Double honour for sisters

Posted on May 04, 2018

Dr Corrie Swanepoel and Dr Betsie le Roux are two sisters who recently graduated together with their PhD degrees from the University of Pretoria (UP).

Dr Swanepoel, who is six years older than her sister, completed her PhD in soil science (soil organic carbon dynamics), and Dr Le Roux, a PhD in agronomy (water footprinting). They both studied at the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences (NAS).

The Water Research Commission funded Dr Le Roux’s research and she said: ‘I loved my project and was lucky to have a lot of support and a great team which made for a good experience.’

Dr Swanepoel said her road to her PhD was ‘full of ups and downs’, due to her original idea for a project not working out. ‘Luckily I had a Plan-B and lots of support from the people around me that helped me get through.’


Both have fond memories of UP, having visited the main campus with their dad (Dr Attie van Niekerk) back when they were kids. Both are appreciative of the support from NAS, and describe the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences as a strong, dynamic group, with high standards.


Dr Swanepoel studied at the then Department of Plant Production and Soil Science and did her master’s degree in soil science, while Dr Le Roux did her master’s in Plant Science at the then Department of Botany, so it was a surprise having started their PhDs around the same time and being appointed the same supervisors. Dr Michael van der Laan was their main supervisor and Prof John Annandale was a co-supervisor. It was an even a bigger surprise when they happened to complete their projects together, just in time to receive their degrees at the same graduation ceremony.

According to them, the happiest person was probably their mum (Ms Carol van Niekerk), who was elated to watch both daughters receive PhDs at the same graduation.

 Dr Swanepoel currently works at the Agricultural Research Council while Dr Le Roux would like to do consulting research, and maybe continue her involvement with the University of Pretoria.

- Author Myan Subrayan

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