College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

Ms Tasmiyyah Ebrahim graduates top of her class with a summa cum laude Bachelor of Science degree.

Balance Work and Play, Suggests Top BSc Graduate

Ms Tasmiyyah Ebrahim has graduated top of her class with a summa cum laude Bachelor of Science degree majoring in Biochemistry and Microbiology.

Many factors influenced her decision to study at UKZN, including its reputation as a top research-focused university providing academic excellence in both teaching and learning. ‘UKZN is highly ranked in South Africa, therefore I knew my future would be in good hands,’ said Ebrahim. ‘A lot of my family members also attended the University and have very fond memories of their time spent there, which also motivated me.’

From a young age, Ebrahim knew that she wanted to study science. ‘I was always fascinated by the world of science and saw myself working in a lab wearing a white coat which motivated me to choose Microbiology and Biochemistry as my majors. My love for biology and chemistry and my interest in microbes that developed in high school further led me in the study direction I chose,’ she said.

‘Throughout my three-year degree, I enjoyed the modules I studied, especially my third and final year as I delved deeper into the different aspects of microbiology and biochemistry,’ said Ebrahim. A highlight for her was time spent in the lab where she learned many different, new and interesting techniques and procedures.

She described her academic journey as a rollercoaster ride with many highs and lows. One of the most challenging aspects was the consequence of the pandemic when teaching and learning moved online.  ‘Personally, I found this transition challenging and I felt overwhelmed and pressurised,’ she said.  ‘My family, friends and the University helped me persevere, adjust and cope, however, I am sad that COVID-19 prevented me from enjoying the full university experience.’

Highlights of her time at UKZN were lasting friendships made and memorable relationships built with peers and lecturers. ‘My degree granted me the opportunity to grow and develop, and it pushed me to better myself. It also challenged me and allowed me to expand my knowledge, teaching me valuable life skills such as accountability, time management and responsibility,’ she said.

Ebrahim stressed the importance of balancing work and play and recommended creating and sticking to a study timetable if good results were the goal. ‘This helped me cope with the workload without feeling excessively overwhelmed and burnt out.’ She encouraged students to prepare well in advance for tests and exams.

‘My degree taught me the importance of a healthy mind and mindset to achieve success,’ she said.  ‘Prioritise your mental health and listen to your body. Take time out to relax and rest and take regular breaks during study sessions. Most importantly, never give up – even if the journey is tough. Remember what motivated you to choose your degree and use that to fuel you through the difficult times.’

Ebrahim, who wants to work in the food microbiology and bioprocessing fields, is currently securing internships at different companies in order to gain experience and insight into different microbiological techniques and improve her knowledge, skills and resume.

Ebrahim cites her family’s support as the foundation for her success. A “dedicated bookworm”, she also enjoys cooking and spending quality time with her family.

Words: Sally Frost

Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan