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Masters Students

Nicky Saacks

BSc in Genetics and Human Anatomy and Physiology (University of Cape Town), BSc (Med)(Hons) in Medical Cell Biology (University of Cape Town), PG Dip Counseling (Blackford Institute)  

I am currently an MSc candidate in the Cardiovascular Genetics at HICRA, under the supervision of Associate Professors Gasnat Shaboodien and Liesl Zuhlke. 

My MSc research is focused on investigating the genetic basis of congenital heart disease in South African patients. My project will involve the use of Next Generation Sequencing and CytoScan HD array to elucidate pathways involved in pathogenesis, as well as genotype-phenotype correlations for South African congenital heart disease patients. 


Carla van Niekerk

Carla is a masters student with the Cardiovascular Genetics Unit of the Hatter Institute. She has a BSc in Behavioural Genetics from the University of the Free State and a BSc(Med)(Hons) in Physiology from the University of Cape Town. She works part-time as a junior technical assistant at the Confocal & Fluorescence Microscope Core Facility at UCT



Ms L J Victor


BSc in Human Physiology and Microbiology, BMedSci (Hons) in Physiology 

I was born and grew up in the Eastern Cape where I matriculated in 2010.  I moved to Cape Town in 2011 and began my undergraduate degree in Science at UCT.  I graduated in 2013 with my BSc degree in Human Physiology and Microbiology and went on to complete my BMedSci (Hons) in Physiology in 2014.  I started my MSc (Med) in Medicine at the Hatter Institute in 2015 under the supervision of Associate Professor Sandrine Lecour. 

My masters project involves investigating the possible cytoprotective effects of melatonin isomers against simulated ischemic injury.


Ms Tafadzwa Machipisa

mchtaf001@myuct.ac.za / taffymach@yahoo.com

I was born and raised on a farm in Harare, Zimbabwe. In 2009, I left to commence my university studies in South Africa (SA). I then completed my BSc in Biomedicine at Pearson Institute of Higher Education (formerly known as MGI) in Johannesburg and then moved to the University of Pretoria (UP) to complete my BSc (Hons) in Chemical Pathology.

I am currently a postgraduate student at the University of Cape Town (UCT) with the cardiovascular genetics (CVG) group, HICRA. My work includes working on the RHDGen Network project on Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) in Africa through the Bongani Mayosi Research Group. I am also working on my personal project on, “Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC): The molecular genetics and genealogy of founder population mutations in Plakophilin-2 (PKP2) in South Africa.”

My areas of interest, research and training include genetics, genealogy, global and public health, maternal and child health, statistics, gender and leadership.


- 2011: first female President of the SRC (Student Representative Council) at MGI; developed
  and implemented the first MGI career fair

- 2012: beneficiary of UP Postgraduate Scholarship

- 2014: beneficiary of UCT-Emory University exchange funding, studied and trained at Emory    
  University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA for Maternal and Child Health program  

- 2012- current: SAGDA (South African Graduate Development Association) advisory board

- 2015: beneficiary of the RHDGen Studentship

I am grateful to all the people, funding bodies and organizations that continue to assist me throughout my journey. I am hoping to do the same for others, in the future. I am also grateful to God and my family’s unending support.

“Better is not good enough, the best is yet to come.”-TBJ


Ms Zukiswa Jiki


BSc in Human Physiology, BMedSci (Hons) in Human Physiology

I was born and raised in the North West province where I completed my undergraduate degree at the North West University – Potchefstroom campus in 2015. I moved to Cape Town in 2016 to complete my BMedSci Honours at UCT. I am currently undertaking an MSc MedSci in Medicine at the HICRA, with the cardiovascular research group (CVG) – under the supervision of Dr. Gasnat Shaboodien (PhD) and Professor Bongani Mayosi.

My current research centers on understanding the genetic etiology of the various forms of cardiomyopathies which includes patients with arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC), dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), restricted cardiomyopathy (RCM) and peripartum cardiomyopathy (PCM)


Mr Mark Trevor Verryn

Course: Honours in Genetics

Project title: Identification of mutations that lead to congenital heart disease