Research Capacity Development
Ben Murrell recently graduated with a PhD in Computer Science from University of Stellenbosch. His Thesis is titled "Improved models of biological sequence evolution." This dissertation, by publications, presents five papers describing improvements to models of molecular evolution. Such models are used by biologists to identify regions in genomes or lineages in phylogenetic trees that are evolving adaptively or under purifying selection, allowing them to examine hypotheses about the evolution of viruses, for example. This facilitates the identification of sites involved in drug resistance or sites at which the virus escape from immune selection pressure.
Health Promotion Research and Development Unit: PhDs Graduated
Anam Nyembezi recently graduated with a PhD from the Department of Work and Social Psychology at the Maastricht University, the Netherlands. His dissertation is entitled “The psychosocial determinants of sexual behaviours that place initiated and traditionally circumcised young men in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa at risk of STI/HIV infection”. The study was initiated by the Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders in an effort to obtain evidence-based information that will inform health education interventions which can be integrated with the traditional practices of initiation and rites of passage into manhood. The research resulted in six articles, three of which have already been published, with the other three accepted and under review. The behaviours that place initiated and traditionally circumcised men at risk of STI/HIV infection include; engagement in multiple concurrent sexual partnerships and unprotected sexual behaviours (i.e. inconsistent and incorrect condom use), whilst reported low rates of HIV voluntary counselling and testing. Importantly, ethnic identity was found to be a protective factor against risky sexual behaviours.
Malik Vazi recently graduated with a PhD from the Department of Work and Social Psychology at the Maastricht University, the Netherlands. His dissertation is entitled “Explaining sickness absence behaviours among public school teachers in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa: a social psychological analysis”. The overall aim of his research was to lay a foundation for the development of a sickness absence reduction program targeted at the Eastern Cape primary and high school teachers, working in the public education system. In addition, explore the role of poor mental health in explaining teacher sickness absence, to see which psychosocial and environmental determinants were most important in explaining feelings of stress and burnout, to gain an in-depth understanding of the meaning of stress as experienced by teachers, and to explore common coping behaviours teachers deploy against stress. Currently, he is a CEO of Zeal Health Innovations, a health promotion and education company working with employer groups, insurers and the general public.
PUDAC (Primate Unit and Delft Animal Centre) proudly congratulates colleague Gift Chauke who obtained her PhD on the 21st of September 2012 from UWC. Her dissertation is entitled:
Defining the African green monkey (Chlorocebus aethiops): Expression behaviour of selected lipid metabolism genes in response to niacin
The study provided new insights into the molecular biology of the Vervet monkey (African green monkey), which is commonly used in biomedical research, and closely related to humans but genetically not as well defined. The main objective was to investigate the molecular genetics of the Vervet monkey in relation to cardiovascular disease. The study applied a number of original approaches to identify candidate susceptibility genes for lipid modulation. For the first time many genetic aspects of the Vervet monkey have been identified, which will further contribute towards the mapping of its genome sequence, and help better understand cardiovascular disease in humans.
Environment and Health Research Unit PhD Graduate
Dr Nisha Naicker
Nisha recently graduated with a PhD from the School of Clinical Medicine at the University of Witwatersrand. Her thesis assessed the prevalence of lead exposure and its effect on the health of adolescents participating in the Birth to Twenty cohort study. The research resulted in the publication of three papers and showed that children from lower socio-economic households were more likely to have higher blood lead levels at birth and at adolescence. Higher blood lead levels were associated with a delay in the onset of puberty in girls, and with anti-social behaviour among boys. The effects of high blood levels are more profound in low or middle-income countries compared to high income countries, and thus, research on lead exposure and its impact has important public health significance for South Africa. In 2009 Nisha won a PhD scholarship from the Ford Foundation and in 2010 she was awarded the Phyllis Knocker Bradlow award from the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa for exceptional results in a final Fellowship exam and making a substantial contribution towards medical research in South Africa.