Introducing the Student Ambassador for Mauritius

Devina Lobine - SANBio Student Ambassador for Mauritius

Dear Fellow Students and Researchers,

I am honoured and pleased to have been selected by the Southern Africa Network for Biosciences (SANBio) to be their Student Ambassador for Mauritius.

My name is Meenakshi Devina Lobine. Born and raised in Mauritius, I have grown into a hardworking and ambitious woman. I am thankful to my parents who have left no stone unturned to educate me and to instill the essence of self-esteem and self-dependency in me.

I began my journey by enrolling on a Bachelor's degree programme in Agricultural biotechnology at the University of Mauritius in 2007. I chose this degree knowing that it will empower me in my future career to address challenges related to conservation, agriculture and pharmaceutics. After graduating, I joined the Food and Agricultural Research Council where I worked as a 'Assistant Research Scientist' for a year.

The strong passion for science and the enthusiasm for doing constructive work have pushed me to join the world of research as a postgraduate student. I am finishing my PhD degree at the University of Mauritius in close collaboration with Durham University (United Kingdom) and University of Pretoria (South Africa). My current research, entitled 'Validation of biological properties and phylogeny of Aloes endemic to Mascarene Islands' consists of a multi-disciplinary approach (Botany, ethnopharmacology, molecular biology, phylogenetics, and metabolomics) to study the medicinal Mascarene Aloes.

My increasing interest in the natural product pharmacology has geared my attention towards the search of modern uses of these Aloes and eventually my current focus will be their neuropharmacological attributes. I was fortunate to have received a few sponsorships including Tertiary Education Commission Postgraduate Scholarship, the Commonwealth (PhD) Split-site Scholarship, the Durham Biophysical Science Institute 1+1 fellowship and the H3ABioNet/SANBio Post-graduate Scholarships for 2015-2016 to pursue my placement for my PhD degree.

During the past years, I noticed that many students are ignorant of the opportunities available for scholarship or fellowship applications. I have constantly advised and guided some students explaining the procedures involved in the application process and recently I came up with the idea of constructing a blog. The blog 'Stand up for Science' serves as platform to inform Mauritian/African students about scholarships/fellowships (PhD positions), as well as workshop and funding opportunities. The long term goal is to gather early career students and scientists onto one platform where they themselves give their individual views and are inspired to choose their path toward a successful career. The achievement of starting a blog has been a technical challenge which took me outside of my comfort zone.

As a young enthusiastic scientist, I am grateful to SANBio for serving as a platform for scientists from various fields across many countries to communicate national and global challenges, as well as the opportunities available. This platform highlights the importance of fostering collaborations and partnerships at various levels to ensure development and growth in science and technology, especially biosciences, which is the key avenue to address global challenges such as poverty, hunger and climate change. As a Student Ambassador, I want to empower students and young scientists by creating a synergy of networking and collaboration between them and the various national and international funding bodies.

Furthermore I will ensure that the Mauritian students are informed about workshops/trainings or courses that will be organised across the African countries, and potential funding opportunities. It will be my high priority to campaign for SANBio to make it a globally recognised biosciences network, by sharing its goals at workshops, seminars, conferences and on social networks. It is of paramount importance to demonstrate how Biosciences can significantly create entrepreneurial opportunities and eventually produce socio-economical outputs required for the development of African countries. I believe that the SANBio platform will provide me with the right tools to develop my leadership potential, communication and networking capabilities which are essential for my future endeavours as a scientist.

An active and empowered generation of young people, who have a say in deciding their future - this is my vision. I firmly believe that with the right education and support, the knowledge and skills can be built upon to address the major challenges faced including malnutrition, diseases, biodiversity loss and climate change in Africa.

Ms Devina Lobine

SANBio Student Ambassador for Mauritius