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Prestigious award inspires Renaan to achieve more
29 January 2018

“Receiving this award has tremendous significance by not only motivating me to keep pushing and doing better, but also proving to myself that I can achieve more than what I deem possible. This is the first award of such calibre that I received.”

Mr Renaan Shane Thompson, a PhD (Plant Pathology) student at the University of Pretoria (UP), was recently awarded the African Mycological Association (AMA) award for the Best Oral Presentation by a student at the 44th South African Association of Botanist (SAAB) congress held at UP.

The title of his presentation was ‘Seed-borne Sydowia polyspora isolated from pine (Pinus species) seed within South Africa’. He is supervised by Prof Theresa Aveling (Plant Pathology, UP), with Dr Merwyn Beukes (Biochemistry, UP) and Prof Guro Brodel (Fungal seed pathology, NIBIO, Norway) as his co-supervisors.


Renaan’s PhD, titled ‘Prevalence, isolation and characterization of Sydowia polyspora from pine (Pinus spp.) in South Africa’ and his research has thus far shown that the fungus is pathogenic on seedlings of three of the most cultivated species in the country. This is the first report of the fungus being isolated from pine within Africa and his findings have been submitted for publication and he is currently in the process of submitting his second publication.

He started his tertiary education in the Department of Plant Pathology (now part of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences) at UP in 2004 and completed his undergraduate, honours and master’s degree at the University. His commitment to his studies is prevalent being a Golden Key student up to honours level.

Renaan’s honours and master’s degree was focused on developing a method to test for four Fusarium species from maize. “I have published the work in the South African Journal of Botany and the method is in the process of being submitted to the International Seed Testing Association (ISTA), where upon validation and acceptance, will be used to test for the fungi wherever maize is imported or exported,” he explains.

Renaan is the First Technical Assistant in the Plant Pathology division and responsible for all the practical coordination up to honours level amongst other duties. 

- Author Martie Meyer
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