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L'Or'eal-UNESCO for Women in Science grants for UKZN scientists

Dr Yogandree Ramsamy from the College of Health Sciences and Sinenhlanhla Sikhosana from the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science are among seven women to be awarded research grants from the L'Or'eal-UNESCO for Women in Science South African National Programme in recognition of the quality of their research.

The South Africa programme for the L'Or'eal-UNESCO for Women in Science South African Young Talents promotes and encourages young women in science by identifying and rewarding talented young female scientists working in formal sciences, life sciences, environmental sciences, physical sciences, engineering and technological sciences.

Ramsamy and Sikhosana each received one of five doctoral research grants of R80 000 awarded to PhD students enrolled at a South African institution completing their doctorate in a research laboratory.

Ramsamy, a qualified medical doctor who completed her master's in Medical Microbiology at UKZN, is a practicing Pathologist specialising in clinical microbiology with the National Health Laboratory Services, serving at Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital while pursuing her PhD part-time.

The mother of two describes receiving this grant as unbelievable, calling it an honour and a privilege.

"I now see myself as an ambassador, representing young women in research in Africa, and feel motivated in spreading the word of women in the world of research," she said.

Ramsamy said she would love to inspire other women so they can be a mother and have both a family and a career.

Ramsamy's research has focused on antimicrobial resistance in animals, humans and the environment, and earned her the 2018 Institute M'erieux-ICAN Young Investigator Award. Her name also appeared on the 2014 WHO's WHO in the World listing, and her research on antimicrobial stewardship was featured in the prestigious Lancet Infectious Diseases journal. She is now looking for common resistance genes between these three areas to see if there is transfer between them.

Sikhosana, a PhD candidate in the Astrophysics and Cosmology Research Unit (ACRU) at UKZN, is passionate about astrophysics, and is pursuing her research on the topic of diffuse radio emission in ACTPol clusters. She also does commissioning science for the MeerKAT telescope. Her research involves using radio telescopes to observe non-thermal diffuse radio emission in the plasma of galaxy clusters. Sikhosana hopes the project will aid understanding how this emission evolves over time and how the dynamics of the host galaxy cluster impact the formation of diffuse radio emission, with large statistical samples being used to quantify this behaviour.

"This study will help refine the formation theories of diffuse radio emission, and give insight on the merger timescales of the host clusters," she said.

Sikhosana said she was humbled and honoured to win such a prestigious award, which will enable the completion of her PhD and facilitate meeting with collaborators across the country and internationally.

As an African female in a field that is predominatly white and male, Sikhosana has had to combat a sense of 'imposter syndrome'.

"The advantage is that now I get to pave the way for younger aspiring female scientists, to make their journey less uphill than mine was," said Sikhosana.