Compiled by Dr Lita Pauw (FBIP co-ordinator)

The Postgraduate Student Forum was convened as part of the main BIMF-FBIP Forum for the third consecutive year.

The Forum aimed to provide a friendly and supportive environment for FBIP-funded students to share ideas and talk openly about their studies and concerns.

The Forum was attended by more than 50 students and senior delegates from approximately 17 different institutes including the Albany Museum, University of Cape Town, Iziko Museums, Nelson Mandela University, North West University, Rhodes University, Stellenbosch University, University of the Free State; University of Johannesburg, University of KwaZulu Natal, University of Limpopo, University of Pretoria, University of the Free State, University of the Western Cape, University of Venda, and the University of the Witwatersrand.

FBIP students at a glance

Dr Leigh Richards from Durban Natural Science Museum facilitated the student programme which was presented in two sessions on two consecutive days, starting each day at 17:00 after the main programme.

This year, as recommended by last years’ group, the students’ presentations formed part of the main event to enable them to get advice from specialists.

Activities offered through this years’ Student Forum included:

  • Student participation through presentations: Forty-four students presented either an oral or a poster presentation. Students were allocated 5 minutes per speed presentation each and Post-docs were allowed 10 minutes per talk (including question time). The total number of full presentations were: 9; speed presentations were 29 and 6 posters.

Career development – taxonomists

  • There was discussion on career development for taxonomists led by Dr Tshifhiwa Mandiwana-Neudani from the University of Limpopo facilitated the session and presented a talk addressing the following topics:
    • Different taxonomic approaches followed such as pure morphology, morphology and molecular analysis, combined and molecular approach only.
    • An assessment of capacity in taxonomy (2012/13) – where are the greatest need for taxonomy skills.
    • What drives the taxonomic enterprise: publications, increased outputs etc.
    • What do taxonomists typically do? What skills do taxonomists need? Where do taxonomists work? Where is the greatest need?
    • Career paths of taxonomists; including an explanation of the different levels from Level 1 where taxonomists must be in the possession of a MSc and working on a PhD to Level 5 where it is expected that the taxonomists supervise postdoctoral students, take part in very large projects and are at least B-rated.
    • In her concluding remarks she highlighted issues that emerging taxonomists experience and the importance of: understanding the milestones and achievements necessary; receiving and giving mentorship throughout a career; looking for opportunities to gain skills; being part of bigger collaboration projects; relevant research work that contribute to the country; publishing research work; and taking criticism in a positive way.

Science Communication Workshop

  • A science communication workshop covering TV production versus scientific publishing. The ever-growing online platform. Scientific communication – dos and don’ts for TV, print, radio and online media. The session was facilitated by Fortunate Phaka (NWU, PhD student) & Thula Zee Cube (Akhani Productions). Some of the main points discussed during the workshop included:
    • The pros and cons of Twitter: people using twitter must be dedicated; it is an immediate medium; it is unknown which messages will trend; messages must be short – as much information as quickly as possible; messages can go wrong etc.
    • The different approaches between print media, TV and radio were discussed.
    • How can you protect yourself in a TV interview: it is important to ensure that you are comfortable; by introducing yourself on air, permission is given that the interviewer can use the footage; know the primary points that you want to communicate; stay away from sensationalising matters; be prepared for any questions and it is okay to say “I do not know”; do not let the camera intimidate you;
    • With TV you have to show your passionate side; it is important to be ‘relatable’ and not ‘dumbing down’; use “we” rather than “humans”; all words matter – the message must be inspiring.

Postgraduate Student Forum discuss/plan/election

Richards provided feedback from the previous Student Forums and opened the floor for discussions. It was decided that the students’ inputs would again be asked for future Student Forum topics. Dane McDonald (FBIP communications) would create a Google form listing all the previous topics covered and students would be allowed to comment and make suggestions.

A new body of FBIP Postgraduate Student Association representatives for 2018-2019 were elected to represent the interest of the student community. The new representatives would replace Fortunate Phaka, North West University; Ryan Rattray, University of Johannesburg and Nqobile Ndhlovu, University of KwaZulu-Natal.

The structure of the representative-body was revamped to provide a wider regional representation over South African Universities:  

North-West & Free State Provinces: Wentzel Pretorius, North West University

Limpopo & Mpumalanga Provinces: Peral Mnisi, University of Limpopo & Brilliant Mashao, University of Venda

KwaZulu-Natal Province: Sachin Doarsamy, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Gauteng Province: Precious Mabuza, University of the Witwatersrand

Western, Eastern Cape & Northern Cape Provinces: Monica Moir, Stellenbosch University

Re-election of one of the members of the previous body (for continuity): Ryan Rattray, University of Johannesburg