Current final year medical student at UKZN, 24 year old Mr Kumeren Govender, has been awarded the prestigious Rhodes scholarship 2018 for travel, living and study expenses at Oxford University, England. Oxford was recently ranked as number one in the world by The Times Higher Education World Rankings of Universities.
Govender plans to pursue a PhD degree at Oxford in an interdisciplinary field of artificial intelligence (deep learning), big data and complex systems. He commented, ‘The aim of this is to use big data from healthcare systems or genomic data to solve complex healthcare threats including patterns of diseases such as the emergence of drug-resistant TB or antibiotic resistance, which is predicted to be the number one cause of death by 2050.’
Govender’s numerous academic accomplishments began when he completed his Grade 12 year with 12 distinctions (Tamil being one of them) from Durban’s Star College. Accepted into UKZN’s medial programme, Govender continued to soar and during his undergraduate years of study has published three peer reviewed articles, written letters to editors and presented papers at conferences.
Govender joined the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) as a research placement and has been mentored by renowned scientists; Professor’s Salim and Quarraisha Abdool Karim, who inspired him to develop an interest in clinical science. He also acknowledges his supervisor Dr. Yoshan Moodley who has been instrumental in every step of his development.
Govender’s academic achievements include being placed in the Top 5 ‘intellects’ of the International Science Competition in Abuja, Nigeria; receiving a medal from the International Sustainable World Energy, Engineering and Environment Project, Texas; being awarded the Dean’s Commendation for every semester; the Vice-Chancellor’s Scholarship for the top 3 students in the College of Health Sciences and the Golden Key Chapter Award 2014 for best all-rounded achiever. He was also nominated as UKZN’s top 40 most inspiring students 2015 and awarded as one of the top 200 young South Africans 2017 by Mail & Guardian.
Govender also initiated the South African Medical Students Association branch at UKZN two years ago to ensure collaboration among medical schools nationally and is also the president of the Golden Key International Society at the medical campus. He is also an academic mentor and is currently writing an internal medicine guide for medical students.
Altruistic at heart, Govender is also actively involved in the community and coordinates numerous charity events and awareness campaigns such as “World TB Day 2017-Unmasking Stigma” and “Women’s March against violence” which saw an unprecedented group of marches parading to Durban City Hall to end gender-based violence and human trafficking which gained the attention of the EThekwini (deputy) mayor who was present together with numerous other well-renowned figures.
Govender believes art is an integral part of the development of each human being and enhances the process of learning. As such, he plays numerous instruments and the highlight of his music career was playing in a classical violin concert in Frankford, Germany. He also swims the Midmar mile, which is the world’s largest open water swim.
Govender commented on his future plans, ‘I hope to bridge knowledge from developed worlds to developing worlds and contribute to pioneering innovative and interdisciplinary solutions that are globally relevant to ultimately improve the lives of those burdened by diseases.’
Govender thanked his parents, Dr Nadaraj (a senior lecturer at UKZN) and Sarojini Govender (a teacher in a semi-rural school) and grandparents for their persistence to excel in life. Dr Govender responded to the news of the scholarship, ‘Kumeren was always inquisitive and asked numerous questions while young’ while his mum added that he was ‘always persistent, independent, hardworking and eager to try out new ventures’.
Govender will spend a few months studying classical music in India before heading off to Oxford University late next year.