French couple clinch PhDs, marriage - and a pair of daughters

12 December 2012

They found a marriage officer on Gumtree, then got married, in secret, at the Aquarium in Cape Town - on April Fool's Day!

To top that, French couple Sofia and Renauld Stathopoulos will receive their PhDs this month, Sofia's on the molecular evolution of Olfactory Receptor (OR) genes across African mole-rat species, and Renaud's in bioinformatics, with a focus on gene expression deconvolution, which estimates cell proportions and cell-specific gene expression from high-throughput gene expression data such as micorarrays or RNA sequencing.

April fools? Not likely...

Sofia came to Cape Town from Florence, Italy, to do her honours in molecular and cell biology, because she wanted to gain experience in an English-speaking country that was not the US or the UK.

"I loved both UCT and the city. Once back in Europe, I met Renaud in Paris and we decided to move back here do our PhDs. Renaud was working in mathematical finance at the time, and wanted to do something else, something more meaningful," she says.

"We really love Cape Town, and after five years, we feel that this is our home, where our two daughters were born. We're very impressed by UCT."

They will be graduating on the same day because they are both attached to the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology.

The couple also opened a Capoeira school - Capoeira Cordao de Ouro South Africa, four years ago - which is thriving.

When they are not studying or enjoying Capoeira, this unusual couple is kept busy by their two daughters, Paola (3) and Dafne (eight months).

"They are amazing, although they kept us up at night for most of our PhDs," says Sofia.

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