South African Fellows

Shareefa Dalvie

I was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa. In 2007, I completed my Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in Genetics & Development and Physiology, at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Thereafter, I completed my honors, masters and doctoral degrees at the Division of Human Genetics at UCT. I am currently a post-doctoral research fellow at the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health at UCT. My research interests include the genetic basis of trauma exposure in individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) using genome-wide association (GWAS) data, population structure and gene-imaging analyses. In five years, I would like to see myself in a faculty position, particularly at a university in Africa. I have a keen interest in staying in academia and hope to be able to pursue my interest in neuropsychiatric genomics. In my spare time I enjoy reading, doing pilates and appreciating the beautiful outdoors.

Michelle Hoogenhout

I live in Cape Town, South Africa. I did my undergraduate at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, majoring in psychology, genetics, physiology and biochemistry. I then went on to complete an MA and PhD in Psychology at the University of Cape Town. My research focuses on social-communication and behavior in neuro-developmental disorders such as autism. In particular, I am interested in the physiological and genetic processes that shape social-communication skills. I am currently doing a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Cape Town and Red Cross Children’s hospital, where I am working on a multinational study on the genetics of neuro-developmental disorders in African populations. In five years, I would like to be in a faculty position at a university, continuing my research into the biomarkers of autism and other developmental disorders. My hobbies include hiking, playing board games, and doing yoga.

Nastassja Koen

I am a born-and-bred Capetonian, and received my medical degree (MBChB) at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, before completing my PhD in the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health. My research interests include trauma- and stressor-related disorders among South African women, incorporating genetic and epigenetic correlations, as well as transgenerational effects. Currently, my work is nested within a multi-year birth cohort study following 1000 mother-offspring dyads in the Cape Winelands region, with a focus on epigenetic markers of maternal trauma
and posttraumatic stress disorder. I also look forward to continued involvement in the South African component of the NeuroGAP project. In the next five years, I hope to establish myself on the clinical-academic track. As such, I would hope to secure a faculty position at an academic institution, and to be engaged in neuropsychiatric genetics research conducted in South African and African populations. Extra-circularly, I enjoy hiking, running and actively planning my future with the 3-4 (slightly overweight) Labradors that I will one day adopt!

Lerato Majara

I was born and raised in a small town called Botshabelo in the Free State Province, South Africa. I completed my Bachelor’s degree in Medical Microbiology at the University of the Free State. This was followed by an Honours and Master’s degree in Infectious Diseases and Immunology at the University of Cape Town. I just started a PhD looking at the genomics of Schizophrenia in a Xhosa population. In five years I hope to be post-doctoral fellow competent in GWAS analyses. More than that, I hope to be involved in training honours and master students undertaking neuropsychiatric genomics research. Hiking is my favorite thing to do in Cape Town. At least twice a year I take part in a marathon (I’ve only ever completed half marathons) to experience the majestic views of the city. I also like going to the local food markets to try out the various delicacies

Celia Van Der Merwe

I attended Stellenbosch University in Cape Town for my undergrad (BSc Human Life Sciences), Honours (BScHons Medical Physiology), Masters (MSc Human Genetics) and PhD (MSc Human Genetics) degrees. My research focused on the genetic etiology of Parkinson’s disease, with specific interest in various aspects of mitochondrial structure and function, as well as copy number variation in South African Parkinson’s disease patients. I currently hold a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Cape Town, where my research involves the genetics of neuropsychiatric disorders, particularly Ge- nome Wide Association Studies (GWAS) in schizophrenia, pathway analysis, and signatures of selection. I am interested in the complexity of these diseases, and the current methodologies available to pry out significantly associated variants. In five years, I would like to have achieved a research rating from the National Research Foundation and have a lectureship position at a South African university teaching young students about the field of neurogenetics. Other than research, my interests include reading books and watching the adapted films, having a glass of wine during a braai with friends, and spending time with my husband and my cats.

Nathaniel McGregor

I was born and bred in sunny Cape Town, South Africa but spent the majority of my tertiary academic career in wine country at Stellenbosch University. I received my Bachelors in Molecular and Cellular Biology in 2005, Honors degree in Genetics in 2007, and a Masters in Human Genetics in 2009. From the middle of 2009 to the beginning of 2011 I was involved in the running of a molecular diagnostics company based in the Western Cape, but which offered services across South Africa and Namibia. In 2011 I embarked on PhD in Psychiatry which formed the basis of all my current research interests. Presently my research involves unravelling the molecular genetic uncertainties surrounding mental health disorders, and the treatments thereof. I focus on the molecular etiology, pharmacogenomic and population genetic contributions to the manifestation of Anxiety and Stress disorders, and schizophrenia. I am currently junior staff in the Department of Genetics at Stellenbosch University but hope to obtain a senior faculty position within the next five years whilst establishing my own research group which will focus on systems biology approaches to the psychopathology and psychobiology of mental health disorders. When I’m not at work you can find me touring South Africa’s breath-taking wine country, exploring our Arts and Culture scene, or stuck right into the latest medical or legal sitcom flavor-of-the-month.