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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