When Ms Siddharthiya Pillay was awarded the Emma Smith Scholarship at UKZN’s Scholarship awards ceremony in 2017, she was excited about the prospect of pursuing her Masters in Management of Bioeconomy, Innovation and Governance degree overseas.
Fast forward to 2019 and Pillay has not only achieved her goal of completing her master’s degree at the University of Edinburgh, but through this experience, has also accomplished various impressive achievements. These include: being awarded the Edinburgh Award for Professional Development for her participation in skills development and public engagement; being involved in Edinburgh University’s Female Voice Choir which raises money for various charities, and winning a journalism competition that culminated in a day of work experience with an Arts and Culture magazine called The List.
‘I am very grateful to UKZN and the Emma Smith Trust for granting me the scholarship,’ said Pillay. ‘Edinburgh was such an enriching experience which has contributed significantly to me attaining career goals. I really enjoyed adjusting to a new culture and pushed myself to delve into opportunities and make friendships and get involved in networks that will last.’
In her masters dissertation, Pillay – who has completed two degrees summa cum laude in Biomedical Science – conducted research on attitudes towards digital health technologies for the Macmillan Cancer Support, one of the largest British charities that provides specialist health care, information and financial support to people affected by cancer.
‘My previous Masters in Medical Law was a helpful stepping stone into the field of innovation and governance in biotechnology. Both fields discuss how medical innovations are governed and how healthcare systems are built and respond to population changes. Personally, I feel that one of the most important findings was that older people, although hesitant towards technology use, can be persuaded by trusted individuals and exposure to the technologies. Running pilot trials and classes and information sessions can aid technology acceptance in these cases,’ said Pillay.
Going forward, Pillay plans to concentrate on innovation and governance in biotechnology as she is very passionate about working in this field in South Africa.
‘I plan to take what I have learned and contribute to the development of South Africa. We have a wonderful country but there are aspects that need attention. Healthcare is one area that needs to progress so more people can enjoy the benefits, especially the marginalised and destitute. I am interested in how technology is going to aid this progress,’ said Pillay.
Words: Thandiwe Jumo