First veterinary nurse to receive a PhD

Posted on September 14, 2017


The Faculty of Veterinary Science produced its first ever veterinary nurse to obtain a PhD degree during the University's Spring graduation ceremony on Friday, 8 September. Dr Ester Botha, who started working at the Faculty as a veterinary nurse in 1983, received her PhD together with seven other PhD graduates. This brings the total number of PhD degrees for 2017 to 20 (12 having been awarded during the Autumn graduation), which is the highest number of PhD degrees ever awarded in the Faculty in a single year.

Dr Botha began her tenure as veterinary nurse working in the Faculty's Reproduction Clinic, where she was exposed to research with her first mentor, Dr Edmund Oettle. Her interest in research escalated and in 2012 she registered for her PhD under the experienced leadership of Prof Henk Bertschinger, whom she also acknowledges as one of her support pillars.

In order to meet the requirements for her PhD, Dr Botha had to put in a lot of extra work. She obtained a postgraduate diploma in tertiary education and completed a master's module in reproductive physiology, after which she obtained her MSc in the Department of Production Animal Studies under the supervision of Prof David Gerber. She received an Education Innovation award from the University of Pretoria in 2012, and in 2005 was selected by the students as lecturer of the year.

In her thesis, 'Immunocontraception of the domestic horse (Equus caballus) using a vaccine against GnRH', she reported the successful down-regulation of ovarian and testicular activity in the horse following two administrations of an anti-GnRH vaccine. Results obtained during her studies lend themselves to comparative studies in other species such as donkeys, African elephants and wild equids. Her study provides new insights into the effects of anti-GnRH vaccination in horses and has contributed significantly to the current understanding of the endocrine control of equine reproduction. In view of this, Dr Botha says that she will not rest on her laurels because some important ongoing projects are underway.

During the Faculty's annual Doctoral Celebration ceremony, which this year took place on the same day as graduation day, the eight PhD graduates got a chance to present an overview of their theses after being introduced by their supervisors. The Department of Production Animal Studies produced four of the graduates, two were from the Department of Paraclinical Sciences, and the other two were from the departments of Anatomy and Physiology, and Veterinary Tropical Diseases.

The doctoral graduates celebrate their achievements with the Dean, Prof Darrell Abernethy, Deputy Dean: Research and Postgraduate Studies, Prof Vinny Naidoo, Deputy Dean: Teaching and Learning, Prof Dietmar Holm, and their supervisors, after the annual Doctoral Celebration event at the Faculty

The graduates are (titles of theses in brackets):

Dr Olubukola Adenubi (Acaricidal efficacy of crude extracts and isolated flavonoids from Calpurnia aurea subsp. aurea against Rhipicephalus turanicus)

Dr Odunayo Azeez (Characterization of normal adipose tissue and pansteatitic tissue in the Nile Crocodile (Crocodylus Niloticus): Possible mechanism(s) of pathogenesis and pathophysiology)

Dr Ester Botha (Immunocontraception of the domestic horse (Equus caballus) using a vaccine against GnRH)

Dr Dauda Bwala (Mycoplasma gallisepticum infection dynamics and vaccine protection in South African poultry)

Dr Daniela Steckler (Assessment of female and male conception rate and correlation to quality of frozen-thawed semen in the dog)

Dr Mabotse Tjale (Transcriptome analysis of Ehrlichia ruminantium at the host tick bite site and during the developmental stages in cell culture)

Dr Kurt de Cramer (Preparturient caesarean section in the bitch: justification, timing, execution and outcome evaluation)

Dr Luisa Riato (Development of diatom-based monitoring tools for assessing depressional wetland condition in the Mpumalanga Highveld region, South Africa) (received her PhD in absentia)


For more information about these PhD graduates, please click HERE for the Doctoral Celebration booklet.


- Author Chris van Blerk

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