Genetics Honours Programme Meeting need for Scarce Skills
The University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Genetics Honours programme, established in 2013 in the School of Life Sciences on the Westville campus, fills an important role in the training of geneticists for numerous industries in South Africa.
Programme Director Dr Meenu Ghai said concepts of genetics were relevant to many scientific and industrial fields including biotechnology, medicine, veterinary science, forensics and agriculture.
Genetics skills have been highlighted as scarce in the country, leading to the promotion of such skills and genetics research at UKZN.
The programme, structured to offer both course work and research, is in great demand but can only accept a limited number of students. Course work comprises modules including advanced population and quantitative genetics, advanced human genetics and molecular diagnostics, DNA typing in forensic investigation, and forensic genetics.
The programme is structured to promote excellence in these and other fields, including human epigenomics and veterinary microbial genetics. Academics in the programme include Ghai, and colleagues Dr Oliver Zishiri and Dr Matthew Adeleke.
‘Students are trained to work on a research project in fields of host-pathogen genetics, veterinary microbial genetics, population genetics, parasitology, epigenetics and molecular diagnostics, and they submit a dissertation at the end of the programme,’ said Ghai.
‘State-of-the-art facilities enable advanced molecular genetics research to take place, with available equipment including a genetic analyser, real-time thermal cyclers, and gel analysis systems.’
Many students in the programme go on to pursue master’s and PhD studies, and their sought-after skills result in employment at organisations such as the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the South African Sugarcane Research Institute (SASRI), as well as biotechnology industries and medical laboratories.