It was all smiles when Ms Talia Chetty heard that her MSc degree in Chemistry had been awarded cum laude. Chetty, who was supervised by A-rated scientist Professor Fernando Albericio and Professor B Garcia De-La-Torrre, submitted a dissertation focused on the design, synthesis and evaluation of antibacterial peptides.
‘Talia is an example of clear perseverance,’ said Albericio. ‘Working in a medical chemistry programme is difficult, because many times the theoretical hypotheses are not met in practice. Through hard work, Talia was able to identify a peptide that could be a good starting point to move forward on the long path of discovering a new drug.’
‘I was honestly unsure about pursuing a master’s degree during my honours year,’ said Chetty. ‘It was only during the second semester, after picking a peptide chemistry elective module, that I felt passionate about furthering my studies in this particular topic. UKZN has an extremely sophisticated peptide lab which made it the obvious choice.
‘I’ve always found the process of drug discovery fascinating as these discoveries positively impact and save lives. The role of chemists in this process cannot be overstated.’
Chetty hopes that her research will inspire strategies to improve the efficacy of therapeutic peptides.
‘I am excited to continue learning about this field in an industrial setting,’ she said. ‘My goal is to join a research and development team in a pharmaceutical company.’
Chetty credited her family for her success, saying that they had always emphasised the importance of a solid education and made it a priority.
When not in the lab, Chetty spends her spare time outdoors, hiking, fishing and playing golf.
She had the following words of advice for fellow students: ‘Research is 99% negative results and 1% positive. Don’t give up, the 1% will happen.’
Words: Sally Frost
Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan