School of Life Sciences

Fern Study Harvests Cum Laude Degree

Mr Kwanele Mkhize’s friends and colleagues describe him as an ambitious, goal-driven person – qualities that assisted him complete his studies and receive an MSc degree in Biology cum laude from UKZN’s School of Life Sciences.

Mkhize, who said the accomplishment was reward for his hard work and dedication, credited his late father for instilling an excellent work ethic in him and acting as his greatest role model.

Mkhize has always enjoyed the Life Sciences and excelled while exploring a variety of related subjects in his undergraduate studies.

He says the variety of biological fields offered, together with the fact that UKZN is one of the top-ranked universities in the country, influenced him to study on the Pietermaritzburg campus.

Mkhize’s MSc studies focused on the Discipline of Botany and more specifically, lower plants. His thesis, supervised by Professor Richard Beckett, was titled: Roles of ROS Scavenging Enzymes and ABA in Desiccation Tolerance in Ferns.

The work investigated drought tolerance mechanisms in lower plants – specifically ferns – that could be transferred to higher plants – such as crops – to improve drought stress tolerance.

‘Drought stress is one of the major issues affecting crop productivity,’ said Mkhize. ‘My research was an opportunity to make a useful contribution not only to science, but also to the community at large.’

Mkhize says he appreciates the opportunities education has given him. ‘My accomplishments are proof that if you pursue what you love, are goal-driven and associate yourself with like-minded people, you can achieve anything you put your mind to.’

Said Mkhize: ‘If your social circle doesn’t inspire you than it is not a circle but a prison you need to free yourself from. For in order to be the best you need to learn from the best, do what the best do and be where the best are.’

Mkhize has his sights set on a PhD degree which he wants to complete in record time.

Words: Pumla Dlamini

Photograph: Supplied and Gugu Mqadi