Mpho Maduenyane is a 25 year old MSc student from Emdeni South in Soweto, Johannesburg.

Upon completion of her matric studies at Dr B.W. Vilakazi High School in Soweto, she had no knowledge of Zoology but knew she wanted to become a forensic scientist inspired by television shows such as CSI.

She then applied for a BSc degree in Biochemistry and Physiology at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). During her second year of studying, she had Zoology as an elective subject but later changed it to her major as she found it more fascinating than biochemistry.

Years later, she is now Mastering in Zoology, specialising in aquatic parasitology. I couldn’t have asked to be in any other field; the questions asked in this field and techniques used to answer them make it an amazing discipline.

“Dedication, discipline”

Mpho says the national shutdown due to the COVID 19 pandemic resulted in a delay in the experimental work for her project as she could not access the University to run experiments. 

However, she was resourceful and used the time to compile her write up, and resumed laboratory work when the restrictions were eased.

“This taught me that you can always make the best out of any given situation no matter how bad it may seem – this entire journey has also taught me that you can attain any goal you set for yourself through dedication and discipline,” she says. 

She is grateful for the guidance she receives from her supervisors: “they have made this research journey seem easy and fun”.

Drive advancement

As part of her MSc thesis, Mpho is currently conducting research on parasitic flatworms that infect the skin of the African sharptooth catfish, an important aquaculture species on the African continent.

Her study uses light and scanning electron microscopy techniques to identify the parasite morphologically, and DNA analyses to genetically profile the parasite to species level.

Furthermore, she studies the pathological effects of the parasite on the skin of its fish host.

She says the study will contribute to biodiversity information (which is currently limited for these species) and future research to control this parasite in aquaculture systems.

In terms of her career aspirations, she has her sights on becoming a researcher that will drive advancement in the field of parasitology.

“My goal is to become an academic lecturer and later Professor of Parasitology, specialising in parasite taxonomy and contribute to the limited knowledge about our country’s parasite biodiversity,” she says.

Institution: University of Johannesburg

Project title: Aspects of the morphology, taxonomy and pathology of Macrogyrodactylus congolensis (Prudhoe, 1957) infecting Clarias gariepinus (Burchell, 1822) in a research aquarium.

Supervisor: Prof Annemariè Avenant-Oldewage

Co-supervisor: Dr Quinton Marco Dos Santos