College of Law

Keeping law up to date with science

Dr Safia Mahomed

Unisa’s Dr Safia Mahomed does great things at work and in communities across South Africa and beyond. That’s proven by the accolade she recently received as one of four winners of the 2018 Principal’s Award for Excellence in Research.

Targeted at young developing researchers below the age of 35, the prize is an annual award for achieving academic research excellence in a research cohort comprised of scholars who are in the minority throughout the national higher education system.

Keeping all her balls in the air, Mahomed juggles between tuition, research, community engagement and academic citizenship. She is one of three Unisans teaching the Introduction Law module to 10 000 students per semester. Furthermore, she is involved in sessional lectures at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) Steve Biko Centre for Bioethics and supervises postgraduate students, both at Unisa and Wits.

As Chair of the College of Law’s Biotechnology and Medical Law Flagship, Mahomed is actively involved in community engagement projects. "We arrange an average of four activities per year on topical, relevant issues that impact our communities," she explains. Insofar as academic citizenship is concerned, Mahomed keeps the ball in the air by participating in institutional and national committees, including the UNESCO National Bioethics Committee. Daily she commits to her research.

Dr Safia Mahomed spoke with the news team about her experience as a 2018 Principal’s Award for Excellence in Research awardee:

What is your field of research?

My field of research is broad and includes human tissue legislation and biobanking, access to healthcare, health law and bio-technology, and human rights and bioethics.

What inspires you in your research field?

Our communities, in specific, research participants, inspire me, as they make scientific discovery possible and give of themselves altruistically with little expectation in return. This is why it is so important to ensure that research participants are safeguarded against exploitation and other forms of harm.

What factors influenced you to choose this field of research?

My mother, who is a health activist.

What are your research highlights and achievements?

  • One of the outcomes of my PhD thesis was that a material transfer agreement (MTA) was gazetted (GG 41781) for national use in 2018. I worked with the Department of Health to make minor amendments to the document, in readiness for its national use.
  • Another outcome of my PhD thesis is a draft set of Regulations for Biobank research in South Africa, requested for use by the National Department of Health in 2017.
  • My LLM dissertation was utilised by the South African Medical Association to make representation to the Portfolio Committee of Health at Parliament in Cape Town, regarding Chapter 8 of the National Health Act and its regulations - towards recommendation for amendments, in 2013.
  • Achieving the 2018 Principal’s Award for Excellence in Research and being awarded a Vision Keeper’s scholarship by Unisa in 2018 motivate me to strive further.

What was the highlight of the 2018 Research and Innovation (R&I) Award ceremony for you?

The diverse topics and the scholarly achievements by Unisa academics.

One thing you have learned as an award-winner?

Hard work always pays off, against all odds.

What’s your advice to Unisa female academics chasing their career goals?

As young black women, we face several hurdles. However, perseverance always reaps rewards. Never give up.

What to expect in future from Dr Safia Mahomed?

I am currently shifting my research trajectory towards ethico-legal issues of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) in the context of healthcare... watch this space.

Unisa academic's research on biobanking now SA policy

* Interview by Lesego Ravhudzulo, Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2019/04/02