Fieldwork in South Africa for WISE CDT Student

WOliviaSouthAfricaISE CDT Bath student Olivia Cooke is currently in Stellenbosch, South Africa at the start of her fieldwork and three month research trip. Here is an update on what she has been doing since she arrived:


Autumn in Stellenbosch along Victoria Street, the main road next to the University

I landed in Stellenbosch, three weeks ago and since arriving everything has been a bit non-stop. Stellenbosch University and the town are beautiful, lying in a valley surrounded by vineyards and mountains. I am currently based in the Microbiology Department at Stellenbosch University and will be splitting my time between the lab and going to my field site.

To prepare me for my fieldwork and collecting and analysing my data I have just finished two weeks of microbiology lab training! At the start of the training I felt as though everyone was speaking a foreign language, but slowly, with the very kind help of Dr Khan’s students who I am sharing a lab with, I think I am starting to understand and improve. My training has included preparing equipment such as autoclaving sampling equipment, preparing agar and plates, undertaking dilutions and PCR training. Whilst by no means skilled, I have noticed an improvement in my pipette technique since the first day!


University buildings on campus at Stellenbosch Uni

The first week of my stay, also included a visit to Enkanini, the informal settlement where I will be collecting my samples. Just a 15 minute drive from the University and when we arrived it felt like we were in a different world walking through the informal settlement- and that’s what it unmistakably is- an informal settlement. There is a clear relationship between Stellenbosch University and Enkanini, with some of the residents greeting us as we walked to some of sites already used in research by other students. This relationship between the settlement and university is what makes my research so unique and makes me so lucky to have this opportunity to collect data and I am very much looking forward to starting my fieldwork next week!


A view over Stellenbosch taken from part way up Stellenbosch Berg

Olivia would like to thank the Microbiology Department at Stellenbosch University and more specifically Dr Khan and all the students in the Khan lab for their help in teaching me, as well as allowing me to use their facilities. She would also like to thank the University of Bath Future Research Leaders Incubator Scheme for awarding her the grant enabling this research visit.

Olivia is also writing a blog of her experiences during her fieldwork, which can be found at