Two tutors in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science’s Academic Access Programme have cause to celebrate. Not only have they supported countless students though their Chemistry Foundation courses, thus enabling them to further their studies towards a BSc degree, but the two staff members have also found the time to further their own academic studies.  

Rachel Oosthuizen and Roshila Moodley, both of whom are based in the School of Chemistry and Physics, reaped the rewards of their hard work when they graduated with an MSc and a PhD degree respectively.

‘Both ladies were full-time tutors whilst they pursued their studies within the School,’ said Senior Lecturer in Chemistry, Dr Vincent Nyamori.  ‘It is not easy to do research when one is not only working full-time but also married and not the youngest in the lab,’ he said.  Nyamori said the two women received outstanding results, with Oosthuizen receiving her MSc cum laude.

Oosthuizen’s thesis, which focused on structural chemistry and nanotechnology, was titled, “The Influence of Physicochemical Reaction Parameters on the Synthesis of Multi-Walled Carbon Nanotubes for use as Catalyst Supports.”  Her supervisors were Nyamori and Dr Catherine Ngila. 

Nyamori described nanotechnology as a “revolutionary research area”. 

‘The history of mankind has been broadly categorised and defined by major scientific advances; from the beginnings of steel forging with its influence on agriculture and society in the Iron Age, through to the electronic and information age of the mid to late 1900s, which is still pervading our entire society, and finally to the nanotechnology age of the present.’ 

Oosthuizen showed academic promise from a young age. She was the Dux of her primary school and went on to receive straight A’s for matric and was placed in the top 30 in the province. She received her undergraduate degree cum laude, notching up several Certificates of Merit and Dean’s Commendations along the way.  Since 2007 to early 2013, she was employed as a tutor in the Centre for Science Access and at times worked as the Module Co-ordinator for the Science Foundation Chemistry Programme. 

Her colleague Moodley has been a tutor since 2002 and in 2009 was promoted to Senior Tutor in the Science Access Programme.  Since graduating with her MSc cum laude in 2007, she has been working steadily towards her PhD.  This year, she was promoted to Lecturer.

Moodley’s PhD thesis in the field of Analytical/Natural Product Chemistry was titled “Phytochemical and Analytical Studies on Two Indigenous Medicinal Plants Found in KwaZulu-Natal: Carissa macrocarpa and Harpephyllum caffrum”.  Her supervisors were Professor Sreekantha Jonnalagadda and Dr Neil Koorbanally.

Explaining the essence of Moodley’s thesis, Koorbanally said:  ‘Roshila conducted a comprehensive study on the fruits of two indigenous edible plant species, assessing the medicinal and nutritional properties and their potential as nutraceuticals.’  Both fruits proved to be rich in anti-oxidant and immune-boosting compounds, providing a basis to include them in the diets of children in the rural areas, where access to nutritional supplements is limited.

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