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Chemical sisters graduate with flying colours

Chemistry runs in the blood of the Fraser family. While Gillean Fraser has graduated with an MSc in Chemistry cum laude, her sister Stephanie has graduated summa cum laude with a BSc Chemistry Honour's degree.

Both sisters completed their secondary education at Northlands Girls High School with exceptional results.

After completing her undergraduate and BSc Chemistry Honour's degrees at UKZN with outstanding results, Gillean's passion led her to embark on a Master's degree in organic synthesis, under the supervision of Professor Neil Koorbanally.

Gillean's Master's degree involved three major sections: synthesis of nine novel quinoline chalcone compounds, characterisation and complex nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) analysis of these compounds, and finally, antibacterial testing of these compounds. Gillean enjoyed the NMR techniques the most, as "it's very much like a puzzle, so it really gets the cogs turning".

The impact of Gillean's research work is that the compounds she synthesised are novel, and the antibacterial activity impressive. These compounds can be explored in future development of antibacterial drugs.

"Gillean has always been an exceptionally hardworking student," said Koorbanally. "Her interest in medicinal chemistry and passion for discovering new drugs has led to her success during her Master's. She has a bright future ahead of her."

Currently, Gillean is working as a Data Insights Analyst at Touchsides. She attributes her ability to branch out and thrive in the business world to her background in science.

Younger sister Stephanie initially registered for a BSc degree at UKZN as she felt that the institution gave all students an equal opportunity to succeed regardless of their background. She praised her lecturers' scientific advancement and commitment to tackling global changes, citing this as her inspiration to pursue a similar scientific career path.

Stephanie described her Honour's studies as a transformative year, where, through an intense period of learning and development, she was able to establish a clearer vision of a career in research. Her project: "Preparation of cellulose-based nanocomposite thin films and their application as alternative luminescent conducting materials" is under review for the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) journal, Materials Advances.

With the help of a National Research Foundation grant, Stephanie is currently studying towards a Master's degree in Chemistry, looking at the design of nanocomposite materials for application as sustainable biosensors, under the supervision of Professor Werner Van Zyl.

Both Fraser sisters play the violin and piano in their spare time. They credit their success to God and family.

Proud parents, Drs David and Leigh-Anne Fraser commented: "It has been a great pleasure for us, both UKZN alumni, to see our two eldest children following science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) qualifications, which equip them so well for many career options in the world.

"It has been thrilling to have Professor Koorbanally, who was a fellow student, now supervise our eldest daughter Gillean's postgrad research and also be deeply involved in our second daughter Stephanie's undergrad and Honour's work. He is a first-rate researcher and inspiring leader.

"We are thankful that the university has provided our girls with a high-quality, world-class education that stacks up with the best anywhere."

Author: Leena Rajpal