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02 May 2018 Photo Charl Devenish
South Campus UAP celebrates 27 years of access to education
Mr Francois Marais, Prof Kalie Strydom, Prof Daniella Coetzee (South Campus Principal), Prof Francis Petersen, Dr Nthabeleng Rammile (Vice-Chairperson of the UFS Council), and Dr Khotso Mokhele (Chancellor of the UFS).

More than 27 years ago, international funding from the Human Sciences Research Council and Anglo American was put to an unusual use for that time. Prof Kalie Strydom’s research unit at the University of the Free State (UFS) was tasked with reviewing how institutional missions would change in the new South Africa. Prof Strydom worked closely with surrounding communities in Bloemfontein to develop a bridging course which would help students who showed potential to access tertiary education, although they did not meet the requirements. His vision brought to birth the University Access Programme (UAP), as it is known today, which is hosted on the UFS South Campus, and is still providing unique access to higher-education institutions in South Africa.

People with a passion for human development
March 2018 saw the 27th anniversary of this remarkable initiative, which has given a second chance to over 18 000 students. Special guests at the event included Prof Strydom, Mr Francois Marais, and representatives from the Department of Higher Education and Training and Investec’s corporate social investment office.

Dr Sonja Loots, researcher in the UFS Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL), singled out two key individuals in the formation of the UAP: Prof Kalie Strydom, who initiated the programme, and Mr Marais, who has been Director of the UAP since its inception. Dr Loots highlighted one of the driving forces behind Prof Strydom’s perseverance, vision, and determination with the UAP by quoting from an interview with him for an upcoming book on student access and success. He said, “It was a decision based on principle … to be part of the solution to a better country.”

Access and success still an issue today
In his presentation on the “Importance of Access”, Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS, pointed out the vital role of access in South Africa, especially the value it offers for the betterment of the country’s people. However, he said that student success is also an issue, and institutions need to be accountable for it. Quoting Prof John Martin of the University of Cape Town’s Faculty of Engineering, “We must be flexible on access, but robust on success.” Only by “closing the loop” in this way, can the UFS and other higher-education institutions ensure a valuable contribution to the economy of the country.

News Archive

Newly operational sequencing unit in genomics at UFS
2016-09-09

Description: Next Generation Sequencing  Tags: Next Generation Sequencing

Dr Martin Nyaga and his research assistant,
Tshidiso Mogotsi in the Next Generation
Sequencing Laboratory.
Photo: Charl Devenish

The Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) unit at the UFS was established as an interdisciplinary facility under the Directorate for Research Development, Faculty of Health Sciences and Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences.

The aim of the NGS facility is to aid internal and external investigators undertaking studies on Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) sequencing, assembly and bioinformatics approaches using the more advanced Illumina MiSeq NGS platform.

The NGS unit became operational in 2016 and is managed by Dr Martin Nyaga and administered through the office of the Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences, under the leadership of Prof Gert Van Zyl. Dr Nyaga has vast experience in microbial genomics, having done his PhD in Molecular Virology.

He has worked and collaborated with globally recognised centres of excellence in Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic genomics, namely the J. Craig Venter Institute and the Laboratory of Viral Metagenomics, Rega Institute, among others.

The unit has undertaken several projects and successfully generated data on bacterial, viral and human genomes. Currently, work is ongoing on bacterial and fungal metagenomics studies through 16S rRNA sequencing.

In addition, the unit is also working on plasmid/insert sequencing and whole genome sequencing of animal and human rotaviruses. The unit has capacity to undertake other kinds of panels like the HLA, Pan-cancer and Tumor 15 sequencing, among others.

Several investigators from the UFS including but not limited to Prof Felicity Burt, Prof Wijnand Swart, Dr Frans O’Neil, Dr Trudi O'Neill, Dr Charlotte Boucher, Dr Marieka Gryzenhout and Dr Kamaldeen Baba are actively in collaboration with the NGS unit.

The unit has also invested in other specialised equipment such as the M220 Focused-ultrasonicator (Covaris), 2100 Bioanalyzer system (Agilent) and the real-time PCR cycler, the Rotor-Gene Q (Qiagen), which both the UFS and external investigators can use for their research.

Investigators working on molecular and related studies are encouraged to engage with Dr Nyaga on how they would like to approach their genomics projects at the UFS NGS unit. 

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