and other decorations create an atmosphere that will allow staff to support the national team. 

The students in the School have commented favourably on the initiative especially since the South African flag has been displayed in various positions around the School.  The fan park will remain in operation until the end of Rugby World Cup 2011.  Visitors are encouraged to visit the premises so long as they wear the shirt of the team that they are supporting. 


author email : crookesv@ukzn.ac.za