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Woman in Science

Prof Riana Bornman
Sindisiwe Nondaba
Prof Liesel Ebersöhn

Prof Riana Bornman

Prof Riana Bornman completed a degree in Medicine at the University of Pretoria (UP) in 1973, a DSc at UP in 1983 and an MD at the former University of the Orange Free State, Bloemfontein, in 1987. She is currently Extraordinary Professor in Andrology, Department of Urology, Faculty of Health Sciences, UP.

From basic scientific research in human male reproductive health (Andrology) her interest broadened to include animals and wildlife as possible biosentinel species on order to define health sequelae of environmental pollution and ultimately come up with strategies to mitigate human health problems.

Since 2002, her public health focus has been on the health effects in malarial areas where insecticides, including DDT – a known endocrine disrupter and toxicant – are applied for mosquito vector control with inadvertent exposure of humans and the environment. She has done extensive research in the communities of Thulamela in the Vhembe District, Limpopo Province, through local VhaVenda women who were specifically trained for recruitment and data collection in a mutually beneficial partnership between research staff and study villages. This partnership makes it possible to collect high quality data and publish in high impact journals, while empowering women in remote rural areas to make a difference for their communities.

She is an NRF C1-rated researcher, member of the UP Centre for Sustainable Malaria Vector Control (UPCSMC) and served on several World Health Organisation committees. Scientific data from human and environmental studies in Vhembe were incorporated in the WHO DDT Health Risk Assessment (2011). She has compiled various reports for the Water Research Commission on endocrine disrupters, DDT and human and environmental health effects. She has published over 114 papers in local and international peer-reviewed journals, and has presented her work at many local and international conferences.

Sindisiwe Nondaba

Sindisiwe Nondaba is a first-year MSc student at the University of Pretoria, under the supervision of Prof Debra Meyer. Her field of study is Biotechnology with specialisation in Biochemistry.

She is conducting research in the area of HIV/AIDS, mainly on HIV-1 subtype C, owing to the fact that it is the dominant subtype in South Africa and accounts for most of the global HIV-1 epidemic. Her project entails investigating host and virus-derived synthetic peptides to ascertain their potential as therapeutic tools.

The HIV research group, headed by Prof Debra Meyer, collaborates with researchers both nationally and internationally. The research conducted by the group involves a multidisciplinary combination of biochemical, analytical and physical techniques to obtain reproducible data. The specific areas of research include: metabonomic analysis of HIV- and Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) induced metabolic changes, the study of novel synthetic antigens as vaccine leads and tools for AIDS prognosis, as well as the use of natural products and metallodrugs as novel inhibitors of HIV replication.

Preliminary data produced by Sindisiwe suggests an association between disease progression and the presence of antibodies elicited by the aforementioned synthetic peptides, early in infection. Her work has also shown that the peptides are not toxic to cells. Although it is still early, Sindisiwe has already made progress towards achieving the objectives of her study.

It is possible that data from this project may necessitate re-evaluating and expanding current HIV diagnostic and prognostic technologies to make provision for methodologies that provide more information on disease status.

Following completion of her MSc, Sindisiwe wishes to pursue a doctorate in biotechnology and aspires to be among the top female scientists in this country.

Prof Liesel Ebersöhn

Prof Liesel Ebersöhn obtained her PhD in Educational Psychology, with a focus on wellbeing, from the University of Pretoria in 2000. She is Director of the Unit for Education Research in AIDS and Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Pretoria.

Prof Ebersöhn is known for her work on resilience in scarce-resource and high-need education settings. She serves on the Council of the World Education Research Association (WERA) and was nominated to co-chair the WERA Task Force on 'Poverty and Education'. She is the Editor of the South African Journal of Education and a past-president of the Education Association of South Africa. She has been key in advocating a joint South African Education Research Association. She received the Young Researcher Award of the Education Association of South Africa, and the Exceptional Young Researcher Award (University of Pretoria).

She often disseminates research on her generative theory (Relationship Resourced Resilience) on invitation at global platforms. To date, Prof Ebersöhn has authored or co-authored 44 articles in various refereed journals. She has been co-author, editor, or co-editor of five books and eleven book chapters. Of the 53 postgraduate students Prof Ebersöhn has supervised to completion, many are now scholars at Higher Education Institutions. She has mentored colleagues and postgraduate students in funded projects aimed at increasing knowledge on how resilience, rather than pathology, is an alternative social response to adversity.

Her collaborative knowledge generation has had a decided impact on curricula for teacher training. Since 2003 scores of in-service distance education students have, based on her doctoral research, gained knowledge to view children from a strengths-based and coping perspective. Based on research under her mentorship, pre-service teacher education students become equipped to understand their contribution to promoting kaleidoscopic wellness in resource-scarce and HIV-challenged schools, rather than being focused on microscopic pathology of AIDS, poverty and aligned adversities. Development outcomes of long-term, participatory social research with educational psychology graduate students include educational psychology services to close to a thousand children in a rural secondary school. Prof Ebersöhn currently holds an NRF C-rating.




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