Friday, August 29, 2008


The Africa that I am building has a golden platter in front of it that will never be empty and has the ability not only to feed its own people but to feed the nations of the world.

I finished a deadline of trying to finish modeling blood flow in arteries of patients with thinning arteries. And you can see how I like to frame the work for myself. I like to imagine myself helping people though I know full-well, I work in an environment that does not care about applying the work to people to help them. So I just tell myself and others “it’s for patients,” “it’s for patients,” and hopefully I will find a way to make it so. I’m trying to get a electron micrograph (really small) images of an HIV virion because I don’t have medical laboratory equipment because I’m working on my own with HIV research. And I need to get moving on that one regardless if the grant comes through or not. I’ve e-mailed people trying to get access to those lab images. So we’ll see.

So I will have results for the blood flow problem soon. In the meantime I wanted to share with you about some of the “exciting” research that went on at UCT this past year in 2007. The 2007 report just came in. As I was listing some things, I realized that many may not be comprehensible outside the field, so I simplified some of them.

*Measuring the environmental impact of sugar production in South Africa

Vegetation dynamics

*Age-distribution theory in Polymer research

*Gel Fuel Research—using ethanol gel in fuels for cooking in low-income homes (energy alternatives)

How international competition boosts SA car industry

**The Moral Economy of AIDS in South Africa

How academic staff learn to judge student performance

A National Benchmark Tests Project to see how new national curriculum prepares

students for university (esp. entry-level academic and quantitative literacy)

Research on use of information and communication technologies in transformation

A group found evidence of plate tectonic movement in Greenland dating back to 3.8

billion years ago (before known structural geological records of Earth)

Genes for Africa: Genetically Modified Crops in the Developing World (trying to

alleviate hunger

New set of tools to classify all the world’s land plants

First trial of genetically modified (GM) crop [they will test a GM corn carrying mutated

form of the maize streak virus; the plant has resisted infection consistently]

Population Dynamics and conservation of the African Black Oystercatcher

Mapping distribution of butterfly species across Southern Africa and finding challenges

over next 4 years

*Seaweed growth rates in “integrated aquaculture”

The Archaeology of the Coastal Desert of Namaqualand, South Africa: A regional

Synthesis – book

Digitizing Plant collections so people can see them online

Shelters for silvermine fynbos (plant from which you get redbush and honeybush tea in

the states) – checking how fynbos react to drought

New estimation system to clean up the data on exploding stars

***Freedom of association and trade unionism in South Africa: From apartheid to the democratic constitutional order

***Experiencing the Armed Struggle: The Soweto generation and after – about current

difficulty of life for those in the military wings of the ANC or PAC before the end

of apartheid

*Race, Body, and Language in Shakespeares’s Sonnets and Plays - Shakespeare’s

assumed take on the racial politics of his time

Our Director of the Fine Art School won a Doctorate of Literature from UCT for her

lifetime contribution to scholarly publications especially on the visual as a “site of

interpretation” raising questions on the relationship of text to image and object,

the definition of a book, and the potential of “knowing through making.”\

Narrating our Healing: Perspectives on Working through Trauma – joint work by a lit

prof and a psych prof to offer victims of trauma hope for a new life

Uncommon Etudes from Common Scales – jazz professor’s book

Process and outcome evaluation of a school-based HIV/AIDS prevention intervention in

Cape Town high schools

Oral vaccines for HIV and other diseases due to the tendency of saliva to protect you

The South African Child Gauge 2006 – maps poverty in children

***Polyclonal antibodies that could be clinical markers for gastric diseases

Hidden Costs of Lung Disease on Miners

New Insights on key proteins in fungal infections

Knowledge Translation Unit at UCT’s Lung Institute working to teach nurses more (diagnosis/treatment of respiratory diseases) due to lack of doctors

Popular Hairstyles might cause hair loss – talks about how braiding and corn rows can

lead to permanent hair loss; also found that very short hair cuts made men more

prone to developing acne on scalp

Paediatric Trauma & Child Abuse

Study that shows exercise (at least in rats) could decrease motor function impairment in

fight against Parkinson’s

***Saliva prevents HIV transmission – study shows mucous glycoproteins (called

mucins) can block HIV-1 activity. The inhibition of HIV-1 activity by crude

mucus and purified mucin from saliva, breast mile, and the cervical tract of

normal subjects, HIV-positive individuals and patients with HIV-AIDS confirms

the suspicion that a macromolecular component in saliva traps the HIV virus

completely, making transmission impossible


*an award

**a Book that won an award


Lastly, I just wanted to let you know I’ve finally finished modeling the blood flow through thinning arteries. I will be performing some experiments to see how it looks and works and to see if the flow is acting like blood or incorrectly like some other less viscous fluid like water. It took awhile and some weekends working, but we’re moving. Maybe I can present the work at a biomedical or bioengineering conference. We shall see.

Incidentally, in the area of computational mechanics (the very very broad subfocus [speaking paradoxically] I mainly work in here), we are having the first truly international conference in Sun City (some fake city—resort city in SA that a lot of international musician/performers boycotted during apartheid). My supervisor doesn’t have the money to send the entire research group to the conference as he has done for past Cape Town conferences, so he e-mailed me asking what I would present so he could decide. I didn’t like having to motivate why I should be chosen (I’m currently his only post-doc, the rest are PhD students, masters students, and 1 guy who is both a research officer and a PhD student which just means he makes more than me, a postdoc; oh he does have two lecturers as well). I didn’t like it all. So I told him what I would/could present but that he is free to take a younger student or someone he feels would get more out of it, that it didn’t matter that much to me. Well, that’s what he did. He has been unfairly upset at the slow movement on the artery project and disappointed (I had to stop TAing this semester), so I think he wants me to stay and do more work. He said that I could submit to another conference (biomedical) when the work was more mature. So we’ll see. One of his masters students told me she doesn’t know why she is going because she doesn’t have anything to present.

Starting next month, I’ll hit the job trail again. My (and my friend’s) application is in with NASA as I plan to apply every two years for the astronaut position until I get it. This would take me back to Houston for sure. I wouldn’t mind working for NASA as an engineer either. I think their work is rather cool. I wonder if I would feel like that after working day-in day-out for them. It’s nice not to have a desk job. One thing I will definitely be looking at more is international development jobs. And, unlike this year, regardless of whether I get something or not, I will still move on as this current position is a max two year fellowship/appointment.

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