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Natasha Potgieter

Executive Dean: Faculty of Science, Engineering and Agriculture, University of Venda

I have established a focus research group on ONE HEALTH which do research on all aspects of one health from water quality, sanitation and hygiene aspects, the role of infectious diseases in the transmission of diarrhoeal diseases related to water/sanitation/hygiene problems, antimicrobial resistance surveillance and treatment options with plant extracts. I concentrate on rural and peri-urban communities in South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, epidemiology of enteric bacteria and viruses, TB epidemiology and treatment options using plant extracts, where most people are exposed to various food, water and sanitation related diseases and where water and sanitation infrastructures is either non-existing or totally inadequate. I include undergraduate and postgraduate students to the very basics of molecular tools and they use this as a baseline to then go into more advanced molecular techniques. Through my group I have managed to produce research articles that is relevant to problems we are facing today and I have mentored several staff and students. All the technical reports listed in my outputs are the basis for further research work done in my lab and from this work I am publishing articles and training the young generation in my field. Not only are we developing novel tools and testing them in the field and lab, but we are also teaching and showing these young people how to adapt to the environment and use basic techniques to develop state of the art/novel techniques to solve problems. Several publications also show the collaborative work I am doing with the University of Johannesburg where I am a visiting Professor. This mutual work relationship has in the past 15 years grown to be beneficial for both institutions. The discussions and the mentorship relationship between UJ and my lab have opened the doors for more staff members to be part of the group. Many of my research output is multi-authored because I believe in teamwork and I believe in providing a platform for my students to learn from me in publishing. I also make it a point that PhD students deliver a minimum of 3 research papers on their work and MSc students deliver at least 1 peer reviewed paper. Although my position as Executive Dean is administratively very demanding, it does not stop me from still being active as a researcher and I am proud of what I have achieved despite the workload. I also bring in research projects; mentor staff and postgraduate students and take care of my own research group and supervise masters and doctoral students. Ongoing and future research will continue to enhance the ONE HEALTH research and keep focus on health-related water microbiological aspects with a strong emphasis on infectious diseases and the role hygiene practices, sanitation issues and water quality plays. Molecular techniques will be used to develop fast and reliable identifications systems for these diseases to determine contamination pathways. I will concentrate more on enteric viral and parasitic infectious diseases and establish protocols in the lab to be used by post graduate students. The data generated from my research the past 25 years has shown the importance of having more interdisciplinary research carried out on social aspects combined with microbiological health aspects to produce solutions in combating infectious diseases in rural households. I will include more female MSc and PhD students in my research program basically because the problems Africa as a continent is facing must be eradicated and throughout history woman has played a fundamental role in the household and community with regards to basic hygiene and sanitation issues and water quality issues.


  • 2023–present
    Executive Dean, University of Venda