‘Lindokuhle Ntombela is a poster boy for good results,’ said his supervisor, Professor Naven Chetty.
‘He graduated with a BSc Honours degree summa cum laude and has now completed his MSc in Physics in 18 months and it is cum laude. He is an example of how hard work, commitment and tenacity breed success.’
Ntombela’s thesis – from which two manuscripts have already been submitted for publication – was titled, Fabrication of Tissue-like Phantoms for the Use in Biomedical Imaging. This involved studying laser light penetration and its probable effects through different biological tissues simulated using tissue-like materials.
‘Increasing diagnostic and therapeutic applications of laser light have necessitated the development and creation of phantom tissue better to understand its propagation and the response of different tissues to the incident laser beams, and to provide a better understanding of the laser choice for a specific application,’ said Ntombela.
‘This research was strategically planned to investigate and develop a cost-effective method to study laser propagation in the human brain, bladder and lung tissues at a certain wavelength.’
Ntombela explained the significance of his research: ‘The effect of exposure to ultraviolet radiation of certain biological tissues is a relatively unexplored area. It is only recently that researchers have begun to document the harm caused. The interaction of laser light with various biological tissues at classi?ed wavelength needs to be further explored, and this study was designed to address this issue.
‘The first goal was to develop and create phantom tissues with properties related to the human brain, bladder and lung tissue. The use of phantoms in place of biological material is an effective alternative in initial tests of imaging device and procedure since it is independent of the variables introduced by real subjects.
‘The second goal was to understand the laser light penetration and interaction as a function of optical properties such as index of refraction, scattering, absorption and anisotropic factor. These optical properties determine the mechanism of laser tissue interaction in that special case, enabling the development of new biomedical diagnostic and therapeutic techniques.’
‘I was happy to finish my masters cum laude in 18 months,’ said Ntombela. He is currently registered for a PhD under the supervision of Chetty and Dr Oluwabamise Adeleye.
‘Academically, Professor Chetty and Dr Adeleye have been of immense guidance. In addition, the role of my family through their prayers, motivation and general support cannot be overemphasised. UKZN is the best in research with many interesting areas of research.’
In his spare time, Ntombela enjoys running, soccer matches and house jams.
Words: Sally Frost
Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan