UKZN’s Dr Kamini Govender is one of only nine South African Young Scientists who will attend – along with more than 600 international delegates – the 72nd Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting in Germany from 25 to 30 June.
The nominating partner, the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) in co-operation with the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), hosted a pre-travel meeting and science communication training on 15-16 May for the selected young scientists to prepare them for what to expect at the Lindau gathering.
According to the DSI, the nine young scientists interacted during the pre-travel meeting with alumni who had attended previous Lindau Nobel Laureate events hearing about their experiences and the opportunities involved. In Lindau’s quest to continuously strive to increase the quality and internationality of the candidates, their scientific review panel has selected 635 of the most qualified young scientists from more than 90 countries to participate in this year’s Lindau meeting.
‘I am very honoured to be nominated as one of nine outstanding young scientists to participate from Africa and also to be among the 40 Nobel laureates and the other pioneering young scientists attending,’ said Govender.
‘My mother, who was a Natural Science teacher, inspired me to strive to be my best. During my studies I came across many renowned scientists in literature and was always fascinated by Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie.’
Govender said she enjoyed learning about the unknown and had a curious nature, constantly asking questions.
She was recently a post-doctoral research fellow in Medical Biochemistry in the School of Laboratory Medicine Medical Science under the supervision of the College Dean of Research, Professor Anil Chuturgoon. She is currently an ADHOC-lecturer for MICR 213 (Bacteriology) on UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus.
Govender is from Shakaskraal on KwaZuluNatal’s North Coast. ‘I was born with a visual impairment which was discovered in my schooling career. In high school I was fascinated by science after learning about DNA,’ she said. ‘Therefore, after matriculating, I pursued a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in Biochemistry and Microbiology. My enthusiasm for science led me to continue studying towards a BSc Honours and Master’s degree in Biochemistry. I thereafter joined the Fourth Industrial Revolution in drug discovery and did a PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry, whereby I produced academic excellence and successfully cloned human insulin and purified it using innovative sub/supercritical fluid chromatography.’
Govender has published results of her research in seven peer-reviewed papers in high-impact factor journals, and presented at nine conferences both locally and internationally. She won best poster in the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC)/South African Chemical Institute Young Chemists’ Symposium-2020, and served as a reviewer in Frontiers in Endocrinology (Impact factor of 6.055).
Govender is currently a member of the following renowned scientific bodies: the South African Society for Microbiology (SASM); the South African Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (SASBMB); the European Federation for Medicinal Chemistry (EFMC) Young Scientists Network, and the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD).
Govender’s research expertise is multidisciplinary, encompassing Biochemistry, Microbiology, Pharmaceutical Biochemistry and Medical Biochemistry. Her current research focus is on COVID-19 drug discovery.
She says in her undergraduate studies, the late Dr Patrick Govender taught about the central dogma of biochemistry pertaining to DNA, RNA, and proteins. ‘I am very passionate about proteins and biochemistry, as I worked with recombinant human insulin and FLO-encoded mannoproteins in my PhD and master’s degrees. I enjoy being a biochemist and making a difference,’ she shared.
Attending the 72nd Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting will be the first time she travels to an international scientific meeting. ‘I would like to thank ASSAF, National Research Foundation (NRF) and DSI for the opportunity and also Professor Anil Chuturgoon for hosting me as a post-doctoral fellow and believing in me.
‘I commend the camaraderie at the Medical Biochemistry Department. It was inspiring to work with other female scientists such as Dr Rene’ Khan and Dr Terisha Ghazi. They provided a wonderful and conducive research environment.’
Words: Lunga Memela