School of Life Sciences

Dr Nivisti Singh at Graduation (left) and at her wedding.

Married and Capped in Record Time

Dr Nivisti Singh graduated with a PhD in Microbiology for her study on the development of sustainable processes for biofuel production, which could offer significant environmental and economic benefits.

She was supervised by Dr Roshini Govinden and Professor Bruce Sithole.

Singh initially registered for a BSc majoring in Genetics and Microbiology at UKZN because of its reputation for offering an exceptional Life Sciences programme.  Undergraduate studies were followed by an Honours degree in Microbiology. Seeking to increase her laboratory and research experience, she then enrolled for an MSc.

Singh master’s research focused on the isolation and purification of an anti-MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) compound from endophytic extracts with the aim of identifying new strategies to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  She graduated cum laude and was a member of the Golden Key Society. She also received the National Research Foundation (NRF) Scarce Skills Bursary for both her honours and master’s studies, and being awarded an NRF/CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) Innovation Bursary enabled her to continue to doctoral level. ‘This opportunity was aligned with my academic and research interests, making it a natural progression in my educational journey,’ she said.

Singh’s PhD research focused on the hydrolysis of cellulosic biomass using cellulases derived from fungal isolates found in the environment. Her work contributes to the development of sustainable processes for biofuel production and could offer significant environmental and economic benefits. By advancing the hydrolysis of lignocellulosic biomass into glucose (a key step in biofuel production), it contributes to the development of cleaner and more sustainable energy sources.

Singh is currently seeking employment opportunities that align with her qualifications and research expertise. During her free time, she volunteers for educational and community upliftment projects and enjoys reading, hiking, and exploring new cuisines.

‘Pursuing a PhD was a transformative journey that demanded a unique approach to research, critical thinking and problem-solving,’ she said. ‘It set me apart and enriched my academic and personal growth, making me resilient and adaptable in the face of complex challenges.’

Singh’s examiners commended her for the quality of her thesis, which demonstrated critical thinking, methodological knowledge and the ability to conduct independent research. They acknowledged her logical research design, along with her skills in conducting a scientific study that led to sound conclusions.

Govinden said: ‘I had the pleasure of working with Nivisti as a lecturer in a third-year undergraduate module, and as her supervisor for her honours, masters and doctoral degrees – essentially her entire university career. I feel like a very proud mum seeing her various accomplishments. She was also my lab co-ordinator and managed the lab, especially during the tough COVID-19 period when access was restricted and I was not able to be present.

‘Nivisti published three papers in high impact factor journals, compiled her thesis, planned her wedding and got married within a couple of months, then topped it all by returning from her honeymoon, completing corrections and making it to Grad! She is a lovely person who has earned and deserves all her successes.’

Words: Leena Rajpal

Photographs: Sethu Dlamini and Kevin Hsu