PhD Graduate Contributes to the Search for Food Security Solutions
Dr Vuledzani ‘Vince’ Ndou has graduated with a PhD in Plant Breeding after conducting a genetic analysis of maize hybrids.
The former Science Foundation Programme (SFP) student says his insatiable sense of curiosity and determination to pursue knowledge relentlessly got him where he is today - at the threshold of achieving his dreams of putting his skills into action as an agriculturalist and researcher.
Originally from Limpopo where he matriculated at the Thohoyandou High School, his interest in the natural sciences and specifically genetics started early through watching scientific television programmes.
When the opportunity to study genetics and plant breeding presented itself, Ndou grabbed it with both hands, eager to make the most of UKZN’s high calibre staff, focus on students, and high standards that he felt would give him a good industrial and academic perspective.
What excites him most about the field is its potential to improve livelihoods and food security for the well-being of the entire population.
‘The manipulation of crops to suit specific human needs interests me,’ said Ndou. ‘I enjoy working towards solutions for challenges affecting the agricultural sector in the face of climate change and other constraints.’
His PhD work will, he hopes, contribute to improving crop production in general, and maize in particular, by providing insight into the factors controlling high yield attainment. He also hopes it provides a foundation for future work by plant breeding researchers and practitioners.
Ndou received a bursary from the Department of Health for his undergraduate studies, and an National Research Foundation Scarce Skills Scholarship for his postgraduate work. Ndou thanked the funders, saying their support helped him focus fully on his studies.
He also acknowledged his family, especially his mother, for support and belief in him, and his masters and PhD supervisors, Professor Hussein Shimelis and Professor John Derera, for their encouragement. He made special mention of his grandmother, Mrs Rosemary Whitey.
Starting out as an SFP student, Ndou said the programme taught him the value of hard work and prepared him for university life. He credited the guidance of the well-trained and specialised team of staff on the programme for the training that aided him and made “the difference”.
Ndou earned a certificate of leadership, Golden Key International Honour Society membership, and the NRF Scarce Skills Scholarship in recognition of his hard work. He integrated himself into university life, fulfilling the roles of secretary general for the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES) student committee, Chairperson of UKZN Sports, Head Demonstrator for Foundation Biology modules, and a Supplemental Instruction (SI) tutor and mentor for undergraduate students.
Ndou hopes one day to own a farm and open a research station where he can expand and action his skills as an agriculturist, collaborating with fellow researchers. He is currently continuing to support other students in a mentorship or academic development capacity and hopes to facilitate workshops as well as teaching and learning programmes to achieve this.