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“You can be constrained by your circumstances, but you should never be defined by it”, says Dr Terblanche’s

By Mandisa Mtimkulu 15 December 2021

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Dr Unisa Terblanche’s academic journey has been decorated with outstanding academic achievements. A mother of 3, who started with her PhD late in life, says that it has been enriching and self-actualizing in a way that she would never have imagined.

She has published articles from her PhD research and collaborative publications with other departments, received the Rector’s Award for Teaching Excellence (RATE) in 2005 and 2012 and visited Colorado State University in 2017 as part of the Academic Research Exchange Program where she conducted research in the field of tissue engineering.

Dr Terblanche has always been fascinated by the complexity of the skin and the healing of wounds. “My mother is in the medical profession, and we grew up with many stories about the difficulty in treating chronic wounds, especially in the elderly. This motivated me to develop a keen interest in wound healing modalities”. Dr Terblanche’s thesis aimed to ascertain the medicinal efficacy of?Carpobrotus edulis?and?Cotyledon orbiculata?as wound healing agents.

“Despite all the setbacks, including funding challenges and electricity outages when working with sensitive equipment, the support from colleagues and my supervisors have been phenomenal, and the journey has been one that I would not change for the world”, says Dr Terblanche.

Her advice to aspirant PhD students is to focus on resilience and discipline. Confirm that you have support structures in place, forget about reading books, watching movies, or pursuing hobbies. The next 4-5 years should be dedicated to your studies alone. Be systematic and consistent. Write one page a day, even if you throw it away afterwards. Stay in the habit of penning down your thoughts and observations. It’s much harder to leave the writing to the end.