Durban - Yesterday was a huge milestone for many University of KwaZulu-Natal graduates with the virtual Spring Graduation ceremony.
While there was no donning of gown and hood, nor the walk across the stage to be conferred, 1 781 graduates took time out to celebrate their achievements.
Judie Magura, 39, achieved her doctorate in health sciences (human physiology) for her research into the effects of the Eriocephalus africanus (wild rosemary plant) in human breast cancer and showcased the potency of nanotechnologically-modified flavonoids isolated from the plant.
The first of its kind, Magura’s research provides comprehensive insight into the anticancer potential of Eriocephalus africanus from plant extract to nano-drug.
Zimbabwe-born, Magura enrolled in a different PhD programme, but found it did not challenge her.
A year into the programme, she was introduced to her supervisor, Professor Irene Mackraj, who steered her study journey in health sciences.
Magura said that on first entering the cell culture lab, she knew she had found a home.
“When I was little, I enjoyed playing teacher. When I got to high school I started having a feeling towards the sciences. I was always going to go into science or engineering,” she said.
She said she had come across indigenous plants when doing chemistry.
“The rosemary family kept popping up and many studies had been done into cancer, but I saw that no one had done a study into wild rosemary.
“It normally grows in rocky places, especially in the Eastern and Western Cape, but I found it in Musgrave (Durban). I really enjoyed studying it.
“I really see myself working in the field of cancer or HIV/TB-linked cancer research,” said Magura, who admitted it was disappointing not to be able to wear the coveted red gown worn by doctoral candidates.
But she was happy to be celebrating with her husband, Josiah, and children Israel and Sophia.
When not in the lab, Magura enjoys making dolls houses, and during lockdown, she and her daughter spent a lot of time crafting dolls dresses.
Another high achiever at this year’s graduation, Siobhan van der Vyver, 23, graduated with a Master’s degree in neurosciences within a year, earning it for gene therapy in the management and treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
She graduated a year ago with Honours in neurosciences summa cum laude.
She said that neuroinflammation had been implicated in Parkinson’s, but a window had been identified for therapeutic administration to prevent inflammation in the nigrostriatal pathway through gene therapy.
“Inflammation is a good starting point and what we were working with could be good therapy. It’s a step in the right direction,” she said.
Van der Vyver is working for a clinical trials company conducting clinical research in Pretoria.
She said: “They are starting a new Covid study soon and will be conducting clinical trials on a new vaccine. I will be working as a central monitor.”
She added she was loving being involved in the clinical side of work.
The Independent on Saturday