All’s Well in World of Microbiology and Biotechnology in KZN, says Scientist
Microbiology and Biotechnology are in a very healthy state in KwaZulu-Natal and as leading disciplines they will make the greatest contribution to the challenges facing Africa in areas of water, food, agriculture, human health, and the environment.
This is according to the Dean of Teaching and Learning at UKZN’s College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, Professor Bala Pillay, who was speaking at the 27th Annual SA Society for Microbiology (KZN) Symposium hosted by UKZN’s Discipline of Microbiology on the Pietermaritzburg campus.
The annual Symposium gives young researchers at honours and BTech levels an opportunity to showcase their research findings to their peers.
Microbiologist Pillay said it was noteworthy that the KZN Symposium was the most successful regional Conference of the South African Society of Microbiologists.
‘We have sustained this Conference for 27 years. It is a great platform for young scientists at honours and BTech levels from the three tertiary institutions in the province - UKZN, the Durban University of Technology (DUT) and the University of Zululand (UniZul).’
Pillay said that the Symposium had become highly competitive over the years. ‘Even though this Symposium is for entry-level scientists, we find lots of potential for innovation,’ he said.
Opening the symposium, UKZN Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research, Professor Jonathan Blackledge, elaborated on how microorganisms affected every aspect of life on earth. ‘The unique capability of microbes to change our bioeconomy and environment cannot be overemphasised,’ he said. ‘Some microbes cause disease but the majority produce useful chemicals, food, biopharmaceuticals, biofuel and they clean up our environment.
‘In modern times, the use of microorganisms as biotechnological agents for profit has increased explosively. Modern biotechnology is now a multi-billion dollar sector worldwide.’
The 27th Symposium attracted 64 young scientists who presented a diverse range of research. Judges said that generally, the research was both cutting-edge and relevant to KwaZulu-Natal and the continent.
After a successful day of presentations, prizes were awarded to the top presenters.
First prize in the Bioprocess Technology session went to UKZN’s Mr Preshanthan Moodley with Ms Kimberly Bruce also of UKZN in second place.
Ms Siyanda Shezi of UKZN won first prize in the Enzyme Technology, Phytochemistry and Mycology session, with Ms Reshmika Bachoo of DUT the runner-up. The Bacteriology session was won by Ms Selisha Naidoo of UKZN, followed by Ms Wendy Mthembu of UniZul.
Ms Nokulunga Hlengwa of UniZul won first prize in the Gene Cloning and Expression session with colleague Ms Yonela Ntamo second.
In the Environmental Microbiology session, Ms Ruqsar Bibi Ismail of UKZN was the winner with second prize shared by UKZN’s Ms Tashiana Beharielal and Ms Bethany Rebekah Nathaniel.
Academic Leader for Research and Higher Degrees in the School of Life Sciences, Professor Stefan Schmidt, gave a warm vote of thanks to the organising committee as well as to the judges and session chairs.
He thanked keynote speakers: Deputy Director Biotechnology at the National Department of Science and Technology, Mrs Beaulla Mathebula, and Bioprocessing Platform Manager at the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), Mr Sani Gumede.
In closing, Schmidt paid tribute to the student presenters and their supervisors, who had conceptualised and sustained great research ideas.