Young UP scientist shines with Nobel Laureates

Posted on April 28, 2016

After a rigorous selection procedure, Dr Bianca Verlinden, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Biochemistry, was chosen by the National Research Foundation (NRF) as one of two excellent young researchers to represent South Africa at the 8th HOPE meeting with Nobel Laureates held in Tsukuba, Japan in March.

From the pool of 109 international young scientists present, Dr Verlinden received the prestigious HOPE Award for research excellence. In addition, she also received one of five Best Poster Presenter Awards. Teamwork is a strong focus of the HOPE meeting and the team, of which Dr Verlinden was a member, received the Unique Team Presentation Award for their inspirational efforts.

Since 2008 the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) has been hosting HOPE meetings in Japan annually. HOPE meetings are designed to foster outstanding scientific talent through an intensive program of research lectures, interdisciplinary discussions and teamwork activities led by Nobel laureates and other distinguished scientists. The participants are granted an opportunity to present their own research results and to form collegial networks.

The generous sponsorship of the NRF and the Department of Science and Technology, in partnership with the JSPS made it possible for Dr Verlinden to attend the HOPE meeting.

Dr Verlinden obtained a BSc (Biotechnology) and a BSc Hons (Biochemistry) degree from the University of Pretoria, both cum laude. In 2011, her MSc degree was upgraded to a PhD degree in Biochemistry. During her PhD studies, Dr Verlinden received five international awards relating to her research and bio-entrepreneurship endeavours. The research for her thesis led to the discovery of a novel antimalarial scaffold, distinct from any existing antimalarial compound. Her research findings were published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. It was cited 30 times and also included in the following books: Advances in protozoa research and treatment (2012 edition), Amines-Advances in research and applications (2013 edition) and was also reviewed in the Current topics in medicinal chemistry (2013). These findings were also presented at 11 international conferences, most of them by invitation. Dr Verlinden is an avid communicator and has trained as a public speaker for the past eight years (2009 to the present) at Scientia Toastmasters Club, Pretoria.


- Author Martie Meyer

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