Prestigious award inspires PhD student to achieve more

Posted on February 06, 2018

Mr Renaan Shane Thompson, a PhD (Plant Pathology) student at the University of Pretoria (UP), was recently awarded the African Mycological Association award for the Best Oral Presentation by a student at the 44th South African Association of Botanist congress held at UP. Thompson says that receiving this is award is tremendously significant in that it motivates him to keep doing better and proves that he can achieve more than he previously thought.

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, the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research) as his co-supervisors.

Thompson’s PhD dissertation is 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 in the seedlings of three of the most widely 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. 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 evidenced by the fact that he was a Golden Key student up to honours level.

Thompson’s honours and master’s research was focused on developing a method to test for four Fusarium species in 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, where, upon validation and acceptance, it will be used to test for the fungi wherever maize is imported or exported,’ he explains.

Thompson is the First Technical Assistant in the Plant Pathology division, where, among other duties, he is responsible for all the practical coordination up to honours level.

- Author Department of University Relations

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