College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

Breaking Down Bacteria with Master’s Graduate

Breaking Down Bacteria with Master’s Graduate

Ms Carrie Jacobs began her academic career in the Medical Sciences where she obtained her undergraduate degree in Anatomy.

‘I have always been interested in human diseases, and so Anatomy gave me a feel for how the human body is structured and how it works,’ she said.

She then joined the School of Life Sciences to pursue her Honours degree in Microbiology. The human pathogenic bacterium: Pseudomonas Aeruginosa, was the focus of her work and later shaped her Master’s research.

Bacteria causes damage to the body because they “talk” to each other using chemical signals, and therefore, can work together. Jacobs looked at how to stop Pseudomonas Aeruginosa by making it “think” that it was alone and could not do any damage. ‘We did this by taking other bacteria from sea sponges and using all the chemicals that they make to see if any of them would have this effect on Pseudomonas. Our results were very promising,’ said Jacobs.

She believes that her research plays an important role in how antibiotics are developed in the future. ‘Antibiotics are becoming less and less effective and any research on alternative forms of treatment will prove very important in the future,’ she added.

Jacobs admits that her Master’s journey has been difficult but fulfilling. ‘A Master’s is a taxing process. It really requires your full dedication if you want to put out quality research. Having said that, it was truly rewarding and I grew a lot as a person,’ she said.

Academic success is not a new phenomenon to Jacobs. She achieved both her undergraduate and Honours degrees summa cum laude. After achieving an 84% mark for her Master’s, she has ended of her studies on a high note. She attributes all of her success to God who is a constant source of strength for her. She also gives thanks to her supervisors and lecturers, Dr Hafizah CheniaProfessor Ademola Olaniran and Dr Roshini Govinden for their mentorship and support. She also acknowledges the National Research Foundation (NRF) and UKZN for providing funding opportunities for her. ‘I was entirely self-funded and so financial support in the form of scholarships really got me through my degrees,’ she said.

Jacobs is currently in doing an internship at the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA). Looking to the future, she is considering doing a PhD or a pursuing career in programme management.

Words: Sashlin Girraj
Photograph: Rajesh Jantilal