UP graduate keeps the UP flag flying high

Posted on April 12, 2023

Michael Stark began his research journey in the Department of Physiology in 2019 under the supervision of Dr. Michelle Visagie and Professor Annie Joubert when he was only 19 years old. He is the first undergraduate student in the Department of Physiology to initiate his cell biology research project through assistance from the Tuks Undergraduate Research Forum (TURF), an initiative focused on empowering undergraduate researchers. His research focused on the influence of nutrient deprivation on chemotherapeutic effects in breast cancer cell lines. 

In 2020, Michael was appointed as a research assistant in the Dean’s office in the Faculty of Health Sciences. He was also the student chairperson of TURF. Since then, his appointment has connected over 20 undergraduate students to research projects and provided more than 200 students with webinars and workshops to improve their research-related skills. In addition, Michael has lectured to students at the University of Stellenbosch and the University of Pretoria regarding research innovation and idea generation. Michael was the only undergraduate student at the University of Pretoria selected to showcase his research at the 2021 Faculty of Health Sciences Research Day. He participated in a panel discussion regarding reimagining undergraduate research at the Faculty. In September 2021, Michael won the Falling Walls Lab Cape Town for his presentation entitled ‘Breaking the Wall of Viral Zoonoses in Animal Farming.’ He competed in the Falling Walls Lab grand finale in Berlin, Germany, where he was the youngest participant competing against 74 other doctors, professors, and Ph.D. students from around the globe. Following this, Michael was invited by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) to be a member of the interdisciplinary jury at the 2022 Falling Walls Lab Pretoria.

Michael obtained his degree in BSc Human Physiology and Biochemistry with distinction in 2022 and was invited to be a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society. He has mentored an undergraduate student in a cancer cell biology research mentorship programme held in the Biochemical Oncology Laboratory. In addition, Michale was the only postgraduate candidate invited by Prof de Jager, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, to represent the Faculty at the 2022 Centre of Higher Education (CHE) Audit. He was the program director at the 2022 Faculty Research Day. Michael won the best research poster presentation in the honours category at the Faculty. He was also an invited lecturer for the Pathmakers Cancer Research Elective held between the University of Pretoria and the University of Utah. He recently completed his BSc (Hons) in Human Physiology as the valedictorian for the general physiology and cellular physiology class of 2022. 

Michael will complete a six-month bioengineering internship at Harvard Medical School in the Innovative Biomaterials Laboratory and Karp Laboratory later this year. His research during the internship focused on the identification, characterization, and fabrication of novel biomaterials, which will be used in developing a novel oral drug delivery device for biologics. In addition, he will assist in computer-aided design, prototype fabrication, physicochemical characterization, and the development of in vitro and ex vivo models to evaluate prototypes. Lastly, he will design and synthesize novel biodegradable polymers and conduct animal experiments to test developed biomaterials. Michael is currently enrolled for an MSc degree in Physiology at the University of Pretoria under the supervision of Dr Michelle Visagie and the cosupervision of Prof Annie Joubert.

- Author Prof Annie Joubert

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