Monthly Profiles

Caroline Pule

May 2014 | PhD student, Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, University of Stellenbosch

Caroline PuleMs Caroline Pule is currently enrolled for a doctoral degree (PhD) at Stellenbosch University, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, in the division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics. She is an MSc graduate in Medical Sciences: Molecular Biology and passed her degree with 1st class from Stellenbosch University. Moreover, she completed her BTECH in Medical Biotechnology from Faculty of Biomedical Sciences, Cape Peninsula University of Technology with an overall achievement of 14 distinctions (2007-2011). Her PhD program focuses on Tuberculosis (TB research): host-pathogen interaction and mycobactomics field. She is aware of the challenges faced by public health with the TB epidemic in South Africa and her research may lead to the development of novel drug targets to combat spread of drug resistant TB).

1) Briefly describe what your study involves.
My research project focuses on understanding the physiology of drug resistant and tolerant Mycobacterium tuberculosis. I investigate this question by using several cutting edge research technologies. My research also involves writing papers and I am currently completing one of my review articles for publication.

2) What inspired you to enrol for this course?
ver since High school (grade 10) my dream was to be a medical scientist, in order to find cures for incurable diseases and help improve public health. This is my big inspiration which keeps me focused. I am also passionate about medical research, writing and presenting at national and international conferences.

3) What would a typical week of your studies entail?
Interestingly enough, it will include experiments within the lab, analysis of my data and writing of my review articles. During my spare time, I read scientific papers relevant to my research. I also attend laboratory and research meetings.

4) Where did you hear about your study program?
I searched the internet for information and then made an appointment with my current supervisor for more information about the research project.

5) What are some of the challenges you have experienced?
I am a perfectionist and it is therefore not surprising that my biggest challenge is patience; accepting that not all experiments are successful at first try, or second or third attempt. Nevertheless, due to the fact that I love my work and training as a medical scientist, I have learnt to accept that this is the nature of "science".

6) What are some of the highlights of your study program i.e. your achievements?
I have been given many opportunities to present my research at national and international scientific meetings. In addition, I have received several scientific awards for my research presentations at conferences and for my academic achievements. Wow! It has been a great blessed career journey and I want to thank God for all the opportunities and teaching me the value of hard work. There have been many achievements which have motivated me to keep working harder.

7) What are some of the skills you have acquired during your studies?
Research exposes you to many arenas which develop you as an individual and I have acquired many skills during my training program which include: (i) leadership skills such as problem solving, critical thinking and decision making, (ii) communications skills required for networking at various meetings (iii) presentation skills, (iv) writing skills such as writing a research proposal, research articles for peer review and dissertations for examination, (v) technical skills such as molecular and microbiology techniques and (vi) life skills such as time management and planning.

8) What advice would you give girls who are considering a career in science, technology, engineering or mathematic (STEM)?
Firstly, very important!! Is self-esteem and believing you've got what it takes to reach your goals, that everything is possible through hard work, determination and the grace of God. Without self-motivation, it is hard to start a career in any field, as any career comes with its challenges. Secondly, when considering a career in STEM, it all starts in high school; you need to have science subjects as majors and to volunteer in science and technology clubs etc. As this will help you discover where your qualities, career goals and passion lie in STEM. Thirdly, you need to work very hard, work consistently, be smart and run-the-extra mile to get good marks, especially grade 12 results. This will help with acceptance at tertiary level and obtaining bursaries. Lastly, life is about choices, it doesn't matter what family you come from, whether rich or poor; that doesn't limit you as a young woman to pursue your career dream, to be that Doctor, Engineer, Scientist or Mathematician you want to be. All you need to do is be focused, vigilant, willing to excel in all you do and use every opportunity that comes your way to succeed.