Dr Nirasha Nundkumar received her PhD in Biochemistry with love from her family.

Biochemistry Technician Achieves PhD Triumph

Senior Biochemistry Laboratory Technician at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Westville campus, Dr Nirasha Nundkumar, graduated with a PhD in Biochemistry after successfully balancing her full-time duties as a technician with her research on nanomaterials in gene delivery.

Nundkumar’s research centred on the important field of gene therapy, wherein treatment of the underlying cause of a disease or condition rather than simply its symptoms is becoming increasingly possible. Gene delivery, however, is still one of the major hurdles in gene therapy strategies, which led Nundkumar to choose this area of study in the hope that she could contribute to the development of efficient gene delivery systems.

‘Coupled with nanotechnology, this project opens a new window in the area of nanomedicine and in the development of potential therapeutic gene or drug delivery carriers for the treatment of genetic disorders, including cancer,’ said Nundkumar.

Nundkumar, who matriculated at Burnwood Secondary, pursued a degree in Chemistry and Biochemistry at the then-University of Durban Westville (UDW), followed by her Honours and Masters in Biochemistry. After achieving her masters in 2002, Nundkumar worked at the University’s Chemistry department as a tutor, in the Biochemistry department as an ad-hoc lecturer and in the Pharmacology department as a laboratory technician. She returned to the Department of Biochemistry as the senior laboratory technician in 2010.

The research in Professor Mogie Singh’s laboratory sparked Nundkumar’s interest. She approached Singh to supervise her research on the design, synthesis, characterisation and biological application of hydrotalcite-like nanomaterials in the area of gene delivery.

Singh commended her for the immense determination she showed in the pursuit of her degree and continued commitment to her work in the research laboratory.

‘I am extremely proud of her achievement today,’ said Singh.

Completing her PhD, said Nundkumar, gave her a sense of confidence and satisfaction, for what had been an interesting and challenging project.

Nundkumar is continuing her work as a senior technician, providing important research support to researchers and postgraduate students. She hopes to pursue an academic career in the future. She expressed her gratitude to Singh for being a supportive and encouraging supervisor, adding that she deeply appreciated Singh’s guidance and mentorship.

Words: Christine Cuénod