UCT and NIH research methods workshops

14 Aug 2017 - 11:15

Held at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University and Walter Sisulu University

As a result of a U01 research grant awarded through a collaboration between the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), University of Cape Town (UCT) and Stellenbosch University (SUN) researchers collaborate with researchers from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), on a study of the ‘Inflammatory and cellular determinants of disease severity and treatment outcome in South African TB patients’. With supplementary funding support to provide research opportunities via our research to scientists at two historically disadvantaged universities in South Africa, we partnered with Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (SMU) in Pretoria and Walter Sisulu University (WSU) in Mthatha to firstly conduct research workshops at both institutions, and in the future, to award research fellowships for candidates from SMU and WSU to work with scientists at the collaborating institutions – UCT, SUN or at the NIAID.

Workshop at SMU

Workshop SMU


This first workshop was held from 10th to 11th August 2017 at a conference venue, Bentley’s Country Lodge, close to the SMU campus. Seventeen applicants were accepted to attend the workshop following review of their submission of research proposal abstracts. After an inspiring welcome from SMU Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Olekan Ayo Yusuf, Faculty members from SMU, Professor Mapaseka Seheri, Professor Gloria Selabe, Professor Joshua Olowuyo, Professor Chantelle Baker and Professor Siyazi Mda also joined the UCT and NIAID collaborators in presenting lectures and participating in 2 intensive small-group breakaway sessions for the development of the applicants’ research proposals. We were fortunate that Professor Alan Sher from the NIAID and Professor Bruno Andrade from FIOCRUZ in Brazil were able to travel to South Africa to join the UCT team lead by Professor Robert J Wilkinson from the Wellcome Centre for Infectious Diseases Research in Africa (CIDRI-Africa) at UCT. The other UCT team members were Professor Graeme Meintjes, Dr Yolande Harley, Dr Elsa Du Bruyn, Dr Delva Shamley (SMU workshop), Dr Maia Lesosky (WSU workshop) and Ms Kathryn Wood who supported the team with logistics and administration.

We are grateful to Professor Mapaseka Seheri for her guidance, local organisation and intensive advertising of the workshop.

The topics covered were:

  • Objectives and aims of the workshop
  • Priorities for health research at SMU
  • Clinical study design and the elements of a research proposal
  • Statistical considerations and graphical presentation of data
  • Why Immunology matters in Africa
  • Research integrity and ethics
  • Grant writing
  • Funding opportunities within South Africa

The workshop was very well received with ratings of the lectures and the proposal development small group sessions by the delegates between 75% and 95%.

The workshop ended with short presentations from each SMU delegate on their research proposal, demonstrating the progress achieved in just 2 days!



Workshop at WSU

Workshop at WSU

This workshop followed a week later from 19th to 20th August 2017 and was held at the Conference Centre in the Hotel Savoy in Mthatha, very close to the Faculty of Health Sciences campus of WSU.

Applications to attend this workshop were numerous and resulted in 35 delegates from Mthatha, Port Elizabeth and East London participating as well as 4 members of the WSU Faculty - Dr Pam Mda, Professor Zukiswa Zingela, Professor Khulile Moeketsi and Dr Busi Mrara - who also led the research proposal development groups with the UCT and NIAID leaders. Dr Pam Mda was instrumental in the local organisation and advertising of the workshop, and Professor Zingela kindly led the visiting Faculty on a tour of new parts of the WSU Health Sciences campus. We are also grateful for the kind welcome from Dr Nomabandla Cishe and Dr Vincent Nakin.

Topics covered during the lectures were similar to those at SMU as well as an interactive discussion on the experiences of researchers at WSU that highlighted a number of issues to be discussed further by the WSU Faculty team who participated in the workshop.

This workshop also ended with presentations from selected representatives of each research proposal development group, again demonstrating that the combination of intensive small-group input from the Faculty and the enthusiasm of the delegates achieved excellent progress on each delegate’s research proposal.

This workshop was also very well received with many favourable comments resulting in ratings of 85% to 95%.

Selection of the comments received:

“Thank you for this opportunity for exposure to, and education in, research!”

“Informative and relevant”

“Helped me with understanding the concept”

“Thank you kindly for involving such knowledgeable and experienced people for group leaders”

“Super satisfied”

“Group sessions: Great input/ Very good – benefitted the most from this/ Extremely helpful”