CLEARING 2016: PhD student's research to help combat infections caused by parasites


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A student at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) is hoping to reduce infection and improve public health by researching one of the key causes - parasites.

Haafizah Hoosen is looking at how common specific emerging human parasites are in Leicester's environment, their possible impact on its population and how their detection methods could be improved for her PhD.

Haafizah main

This increased knowledge could help develop new ways to protect the population from these biological hazards.

Haafizah always knew she wanted to do research that would help people - but this wasn't an area that appealed when she first came to DMU to study Biomedical Science.

She said: "Microbiology was the last thing I wanted to go into, but being on the DMU course changed my mind.

"I went on placement and decided I loved it. I wanted to look at infection, the impact on public health and ways we can efficiently combat it."

The 23-year-old was "so happy" to land a place on the PhD and graduating with a 2:1 meant she was eligible to apply for the programme.

She said: "My supervisor, Dr Antonio Peña-Fernández, had just started a research project into parasitology. We're looking specifically at microsporidia, a group of emerging pathogens. Studies show they are opportunist pathogens in children and the elderly and in patients with compromised immune systems.

"Parasites can be detected microscopically. We're looking at detecting them molecularly as well, which is more efficient and will provide us with more specific information about their presence in the environment."

Haafizah is pleased to be continuing her studies at DMU, having originally accepted an undergraduate place through Clearing.

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She said: "I knew I wanted to go into science and although I'd got into another university, I decided the course was too narrow.

"The DMU course appealed because of the variety and the Institute of Biomedical Science accreditation, which means you don't need to do a top-up course to work in a hospital, so are more likely to get a placement.

"The clearing process was clear and simple. DMU could answer all my questions and I secured my place the same day. It was an amazing feeling for me and my family!"

Haafizah, who lived on the Isle of Man after moving from South Africa, gained vital skills during her four-year course, which included a year's placement in a hospital as a trainee Biomedical Scientist.

She said: "The experience was invaluable and got me a place on the PhD."

Haafizah, who only started her doctoral research degree in January 2016, has already accepted invitations to two International Congresses in Parasitology and Environmental Toxicology.

She is also reaping the benefits of her extra-curricular activities.

She said: "I was really involved in the Islamic Society and was Head Sister for half of my second year. I had quite a lot of responsibility but wouldn't have changed the experience.

"Working in an environment that I'm not used to and balancing that with university life was really useful for time management and helped me on my placement.

"If I hadn't done these, I wouldn't be able to do a PhD and spend time wisely and efficiently."

Posted on Monday 4th July 2016

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