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Lab Members

Laboratory Head: Dr. Pierre Durand



Current lab members

Andrew Ndhlovu

MSc. student: 2012-2015 (graduated with distinction); PhD student: 2016-Present

MSc. project: An evolutionary rates database EvoDB and alignment algorithm to infer protein domain function

Ph.D. project: The metagenomics of an algal bloom

Andrew's PhD project will use a metagenomics approach to investigate changes in microbial communities (abundance and composition) during an algal bloom on the west coast of South Africa.


Karen van Niekerk

Ph.D. student: 2018 - Present

Karen joined the ECL in 2018. She has an MSc in Medical Biochemistry and has worked in educational publishing. 
Karen's PhD project will examine the molecular pathways involved in programmed cell death in a unicellular organism, Prorocentrum triestinum, which is a causative organism in algal blooms.


Viktor Radermacher

ECL culture curator and lab manager: 2018 - Present

BSc. Hons. with Distinction in Palaeontology (2017)

MSc. candidate in Palaeontology (2018 - Present)

Viktor joined the ECL at the start of his Master's degree in 2018, having recently completing his Honour's degree in Palaeontology. At the ECL, Viktor is primarily responsible for managing the laboratory and the culture collection. He has also taken over as content-manager of the ECL web page.
Viktor's Master's research involves using high-resolution synchrotron CT-scan data to reconstruct, reassemble, and describe the cranial anatomy of the South African theropod dinosaur Nqwebasaurus thwazi. This data will then be compared to other meat-eating dinosaurs to assess the phylogenetic position of Nqwebasaurus.


Jasper Grobler

MSc. student: 2017 - Present

Jasper's MSc project (which is being undertaken in collaboration with the CSIR) entails the biochemical characterisation of South African indigenous microalgae for biofuel production potential. He also aims to obtain more information about the isolates from the Microalgal Culture Collection South Africa (MiCCSA), which are maintained in duplicate at the CSIR and the University of Witwatersrand.

Jasper was employed at the Biomanufacturing Industry Development Centre of the CSIR from January 2016 to April 2017 where he was involved with bacterial fermentation (1 - 1000 L), microalgal culture (0.1 - 200 L), upstream & downstream bio-product processing, and related analytics. 


Jonathan Featherston

Ph.D. student: 2011-2017

Project title: Genomic and genetic changes during the transition to multicellularity in the volvocine algae.

Jonathan's research involves genome sequencing of Tetrabaena socialis in the Volvocine lineage. The aim of the research is to identify the molecular basis for the evolution of complexity in this lineage, starting with the simplest colonial member T. socialis.



Past lab members

Postdoctoral Fellows

Santosh Sathe (2014 - 2016)

Rajdeep Choudhury (2012 - 2013)


PhD Graduates

Nisha Dhar (2016, Thesis - The molecular evolution of complexity at the origin of life)

Dewaldt  Engelbrecht (2015, Thesis- Plasmodium falciparum: programmed cell death in the erythrocytic stages)


MSc Graduates

Andrew Ndhlovu (2015, Thesis - An evolutionary rates database EvoDB and alignment algorithm to infer protein domain function)


Laboratory visitors

Professor Alexey Grigoryevich Desnitskiy (2017), St. Petersburg State University

Mr. Abhishek Upadhyay (2015), University of Hong Kong

Mr. Nishant Garg (2015), Boston University Medical School

Professor Cristian Solari (2015), University of Buenos Aires

Professor Rick Michod (2014), University of Arizona

Mrs. Yogita Dolas (2014)