Mr Dillon Sivalingam graduated cum laude with his Master of Science (MSc) degree specialising in Biochemistry.
After matriculating with six distinctions at the young age of 17, Sivalingam decided to stay close to home and pursue a Bachelor of Science degree at UKZN majoring in Biochemistry and Genetics. He received Dean’s Commendations and attained an A aggregate every year and a UKZN scholarship and Acacia Operations Services Award for the Best Student in first-year Chemistry, an award for the Best Student in Chemistry II and membership of the Golden Key International Honour Society.
Fascinated by the world of research, he took a keen interest in Professor Mogie Singh’s laboratory which focused on cancer-related research projects. This inspired him to pursue his honours degree, which he was awarded cum laude.
His strong interest in cancer-related research and the fact that several of his family members were diagnosed with the disease motivated his master’s research that aimed to improve the delivery and increase the potency of the drug cisplatin used to treat lung cancer while minimising side effects on normal healthy cells.
Sivalingam believes that his research results will inform future research on improved treatment therapies for lung cancer. He is currently a Research Scholar at the University of Vermont and is investigating undertaking a PhD in other areas such as reproductive health.
Sivalingam described his studies as extremely stressful as he worked in the lab seven days a week with little time for a social life while also working as a teaching assistant and demonstrator.
‘Overall, the experience taught me a lot about science and myself. I know now that I am more resilient than I thought I could be, and that no matter the challenge I will always conquer.’
During his spare time, he engages in Pilates, yoga, and gym.
Singh described Sivalingam as an exceptional student with an excellent academic record and a passion for science: ‘One of Dillon’s strengths is his enthusiasm, which led to a publication on the ACE2 receptor in lung cancer which was published this year. I hope that he takes this enthusiasm forward into his future career,’ she said.
Words: Leena Rajpal
Photograph: Rajesh Jantilal