Angela Hobbs (South Africa; PhD student (June 2012 – June 2016)

I completed my BSc degree at the University of Johannesburg, majoring in Chemistry and Biochemistry. My love for genetics was sparked after listening to a family member tell me about her meeting many years earlier with Professor Trevor Jenkins, a human geneticist from the University of the Witwatersrand, and how he had helped her and her family understand how and why the Rhesus Factor (Rh factor) Incompatibility had caused the death of her first born child.

I obtained my MSc degree through the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. My MSc involved working on an autosomal dominant skin disease known as Keratolytic Winter erythema.  After obtaining my MSc, I worked for two years with Professor Himla Soodyall  for the National Genographic  project (sub-Saharan African centre).  I enjoy the complexity of epigenetics and the role it plays in the development of certain diseases. I also find Mendelian disorders particularly interesting. For this reason i would say my research interest are molecular genetics and epigenetics.

I joined the Non-Communicable Disease Research and Leadership Program in 2011 as the Project co-ordinator and later went on to apply for one of the available PhD scholarships. My research is titled “Genome-wide gene expression analysis of black South African women who develop gestational diabetes” and is supervised by Professor Michele Ramsay and Professor Shane Norris. My research aims to identify genes that display significant differential expression in black South African women who develop gestational diabetes and to identify whether this aberrant expression is due to DNA methylation. Significant gene expression and abberant DNA methylation patterns will be studied in the placenta exposed to the adverse intra-uterine environment that gestational diabetes imposes to identify the effect this has on the developing fetus.

The programme has provided me with an invaluable opportunity to complete my PhD in a scientifically nourishing environment where I am constantly mentored and encouraged by highly skilled and accomplished leaders in the field of genetics. The program has given me insight into the importance of networking and what a leader is. There are many skills that I have achieved by being a part of this program, skills that I can take away with me and use in my future endeavors. During my scholarship I was chosen as a candidate for the Novartis-CRG-Africa mobility program. This programgave me the opportunity to conduct research at the Center for Genomic Regulation (CRG) in Barcelona for six months.

Special achievements i have been awarded thus far: Selected as one of the students to conduct high quality research at the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) in Bracelona Spain for 6 months.