University of the Free State | UFS | Universities | Next Generation Sequencing Unit

6. UFS-NGS Unit’s MSc student reflects on her postgraduate journey.

As we approach the end of 2023 and my final master’s year, it’s time to take a moment and
reflect on the whirlwind of events that have defined the second half of my year, says Ms.
Robyn Potgieter, a M.MedSc student at the UFS-NGS Unit supervised by Prof. Martin

We kicked off July to a great start when the UFS-NGS Unit hosted a Bioinformatics
workshop from the 03 – 07 July 2023, where I was a part of the organizing committee within
the marketing sub-committee. The workshop was a huge success with over 120 delegates
from 11 South African Universities and Research Institutions, as well as 12 other countries
mainly from Africa.

I further had the privilege of disseminating my research findings as an oral presentation
titled: “Insights into Rwandan G9P[8] rotavirus strains pre- and post- RotaTeq® vaccine
reveals significant distinct sub-clustering in the post-vaccination cohort”, at the University of
the Free State Health Science Faculty Forum on the 24 August 2023. The forum hosts
students and supervisors from all over the faculty to come together to share their research.

This research output was also disseminated in three International forums, the fourteenth
international Rotavirus Symposium in Bali Indonesia on 14-16 March 2023, the SACEV
meeting in Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, Ghana on 03-06 November
2023 and in the 14 African Rotavirus Symposium from 08-10 November 2023, in Abuja
Nigeria . In addition, I competed in the Three Minute Thesis competition (3MT) on the 18
September 2023, and presented my research as a poster presentation titled “Vigilance in the
Vaccine Era: Emerging Threats of Potentially Dangerous Rotavirus Strains”. Participating in
the Three Minute Thesis competition was a transformative experience. It enhanced my
communication skills to present my research in a compelling and accessible way. The skills I
gained in the process will undoubtedly benefit my academic endeavours.

Lastly, and the crème de la crème of my M.MedSc journey, I have recently published a
journal research article for my research in the journal Viruses. 2023 Nov 25;15(12):2321. doi:
10.3390/v15122321. (IF 5.818). The paper shared valuable insights on the circulating strains
which revealed a distinct sub-clustering pattern among post- vaccination 2015 study strains
circulating in Rwanda. This will help us to better understand the evolution and epidemiology
of the G9P[8] strains post-vaccination in this region.

From left to right: Miss Robyn Potgieter, Prof Martin Nyaga, and Miss Hlengiwe Sondlane.