Local student seeks a scientific breakthrough
Hope Serepa, a master's student in microbiology and biotechnology at Wits University, could be on the verge of a scientific breakthrough that will benefit mankind.
The 24-year-old from Botlokwa in Polokwane, Limpopo, impressed judges with her project to develop antibiotics with less harmful side effects. She won a trip to Germany to share her research with her global counterparts.
Serepa is currently working on developing antibiotics from natural sources.
"The current problem with antibiotics is they are mostly synthetic and contain many chemicals, so they have a lot of side effects," she explains. "I am trying to develop antibiotics from natural sources.
"I am at present extracting it from bacteria but for my PhD I will use plants. This will have fewer side effects because our bodies accept them since they are natural."
On Friday Serepa presented her project as part of the Falling Walls Lab project. This is a platform for social and scientific innovation and accommodates 30 other young people.
After the presentations Serepa's project was chosen as the best and she won the trip to Berlin, Germany, to present her project at the Final Lab on November 9.
About 100 global candidates will convene to present their ideas and to listen to 20 other leading scientists present breakthroughs in science, the humanities, business and technology.
Inspired by the fall of the Berlin Wall the German-based Falling Walls Foundation and its partners, AT Kearney, started the Falling Walls Lab aimed at young academics and professionals from around world, asking them to predict the next social, scientific, economic, and political walls that will fall.
It started in Berlin last year.
Anna Lorenz of Falling Walls said the project was started as a way of attracting young people who are interested in innovation and ideas.
Though her research is still laboratory-based Serepa hopes to continue with it for her doctorate.
Another idea that was presented was on a steering wheel cover fitted with sensors to detect drunk drivers.
Xolani Mtshali, a UCT student interested in innovation who came up with this concept, said: "If a driver is drunk the sensors will send a message to the GPS system, which will then send a t 'pick me up message'' to a trusted taxi company.
"The company will come and pick up the drunk driver. Statistics show that 50 percent of accidents involve drunk drivers. This system is not complicated since it is a simple wheel firstname.lastname@example.org