School of Life Sciences

Research Results May Lead to Alternative to Conventional Medical Therapy

Ms Seetha Govender hopes to commercialise a formulation created during research work she did for her MSc degree which will in turn contribute towards the bio-economy of South Africa.

Govender matriculated with exceptional results from Buffelsdale Secondary School in Tongaat and then completed a BSc majoring in Genetics and Microbiology.

After completing the K-RITH & SANTHE Mycobacterial Genetics course and passing with a merit during her final year, Govender decided she wanted to become a research scientist and registered for an Honours degree. Her research project focused on cloning and protein expression.

Govender later registered for a Masters with a research project that combined nanotechnology and enzymology. The focus of her Masters dissertation was the creation of metallic nanoparticles that aim to disrupt the communication systems of multiple disease-associated bacteria, with potential future applications in medicine and technology. In the age of widespread bacterial drug resistance, Govender’s wish is that her research can one day provide an alternative to conventional medical therapy.

She hopes to commercialise the formulation from her Masters research, which will in turn contribute towards the bio-economy of South Africa.

Currently employed part-time at Test It LAB as a laboratory analyst, Govender intends pursuing a PhD in Microbiology. ‘Microbiology remains a vast field with a broad scope of practice. It is a field that has demonstrated rapid progression of late on both an international and national level, and as such, promoting research is paramount to its evolution in the local context.’

‘I am the first person in my family to do postgraduate studies, receiving a bursary during undergrad and scholarships (NRF) for my postgraduate studies,’ said Govender.

Govender’s advice to other students is this: ‘Regardless of circumstances, continue to work-hard, apply for bursaries and do not give up!’

Her mother Ms S Govender said: ‘Seetha’s hard work and dedication to the progression within her field are an indication of her relentless ambition and willingness to triumph under the most trying circumstances. From undergraduate to postgraduate level, her standards have been of the highest quality. She has been a pillar of strength and a source of inspiration to both her younger siblings.’

Govender’s supervisor, Dr Hafizah Chenia of the School of Life Sciences said: ‘Seetha has faced overwhelming personal and financial difficulties to reach this point. What makes her stand out is her drive to succeed. She has a natural curiosity and desire to learn more which drives her development as a scientist. A hunger to succeed and passion for what she does is how she can be defined and this makes her the type of postgraduate student that one wants in the lab.’

Words: Leena Rajpal

Photograph: Supplied