The CERI family is expanding: Four Bright Minds Join CERI to Combat Epidemics Through Innovative Research


The CERI family is expanding! With the addition of new students and staff, we are excited to showcase our growing team in this month's news and newsletter. Together, we continue to foster an environment of collaboration, innovation, and excellence in research and education. Stay tuned as we eagerly await more talented individuals to join us in the upcoming months!

The Centre for Epidemic Research and Innovation (CERI) proudly announces the addition of four exceptional students to its cohort, all poised to make significant contributions to the field of bioinformatics and epidemic management. Among them are Danilo de Castro Silva, Yandisa Ntatiso, Somila Ntsiyane, and Kerwin Liedeman.

The Centre for Epidemic Research and Innovation (CERI) proudly announces the addition of four exceptional students to its cohort, all poised to make significant contributions to the field of bioinformatics and epidemic management. Among them are Danilo de Castro Silva, Yandisa Ntatiso, Somila Ntsiyane, and Kerwin Liedeman.

Danilo de Castro Silva, a computer science Masters student from Brazil, is the sixth student from Brazil that has spent time in South Africa with Prof. Tulio de Oliveira as part of South-to-South collaboration. Danilo’s research focuses on optimizing biological data pipelines and storage, critical for effective epidemic research and precision medicine. 'I love the teamwork and love that the CERI team has towards each other' said Danilo as he reflects on the first few weeks of his time at CERI. Danilo is supervised at CERI by Dr. Joicy Xavier from Brazil and Dr. Marcel Dunaiski from the Computer Science Department of Stellenbosch University.

Yandisa Ntatiso, a South African Honours student in Bioinformatics at Stellenbosch University, who completed her undergraduate studies at the University of the Western Cape, finds inspiration in the diverse range of research opportunities available to students at the university. She stated, 'I wanted to be part of an institution that distinguishes itself through expertise and contributions to research.' Yandisa's project will involve the Genomic Analysis of the West Nile Virus, specifically exploring the interhost genetic diversity and phylogenetic relationships of the virus. Yandisa is being supervised by Dr. Monika Moir from CERI.

Similarly, Somila Ntsiyane, also a South African Honours student in Bioinformatics at Stellenbosch University, was drawn to the institution due to its diverse field of studies and inclusive approach to supporting students in their academic careers. She mentioned, 'It is refreshing to be part of an institution that is all encompassing, offering assistance with research, funding, and even small things such as making friends.' Somila is excited to work with experts in various scientific fields at CERI and gain insights into global challenges from diverse perspectives. Her research will explore the genetic diversity of HIV and the drug resistance mutations associated with it and its implication on antiretroviral therapy. Somila is being supervised by Dr. Eduan Wilkinson and Dr. Marije Hofstra from CERI.

Completing the quartet is Kerwin Liedeman, a HPCSA registered Medical Biological Scientist (Virology), who will be pursuing a PhD in medical virology in the Department of Medical Virology at Stellenbosch University. Kerwin recently graduated with a MSc from University of Cape Town (UCT), where he worked as an intern at the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) under the leadership of Prof. Marvin Hsiao at UCT. Kerwin is being supervised by Prof. Tulio de Oliveira and Prof. Corena De Beer from Division of Medical Virology at Stellenbosch University.

With these four exceptional students, CERI continues to uphold its commitment to fostering inclusivity and excellence in epidemic research. CERI's dedication to diversity and inclusivity is evident in its constitution, emphasizing the importance of having a student body that represents the broader population. Currently, approximately 60% of CERI's students are female, and about 90% represent candidates from Black, Coloured, Indian, and Asian (BCIA) backgrounds.

Prof Tulio de Oliveira, the director of CERI, expressed enthusiasm for the new additions to the research community, stating, 'Having Danilo, Yandisa, Somila, and Kerwin join CERI is a testament to our commitment to fostering a diverse and talented group of researchers. Their unique perspectives and expertise will undoubtedly enhance our ongoing efforts to combat epidemics and promote global health.' He also adds ¬ďImportantly, CERI is also expanding the pool of supervisors with the next generation of scientists playing a leading role in guiding the students.'

As CERI continues to lead the charge in epidemic research, the inclusion of these bright minds signifies a remarkable step forward in their mission to create a safer world and address public health challenges through innovative bioinformatics and data-driven approaches. Their inspiring vision, coupled with the esteemed supervisory team, promises to generate cutting-edge discoveries that will transform the landscape of epidemic research and pave the way for a healthier, more resilient future.

News date: 2023-08-03

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KRISP has been created by the coordinated effort of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) and the South African Medical Research Countil (SAMRC).


Location: K-RITH Tower Building
Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, UKZN
719 Umbilo Road, Durban, South Africa.
Director: Prof. Tulio de Oliveira