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06 March 2020 | Story Ruan Bruwer | Photo Supplied
Nomsa Mathontsi
Nomsa Mathontsi has been training with the South African senior women’s football team since Monday (03/02).

Whether she takes to the field or not, being part of the senior national women’s soccer team is already an accomplishment, says Nomsa Mathontsi. 

The BAdmin student in Economic and Management Sciences has been chosen for the Banyana Banyana squad for the first time. They face Lesotho on Sunday, 8 March 2020 in an international friendly in Johannesburg. There could be two Kovsies on the field, as Mating Monokoane, another University of the Free State student, was selected for Lesotho’s team. Both of them are midfielders.

The 21-year-old Mathontsi, who has been part of the Kovsie football team since 2018, says it will be a dream come true for her to wear the national colours. “Even if I don't get to play, I will still be proud of myself for being able to take on the challenge of going to camp and giving myself a chance to show my talent.”

“We have been together since Monday, 2 March 2020 and it has been the best experience, especially the fact that football has put me in the high-performance centre (South African Football Association girls’ academy), and now I get an opportunity to be with Banyana for the first time.”

“I was shocked when I got the call, but excited to face the challenge because it's never easy to get a call-up to Banyana, you need to work for it,” she says.

According to Mathontsi, who grew up in Mamelodi, Pretoria, her first love was athletics, but that changed during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
“I was an athlete back in primary school and it just so happened that I was selected to play football, which I never really enjoyed. I also had the opportunity to be part of the 2010 FIFA World Cup ceremonies, where I developed a love for football.”

News Archive

Young researchers are equipped to participate in projects relevant in global context
2017-09-05

 Description: Wheat genomics Tags: bioinformatics, Dr Renée Prins, Department of Plant Sciences, DNA and RNA, data sets 

This group of early career researchers received bioinformatics
training in Worcester in the UK from Dr Diane Saunders of the
John Innes Centre in the UK.
Photo: Supplied

The interdisciplinary field that develops methods and software tools to understand biological data is known as bioinformatics. According to Dr Renée Prins, a research fellow in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of the Free State, there are few tertiary institutions in South Africa that offer a postgraduate degree in Bioinformatics.

“Most institutions focus either on humans, human diseases, forest trees and their pathogens.  They usually do not have spare capacity to assist researchers, for instance, those working on crops in the agricultural sector,” Dr Prins said.

Big data sets need significant skills

With the advancements made in genomics such as high throughput DNA marker platforms and next-generation sequencing technologies, the data sets biologists have to deal with have grown massively big and cannot be dealt with unless you have significant computer skills.

Dr Prins believes that all young researchers need some level of training in this field to be effective in future. The British Council Researcher Links, being run by the Newton Fund, gives early career researchers across selected partner countries the opportunity to form international connections through fully funded workshops and travel grants. Dr Prins made use of this opportunity and with the assistance of the Department of Research Development at the UFS, she arranged for Dr Diane Saunders of the John Innes Centre in the UK, a bioinformatician of note, to present training to a group of 20 early career researchers in Worcester in the UK.

Providing training with Dr Saunders were two other bioinformaticians from the UK, Dr Burkhard Steuernagel (John Innes Centre) and Dr Robert Davey (Earlham Institute). From the UFS side, Eleanor van der Westhuizen and Dr Henriëtte van den Berg (former UFS academic) acted as mentors, providing guidance on funding opportunities and career development skills.

Participating in projects in a global context
The researchers attending the training came from research institutions or academia, and they work involving plants (predominantly wheat) or plant pathogens. A limited number of participants from the commercial sector, including private South African companies focusing on plant breeding and molecular genetics lab work on agriculturally important crops also benefited from the training. 

“Tertiary institutions in South Africa have the obligation to ensure that young scientists are equipped with bioinformatics skills. If they are not equipped with the necessary skills, they will not be able to participate in research projects that are relevant in a global context,” said Dr Prins. 

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