AT SOME POINT, RAMALINGUM THOUGHT SHE WAS NOT GOING TO COMPLETE HER MASTER’S IN BIOETECHNOLOGY


The Faculty of Applied Sciences graduand, Nolene Ramalingum is excited to be graduating at the Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) 2022 Virtual Autumn Graduation, today, 16 May 2022.


Ramalingum (46) from Pietermaritzburg was faced with two major challenges during the final stage of her studies last year, 2021 which caused her major delays in her research work. At first, her son was diagnosed with a brain cyst and was hospitalised for one month. Just when her son was showing signs of improvement, Ramalingum tested positive for the dreaded COVID-19 virus.


“This was quite a daunting time in my life and at that stage it seemed like I was not going to complete my degree. However, I recovered from COVID-19, and my son was making excellent progress and I resumed my studies. Although there were so many obstacles, I am grateful that I was able to complete my degree,” said Ramalingum.

In addition, Ramalingum who is a Laboratory Supervisor at RCL Foods said her biggest challenge as a part-time student was time management. She indicated that she was forced to juggle her time between work, study and home. Sacrifices had to be made along the way and she said this involved late nights and early mornings as well as sacrificing weekends.


“The completion of my Master’s degree has really been a journey of personal transformation and I am grateful for the support from my supervisors, Prof SK Pillai and Prof K Permaul and fellow colleagues, Dr P Bhagwat and Dr A Ambonye,” said Ramalingum.


Her supervisor, Professor Santhosh Pillai who is an Associate Professor at DUT’s Department of Biotechnology and Food Science described Ramalingum as a true inspiration for younger generations, managing to complete her studies with great results despite all the challenges she faced.


Her dissertation topic: Biodegradation of poultry feather using a keratinolytic enzyme to produce feather meal was inspired by the industry she is in. Currently, she stated that hydrothermally produced feather meal which is used as a feed ingredient, and she wanted to investigate the possibility of an alternative green process to produce feather meal with better nutritional quality.


In her research, the challenged she faced was choosing the right methodology. “Many different analytical methods had to be explored before finding the most reliable one. Although this challenge was time consuming, I gained experience in different techniques and developed more skills in laboratory analysis. Besides the analytical methods, the scientific writing of the thesis was also a challenge. My professors and experienced colleagues were very helpful in guiding me to present a good thesis,” said Ramalingum.


According to Ramalingum, her research revealed that a novel Pseudomonas aeruginosa S-04 strain, with remarkable keratinolytic activity and significant potential in keratin degradation can be used for biotechnological processes revolving around keratin hydrolysis.


“However, more research can be performed to develop a more robust strain with improved keratinase production to satisfy increased industrial demands. In addition to this, the use of novel genetic engineering tools for improved keratinase production should also be another potential research area to be explored,” she explained.

She plans to study further and pursue her PhD degree as she wants to continue with research to add value to the company she is employed in and to keep up to date with recent research.


“Always keep learning, striving and believing in yourself. It takes courage to pursue your dreams. Nothing in life comes easy, but the hard work and sacrifices are worth it. During your study you will be faced with many obstacles but don’t give up. Finish your race that you started,” advised Ramalingum


Pictured: Nolene Ramalingum

Simangele Zuma

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