A PhD student in Medicinal Plant Sciences at the University of Pretoria, Ms Analike Blom van Staden was recently awarded for the best oral presentation by a PhD student at the 45th Annual Congress of the South African Association of Botanists.
The congress is an affiliation of the Annual South Association of Botanists African (SAAB), the African Mycological Association (AMA) and the Southern African Society for Systematic Biology (SASSB) Joint Congress.
Ms Blom van Staden, under the supervision of Prof Namrita Lall, is no stranger to awards. She holds an NRF DST Innovation and Priority Research Doctoral Award (2017 to 2018), as well as a UP Postgraduate Doctoral Award for the same period. Ms Blom van Staden was also nominated for a Biotech Fundi Award for two consecutive years, and was awarded for the best BSc Honours presentation in the Department of Plant Science at the Fanie de Meillon Postgraduate Symposium in 2014.
According to Ms Blom van Staden, ‘Each conference is an opportunity to showcase your research and share your findings with other researchers. I am always astounded at these conferences at how much research is still out there and the beautiful minds of scientists. People that never give up in their search for an answer, or as you eventually come to realise… part of an answer.’
She adds: ‘Someone once said these wise words: “you are your own worst critic”; the more you get enveloped by your research, the more you start to doubt what you know. Receiving this Award, assures me that I am actually making sense and gives me the much needed motivation to keep on pursuing the answers through my research.’
The main focus of her PhD study is the effect of Aspalathus linearis, commonly known as rooibos, on hypopigmented disorders, including progressive macular hypomelanosis (PMH) and vitiligo. There are several acquired disorders of hypopigmentation that affect the patient’s self-worth, quality of life and psychological well-being. The most disadvantaged persons are those living in rural areas, who either do not have access to relevant treatments or for whom they may be too expensive. An alternative, less expensive product that is readily available and sustainably cultivated, such as rooibos, could be the answer for those people.