UP master’s student in Horticulture chosen for Australia exchange programme

Posted on April 25, 2019

Ms Elmien Coetser, an MSc Agric (Horticulture) candidate at the University of Pretoria (UP), has been chosen by the member delegates at the recent International Plant Propagator's Society (IPPS) Southern Africa Region’s Annual Conference to go to Australia on the Australia/Southern Africa student exchange programme in May 2019.

“I am extremely grateful to my supervisor, Prof Elsa du Toit, who nominated me, and to the IPPS members who chose me for this exchange programme. This will mean a great deal to me in terms of career development as well as being an amazing travelling opportunity. I will be visiting many nurseries and botanical institutions in Australia and will also attend the combined Australia and New Zealand International IPPS conference. From this tour, I will be able to learn new techniques of plant propagation and manage a business in plant propagation,” Ms Coetser said.

She added that she is excited about the opportunity to meet delegates from across the globe, including the USA, New Zealand, India, Belgium, the UK, Australia and China, who are diverse professionals in the plant propagation industry. “This is a valuable networking opportunity where I can make new contacts and even improve on my people skills. I am truly honoured to be chosen and I hope to bring back valuable skills and information to use here in South Africa.”

Ms Coetser’s research project for her master’s degree is on the tissue culture of Moringa oleifera and she is supervised by Prof Elsa du Toit from the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. She assists as a demonstrator  for certain Horticultural Sciences subjects and works as a part-time technical assistant at Du Prins Wholesale Nursery, where she is showing potential in her work on plant propagation. Ms Coetser is also a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society since 2015 and was on the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences’ Dean's Merit List of Exceptional Academic Achievers for 2014.

She also had great praise for the UP with Science Programme*. “It was a wonderful programme that played a large role to inspire me to go into natural sciences after school. This programme showed us that science is very broad and very exciting and that you don’t need to be a ‘Sheldon’ to become a scientist. Theprogramme made science so much fun and encouraged me to study.”

In school she never fully realised what options there were in natural sciences, especially in botany, which was her major interest, because it seemed that most people were interested in becoming a doctor, an engineer, a teacher or a lawyer.

“UP with Science inspired me to do well in my subjects at school and made me think about science in real life differently. The programme provided me with a bursary to do a BSc degree at UP. At university, this background allowed me to see that all aspects of nature are a part of science. I am now very proud to have my degree in plant and soil sciences.

The IPPS is a global network of plant production professionals, including those involved in horticultural research and education. IPPS aims to improve the knowledge, skills and professionalism of its members.

*The UP with Science Programme was a science enrichment programme for high school learners presented by UP from 1998 to 2016.

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