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14 June 2018 Photo Supplied
Next Chapter Green Ribbon campaign addresses mental health
Members of Next Chapter and UFS Student counselling are working together to address mental health issues.

Next Chapter, a student support group at the UFS presented the Green Ribbon campaign, pledging their support to students and providing them with assistance in coping with life events that stimulate stress and contribute negatively to their mental health. The team aims to break the stigma surrounding mental health care, and continually assist students with mental health-related issues that they struggle with daily.

The Green Ribbon represents mental health awareness, which is a pressing matter for students and is the type of support students need in a stressful university environment. The campaign focuses on teaching students how to cope with life events that stimulate stress, and contribute negatively to their mental health.
 
A discussion by Dr Ancel George: practising clinical psychologist and lecturer from the UFS Department of Psychology, and Dr Mellissa Barnaschone: Director of UFS Student Counselling, took place, where talks were prominent about creating an inclusive environment for UFS students.

The panel shared a few tips on how students should work towards managing stress, and motivated them for the main mid-year examinations.
 
The follow-up Exam Cram Workshop, presented by Nadia Cloete and Lize Wolmarans, that combined time and stress management, took place on 2 June 2018, and saw students receiving advice on how to approach various issues during the examination period.
 
Mental health awareness does not end with the campaign and Next Chapter’s slogan “Your story continues” encourages students to regularly wear and commemorate the green ribbon in support of continual mental healthcare.
 
Should you have any enquiries or input for the ongoing campaign, contact the Next Chapter team on ufsnextchapter@gmail.com, or further email Tshepang Mahlatsi, founder of Next Chapter on tshepangmahlatsi767@gmail.com

News Archive

UFS receives R13,7 Million for Research into Prehistoric Organisms
2007-03-27

Some of the guests attending the launch of the research contract are: Dr Siyabulela Ntutela (Deputy Director: Biotechnology at the Department of Science and Technology), Dr Godfrey Netswera (Manager of Thuthuka and the Support Programme at the National Research Foundation (NRF)), Dr Esta van Heerden (Platform Manager and lecturer at the Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology at the UFS), Mr Butana Mboniswa (Chief Executive Officer of BioPAD), and Mr Vuyisele Phehani (Portfolio Manager for BioPAD).
Photo: Leonie Bolleurs

The University of the Free State (UFS) has been awarded a massive R13,7 million contract to conduct research into prehistoric micro-organisms which live under extreme conditions, for example in mineshafts.

This is one of the biggest research contracts awarded to the UFS in recent years.

The biotechnology research contract was awarded to the UFS by BioPAD, a South African biotechnology company that brokers partnerships between researchers, entrepreneurs, business, government and other stakeholders to promote innovation and create sustainable biotechnology businesses.

The project is endorsed by the Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation (NRF), which contributes to the bursaries of the 17 postgraduate students on the programme.

The contract involves the establishment of a Platform for Metagenomics -  a technique which allows researchers to extract the DNA from microbes in their natural environment and investigate it in a laboratory. 

“Through this platform we will be able to understand deepmine microbial populations
and their potential application in the search for life in outer space.  It is most likely
that, if life were to be found on other planets in our solar system, it would probably
resemble that which existed millions of years ago on earth.  Apart from all this, these
organisms have unique properties one can exploit in biotechnological application for
South Africa and its community,” said Dr Esta van Heerden, platform manager and
lecturer at the UFS Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology.
She is assisted by her collegues, Prof. Derek Litthauer and Dr Lizelle Piater.

“The platform aims to tap into the unique genetic material in South African mines
which will lead to the discovery of new genes and their products.  These new and unique products will find application in the medical field (anti-cancer, anti-bacterial en anti-viral cures), the industrial sector (nanotechnology, commercial washing agents and the food industry), environmental sector (pollution management, demolition of harmful metals and other toxic waste),” said Dr Van Heerden.

According to Dr Van Heerden, the Metagenomics Platforms stems from the Life in
Extreme Environments (LExEN) programme which was started in 1994 by Princeton
University in the United States of America (USA) in South African mines with grants
from among others the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and
the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the USA.  Other international collaborators
on the project include Geosynec Consultants Inc. (USA), Oak Ridge National
Laboratory (USA), the University of Tennessee (USA) and in South Africa the
Universities of the Witwatersrand, North West and Limpopo and companies like BHP
Billiton, MINTEK and mining companies like Harmony, Gold Fields and AngloGold
Ashanti.

The research field laboratory of the Metagenomics Platform, which was situated in
Glen Harvey, was moved to the Main Campus of the UFS in Bloemfontein.  “In this
way the university has become the central hub for all research programmes.  We are
also the liaison between the LExEN programme and the various mining companies
involved,” said Dr Van Heerden.  The new laboratory was introduced during the
launch of the research contract.

“Our decision to commit BioPAD to this project stems from the company’s commitment to advance human capacity development to strengthen South Africa’s research infrastructure.  It is also part of our aim to create and protect intellectual property,” said Mr Butana Mboniswa, Chief Executive Officer of BioPAD.

Talking on behalf of the UFS senior management, Prof. Teuns Verschoor, Vice-Rector
of Academic Operations, said that the university shares the excitement to be part of
the exploration of unknown forms of life, the discovery of new genes and
their products and in applying newly gained knowledge to better understand our
universe.

Media release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Assistant Director: Media Liaison 
Tel: 051 401 2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: loaderl@ufs.ac.za
27 March 2007

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