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Student receives international award in microbiology
2008-01-24

A postgraduate student at the University of the Free State (UFS) received an exceptional honour last month when he received the first prize for his presentation in the Biochemistry and Industrial Mycology session of the Asian Mycology Congress (AMC) held in Malaysia.

Desmond Ncango (24), a Ph.D. student from the Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology received the first prize for his presentation on the inhibitory effects of non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin on fungi.

This suggests that commonly used aspirin may be used as a cheap antifungal to combat yeast infections. Desmond also exposed novel lubricants that are used by yeasts for water-propelled movement. This may find application in nanotechnology in the lubrication of nanorobots, which are manmade miniature machines, invisible to the naked eye, which may in future be used to combat diseases such as cancer.

The conference, which was attended by more than 300 representatives from 27 countries, is a platform for mycologists (who are experts in fungi) around the world to come together and share their knowledge and research. “Many interested researchers listened to my presentation and were impressed by the novelty and scientific depth of my work,” said Desmond.

“The presentation was selected as the best because of its novelty, academic depth as well as applicability. The meticulous preparation and presentation style also contributed to the success,” said Prof. Lodewyk Kock, head of the Lipid Biotechnology Group at the department and main promoter of Desmond’s Ph.D. studies.

“I cannot really explain the feeling when my presentation was selected as the best as it was presented in a very difficult category and many senior researchers and professors also participated. I plan to use all the knowledge and skills I have learnt from Prof. Kock, who is my role model, especially to the benefit of disadvantage communities in South Africa. I want to follow an academic career at a tertiary institution when I have completed my Ph.D. studies,” said Desmond.

Desmond went to school in Botshabelo, Bloemfontein and completed his Grade 12 in 2000 with a distinction in Mathematics. He enrolled for a B.Sc. degree at the UFS, majoring in Microbiology and Physiology. After obtaining this qualification, he joined the postgraduate research group of Prof. Kock. He completed his M.Sc. degree with distinction last year and was privileged to have this research published in and on the cover of the Canadian Journal of Microbiology, a journal accredited by the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI).

He was one of six postgraduate students from the Lipid Biotechnology Group who attended the AMC conference in Malaysia. The students’ attendance was funded by the South African Fryer Oil Initiative (SAFOI), which is housed in the UFS Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology. This initiative, steered by Prof. Kock, currently monitors edible oils in the food industry in South Africa and makes a quality seal available to the manufacturers and distributors of these edible oils.

“SAFOI’s income is used to fund my own research on various kinds of oils (including yeast oils) to enable postgraduate students to attend international congresses and to partially fund international scientific symposia and congresses,” said Prof. Kock.

 

Media Release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Assistant Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: loaderl.stg@ufs.ac.za 
24 January 2008

 

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