Email us


Women in Science Awards 2013

Masixolise Pelly Malebe

Nominated for the award of Fellowship Doctoral



Masixolise Pelly Malebe graduated with a BSc in Human Genetics and an MSc in Biotechnology, both from the University of Pretoria. She is currently enrolled at the same university for a PhD in Biotechnology at the Department of Biochemistry. During her honours and master’s studies she worked as teaching assistant. She is a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society.

Her interest in science began at a very young age as she was a curious child. She later found that the answers to some of her questions seemed to lie in genetics textbooks. Her current research focuses on identifying and developing molecular markers for drought tolerance in the tea plant.  

The potential outputs of this research are robust molecular markers that can be used in a selection process to improve the yield of tea produced by the global tea industry. Her focus is on increasing the understanding of the genetic basis of drought tolerance in plants as this knowledge may impact on food and job security through breeding of drought-tolerant crop varieties. A provisional patent was filed on the results of the research that she conducted during her MSc study. Final filing of this patent with the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization as well as in India, Sri Lanka, China and South Africa is underway.

This research is partly funded by the University of Pretoria’s Institutional Research Themes in Genomics. She received the National Research Foundation Doctoral Innovation Award as well as the Southern African Biochemistry and Informatics for Natural Products Network Doctoral Fellowship which is funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. In 2008 she received an Award of Merit for outstanding academic achievement from the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Pretoria. She was awarded with the NRF’s Honours, Master’s and Doctoral Innovation Awards. She currently has a Southern African Biochemistry and Informatics for Natural Products Network PhD Fellowship.



Madeleine Bihina Bella

Nominated for the award of Tata Scholarship Doctoral



Madeleine Bihina Bella completed a BSc degree in 2002, a BScHons degree in 2004 and an MSc cum laude in 2007, all in Computer Science, at the University of Pretoria. She is currently a third-year PhD Computer Science student at the same institution. She is also a research associate at SAP Research Pretoria in a combined work/study programme. Prior to joining SAP Research, she first worked as a business analyst for Atos Origin, an IT consultancy company, and then as an IT auditor for the audit firm Deloitte & Touche, where she qualified as a certified information system auditor (Cisa). She also gained teaching experience, working as an assistant lecturer at the University of Pretoria.


Her PhD research is conducted in the area of digital forensics, which is mainly used to investigate computer crimes and IT security incidents. More specifically, her research is aimed at applying digital forensic methodology and techniques to the investigation of software failures, which can have disastrous consequences and could even be fatal. Digital forensics can bring scientific rigour and logic to failure analysis and improve its efficiency, which ultimately enables the improvement of software quality and the development of systems that are safer for human use.

Madeleine has received a number of awards and honours, including the 2011 L’Oréal-UNESCO Regional Fellowship for Women in Science in Sub-Saharan Africa, 2011 Soul Woman of the Year for her career achievement, and earlier this year the Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship, aimed at IT female students across the globe with strong academic performance and leadership abilities. She has published several internationally accredited conference and journal papers. She has presented her research findings and conducted research missions locally and abroad, more specifically in France, Germany, the UK and Switzerland. She has also received specialised IT training in the USA and worked on major IT projects locally as well as in China and the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo).


Prof Wanda Markotter

Nominated for the award of Distinguished Young: Life Sciences


Prof Wanda Markotter completed her PhD at the University of Pretoria in 2007 and is currently an associate professor in the University’s Department of Microbiology and Plant Pathology of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. Her research focuses on the ecology, epidemiology, pathogenicity and diagnostics of rabies as well as zoonotic pathogens associated with African bat species. In this regard her research generated new knowledge on the incidence, diversity and pathogenicity of rabies-related viruses in South Africa but also in other regions in Africa. Her research also reported the first identification of several other families of viruses associated with bat species in Africa. 

A new diagnostic method specifically for African viruses causing rabies was published in 2010 in the third most cited journal in microbiology. Currently this test is used as a diagnostic method in national diagnostic reference laboratories to diagnose suspected human rabies cases and as a confirmatory method for animal rabies cases specifically involving degraded samples.

National and international recognition for her research is reflected in the engagement with researchers around the world and research outputs include 28 peer-reviewed research papers published in international journals. In 2008 she received the L’Oreal, UNESCO and Department of Science and Technology Women in Science fellowship for best PhD student. Prof Markotter is part of the editorial board of the journal PLOS ONE and plays a key role in other national bodies such as the National Rabies Advisory Group. She is actively involved in creating disease awareness together with promoting conservation of bat species and has served on the committee of the Gauteng and Northern Regions Bat Interest Group (GNORBIG) since 2008.

Prof Markotter has significantly contributed to human capital development through under- and postgraduate training. Thirteen BScHons and twelve MSc students have graduated under her supervision, six of these cum laude. Currently she is the main or co-supervisor of five PhD and four MSc students. Through national and international collaborations these students get the opportunity to interact with various disciplines through science councils, museums, diagnostic facilities and other universities. She teaches several undergraduate and postgraduate courses, the most significant being “Introduction to Microbiology” that has been taught to more than 700 undergraduate biology students since 2009. She is regularly involved in training activities to build capacity in South Africa as well as Africa and has been invited to present regional training courses for the International Atomic Energy Agency on epidemiology, diagnostics and bioinformatics of diseases as well as training courses for the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and Directorate of Veterinary Services in Ghana.



Share this page
Last edited by Zamandina MthembuEdit