PhD Student Receives S2A3 MedalAgriculture, Engineering & Science

Mr Tawanda Mandizvo.Mr Tawanda Mandizvo.

UKZN’s College of Health Sciences PhD student Mr Tawanda Mandizvo (26) won the coveted S2A3 Medal, a scholarship awarded for the best Masters Dissertation in Science, Engineering or Health Sciences in the University.

‘I am greatly honoured and humbled to receive this award. There is always joy in knowing that your contribution to a successful project is recognised,’ said an excited Mandizvo. ‘I am deeply thankful for the support I have received from my colleagues at the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH), in particular Mr Ian Maheti Mbano and my research advisor, K-RITH Investigator Dr Frederick Balagaddé,’ he added.

According to Mandizvo, this award is living proof that when ordinary students like himself are given an opportunity, they can make meaningful contributions towards finding solutions to healthcare challenges.

‘By receiving this award I have become certain that there is a place for me to contribute to the advancement of science in southern Africa,’ he said. 

The Zimbabwean-born Mandizvo offered his sincerest gratitude to the Southern African Association for the Advancement of Science for this honour, ‘It is a great honour and has made me more aware of the role I could play, working towards the betterment of the lives of the African people through finding more affordable solutions to healthcare challenges.’

He dreams of a future where an individual technologist will be able to perform hundreds (or thousands) of medical tests at once, using a single microfluidic chip. He says this will multiply the effective output of individual clinical technologists, whilst lowering medical costs and increasing access to healthcare solutions, thus bridging the healthcare resource gap in the developing world.

Mandizvo is currently pursuing his PhD at UKZN, based in the Bioengineering Lab of Dr Frederick Balagaddé at K-RITH. As part of his PhD research he is developing medical microchips that will help to control the devastating HIV and TB co-epidemic in South Africa and beyond.

His research is on the development of high throughput research platforms and scalable diagnostic solutions using microfluidics technology.

‘This is with the aim of providing low-cost, sample-in-answer-out disease diagnostic devices to address the HIV and TB epidemics,’ explained Mandizvo. 

‘This microfluidic diagnostic technology on a chip (and microfluidics research in general) is the first of its kind on the African continent, so I am really thrilled to be part of its pioneering success,’ he said.

Mandizvo said he was conducting his research to acquire expertise on the best and current technologies as well as clinical practices that will empower him to help create a healthier and more economically viable South Africa and Africa as a whole.

‘I plan to have my projects addressing the needs of communities and geographical areas in southern Africa and Africa as a whole. For instance, I would be thrilled to see knowledge and technology solutions that I have helped generate, be translated into new practical solutions that can be adopted in government departments (eg Departments of Health) and thus benefitting the ordinary people that are most affected by disease,’ he said.

Mandizvo has a BSc in Biochemistry and Chemistry summa cum laude (UKZN), BSc Honours in Medicinal Chemistry summa cum laude  (Rhodes University) and a Master of Medical Science degree summa cum laude (UKZN). 

Nombuso Dlamini