Herding cattle and working the lands on his grandfather’s communal farm as a young boy is how Dr Munyaradzi Christopher Marufu fell in love with agriculture. Today he is a senior lecturer, teaching veterinary parasitology at the University of Pretoria.
Picturing a working life for himself in any other sector is impossible, says Marufu. He teaches undergraduate veterinary science and veterinary nursing students about parasites in domestic and wild animals. He also supervises post-graduate students in their research on these parasites.
“Becoming a veterinary parasitologist needs curiosity and an interest in the subject matter. You must be eager to learn about parasites, their interaction with the environment and their animal hosts,” says Marufu.
Advising youngsters, Marafu says, “There is no substitute for hard work, so keep working hard and people will notice and recognise your efforts”.
This is another exciting career that the diverse agri industry offers in a world of career choices. But don’t take our word for it, listen to AgriSETA Learner Connect for free on your favourite podcast channels, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts to gain first-hand knowledge on various options available.
Ok, now it’s over to Dr Munyaradzi Christopher Marufu, senior veterinary parasitology lecturer at the University of Pretoria:
1Could you sum up your job for us? As a senior lecturer teaching veterinary parasitology I teach undergraduate veterinary science and veterinary nursing students about parasites of domestic and wild animals. This includes supervising post-graduate research students investigating these parasites. I also assist in the diagnosis, research and treatment or control of animal parasites such as ticks, fleas, worms or protozoa.
2So, what does the day-to-day of your job entail? Lecturing undergraduate students on various topics in parasitology, including characteristics, life cycles, modes of transmission, current and future trends, and control of animal parasites.
As a researcher I assist post graduate students to learn various aspects of parasites at a community, national and international level. Some time is spent in the laboratory doing research and diagnostic work. This includes using different methods to identify animal parasites and recommending treatment and control for these parasitic diseases.
What qualification do you need for this career? A Bachelor degree in veterinary science (BVSc) or science (BSc) is a requisite and then you have to do a Masters of Science (MSc) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in veterinary parasitology. You also have to do research and gain teaching experience in veterinary parasitology.
4What are the character traits you need to be great at your job? A veterinary parasitologist needs to be curious and show an interest in the topic, wanting to learn about the different parasites, their interaction with the environment and their animal hosts. People skills are a must. Veterinary parasitologists should be able to communicate with other veterinarians, researchers, farmers and animal owners to identity the parasites and how to control them in different animal species. A veterinary parasitology researcher must also be able to analyse problems to do topical animal parasite research.
5What subjects do I need to become a veterinary parasitologist? Science subjects are absolutely essential if you want to become a veterinary parasitologist. Mathematics, physical science, life sciences (biology) and agricultural sciences are the key study subjects in the under-graduate and post-graduate training.
6What do you love about agriculture as a space to work in? Having grown up in an agricultural community, I have learnt the interdependence of humans, animals and the environment and have come to appreciate the important roles that each of these plays in livelihoods. I love that we get to take care of animals and they in turn also provide for our needs. We both share the responsibility of taking care of the environment which sustains us all. In doing my work in the agricultural space, I help to fulfill some of these roles.
7Don’t be modest, tell us about your proudest career moments? Admission to the South African Young Academies of Science (SAYAS) is a proud moment of my career. This notable accolade places me amongst South Africa’s top early career academics, giving me the chance to make meaningful contributions to society through my research in veterinary parasitology. I can mentor young and budding scientists and advocate for veterinary parasitology among learners in different communities where I work.
8What do you do when you’re not at work? Having two young children and two adopted dogs keeps one quite busy outside of work! Apart from spending time with my family I love jogging and playing social soccer with my friends. Recently due to the covid-19 restrictions, I have started learning Python coding language and hope to develop apps that can be used in the identification and control of parasitic diseases.
9Any advice for young people who are inspired by your career story here on AgriSETA Learner Connect? I have been taught that there is no substitute for hard work, so keep working hard and people will notice and recognise your efforts. Be willing to be mentored and keep a strong hold on a good mentor. Lastly, strive for excellence. Be a person of integrity and be the best you can be in your chosen career path or part of the world.
10Where can I study to become a veterinary parasitologist? The University of Pretoria is currently home to the only veterinary faculty in South Africa and has produced many top veterinary parasitologists, hence it would be the first place that I recommend. They currently partner with the Institute for Tropical Medicine (Antwerp, Belgium) and this is another renowned institution where one can train to be a veterinary parasitologist. There are other South African universities and agricultural colleges that offer animal health as well as veterinary schools within the Southern African region and overseas which may offer veterinary parasitology training.
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