UP's Prof Myburg receives International Forest Biotechnologist of the Year Award

Posted on August 15, 2019

Professor Zander Myburg, Director of the Forest Molecular Genetics (FMG) Programme in the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) at the University of Pretoria (UP), recently received the prestigious Biotechnologist of the Year Award from the Institute of Forest Biosciences (IFB).

The award winner is an individual who best exemplifies environmentally and socially responsible forest biotechnology. Candidates should also work diligently to promote science, dialogue, and stewardship in this field.

“It is an absolute honour to be acknowledged in this way. The international tree biotechnology community has played an important role in the development of my academic career. I have enjoyed supporting the careers of other young researchers entering and growing up in the community. The award is also recognition for the excellent work done by my colleagues and students in the FMG Programme,” Prof Myburg said when asked about the significance of this award.

The award was presented to Prof Myburg at the gala dinner of the *International Union of Forest Research Organisations (IUFRO) Tree Biotechnology meeting held during June in Raleigh, North Carolina in the USA.

Prof Myburg received the award from Susan McCord from IFS and Professor Ron Sederoff from NC State University, who is his former PhD supervisor and a previous winner of the Forest Biotechnologist Award.

Prof Myburg is a full professor in the Department of Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. His research focuses on the genetic control of woody biomass production in fast-growing forest trees and, in particular, the genetic regulation of biopolymer (cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin) synthesis in wood fibre cells.

He established the FMG Programme in 2003 as a joint research venture of UP and South African forestry industry partners, which subsequently gained support from the Technology and Human Resources for Industry Programme (THRIP), the National Research Foundation (NRF), the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and, more recently, the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA). He was also the lead investigator of the US Department of Energy (DOE)-funded international Eucalyptus Genome Project, which generated the reference genome sequence for the genus (Myburg et al., 2014, Nature).

Over the past 16 years, Prof Myburg has supervised 62 postgraduate (master’s, doctoral and postdoctoral) candidates and he is the author of 100 ISI peer-reviewed papers and book chapters in the field of plant molecular genetics and genomics. Prof Myburg was also recently awarded the 2019 UP Chancellor’s Award for Research.

*The IUFRO Tree Biotechnology Meeting is the premier biennial international event focused on molecular biology, genetics, genomics and propagation technologies for forest trees. It is an opportunity for the international community of researchers in forest tree biotechnology to gather to learn of new methods, hear about research advances, and consider the ways in which these tools and discoveries can be used to help forests adjust to the changing world.

- Author Martie Meyer

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