Research on Embryonic Development of the Eye Leads to MSc
MSc in Biology cum laude graduate Ms Michel Bengston’s keen interest in genetics and molecular biology was ignited during biology lessons at Northlands Girls’ High School.
This interest grew when she underwent spinal surgery on several occasions, including once while studying for her degree.
In hospital, Bengston became intrigued by the work done in the medical field of laboratory diagnostics and genetics.
This fascination spurred Bengston’s decision to pursue her master’s research in the laboratory of her supervisor, Dr Paula Sommer, with a project which involved creating a model of the embryonic development of the eye.
Bengston mapped the expression of three key genes involved in the proper development of the eye. Her research output provided valuable insight into the molecular mechanisms required for normal eye development.
‘My research allowed me to gain different skills while working in the laboratory in areas such as cell culture, animal work, gene and protein expression analyses, microscopy and cloning,’ said Bengston. ‘I am very thankful for the hands on experience I gained in Dr Sommer’s Biotechnology laboratory.’
Bengston says her master’s experience was demanding but rewarding both personally and as a scientist. ‘It gave me the chance to work more independently in the laboratory and drive my research in the direction that interested me,’ she said.
Her supervisor was full of praise for the cum laude student. ‘Michel was a very hard working student who was an absolute pleasure to supervise,’ said Sommer. ‘She has gone on to pursue a PhD in The Netherlands.’
Bengston is registered for her PhD at the Delft University of Technology at the Kavli Institute of Nano-Biotechnology in The Netherlands working on the detection of infectious diseases using point of care diagnostics. She is confident that after her PhD studies abroad, she will return to South Africa to contribute to the wealth of knowledge in the field of molecular biology.
PhD student and Bengston’s laboratory colleague, Ms Nimisha Singh, was equally complimentary: ‘I first met Michel during her undergraduate studies in the capacity of a mentor during the practical components. From the start it was clear to see the determination, enthusiasm and passion Michel had for the Science field. Michel was always willing to seek advice from her colleagues to better herself and her knowledge in performing the role of a good scientist.
‘I have been with Michel through all the hardships and rewards of research as well as her time during her second surgery. Even though she should have been resting, her drive for research was still there and was empowering her mind.’