Final-Year Students Present Stimulating Studies at Undergraduate Research Day
UKZN’s Senate Chamber swelled with academics, student presenters, as well as their friends and family who came to support the successful event.
The guest speaker was Dr Nthabiseng Motsemme, UKZN’s Director of Postgraduate and Research Capacity Development who has also held positions at the University of South Africa Research Directorate and the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER), among others.
Motsemme said undergraduate research was showing exciting developments in the College of Health Sciences in line with global trends. ‘The cohort of student presenters is ideal for establishing a foundation for research and building a research culture in their respective fields,’ she observed.
Motsemme spoke about the emerging global knowledge-based economy, which South Africa is also competing in, and which is marked by a constant need for high-level skills. By reflecting on her personal journey as a researcher, Motsemme encouraged the students to excel as next generation innovators. She said it was important for students to dedicate themselves to research projects as this would help to develop their skills in addition to enhancing their CVs.
Supervised by Audiology Lecturer, Ms Samantha Govender, students Ms Nabeela Latiff, Ms Nusaiba Asmal, Ms Sadksha Ramsaroop and Ms Thumeka Mbhele presented the winning presentation: ‘The outcomes of a hearing screening programme conducted on Grade one learners at schools within the Durban central region.’
According to the researchers, the World Health Organization estimates that there are approximately 32 million children globally who present with a disabling hearing loss. They argued that screening programmes for children are essential in deducing prevalence, patterns, as well as identifying risk factors of hearing loss given that the South African Hearing Institute estimates that approximately 7.5% of school children present with hearing loss.
This study also confirmed that school-aged children do present with common ear problems, namely cerumen impaction, middle ear pathologies and possible hearing loss. It found that there are possible gender effects related to the presence of auditory pathology. However, more research was required.
Winners in the Speech-Language Pathology group, Ms Sasha-Lee Wulfsohn and Ms Raihaana Suliman, were supervised by Speech-Language Pathology Lecturer, Ms Saira Karrim. Their study was titled, “Types of feeding problems, food preference and the relationship to family eating preference in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in South Africa.”
The researchers identified that parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) face many challenges on a daily basis because eating has an essential psychosocial function in forming relationships with primary caregivers and forming part of a wider social interaction. They presented preliminary results on each study objective as data collection had just begun pending approval from some independent associations for autism.
The study found that children with ASD in South Africa present with typical feeding problems and eating preferences found in children with ASD. ‘These problems have a significant effect on family life,’ said the researchers, unpacking clinical implications, including raising awareness and training programmes for professionals and parents regarding the management of feeding problems. There was also a need to consider foods consumed by various cultural groups in the assessment and treatment of feeding problems, as well as to promote feeding as an area of equal importance to communication.
The winning teams will present their work at the School’s Young Health Scientists Research Symposium 2014 in October.
All final-year students were lauded by academic leaders Dr Penelope Flack (Speech-Language Pathology) and Dr Neethie Joseph (Audiology) for the quality of the work presented and were encouraged to pursue master’s and PhD qualifications at UKZN.Lunga Memela