The UFS yeast culture collection Manager, Prof Carolina Pohl-Albertyn and Curator, Dr Adepemi Ogundeji, attended the BBSA Forum Launch 2023, which took place at 26 Degrees South Hotel (Gauteng) from 28 February – 2 March 2023. The Biodiversity Biobanks South Africa is a Department of Science and Innovation Research Infrastructure project hosted by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). The forum celebrated the network of institutions that preserve, maintain and utilise South Africa’s vast biodiversity biobanking resources and created a platform for answering essential questions about the BBSA world.



Prof Carlien Pohl-Albertyn presented two keynote addresses. At the 57th Congress of the Microscopy Society of South Africa, held in Johannesburg on 5 - 9 December 2022, the title of her presentation was “Here is looking at you, yeast”. Here she explored some of the research questions addressed by her research on various yeast species using different microscopy techniques. The presentation title at the 2nd African Microbiome Institute Symposium (held in Stellenbosch) was “Don’t Forget the Fungi”. Here she highlighted that fungi are essential to both environmental and host microbiomes. Their presence and interaction with the rest of the microbiome should not be forgotten in microbiome studies as they play vital roles in these niches.

Carlien Microbiome workshop

World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises the ignored threat of fungal infections


Prof Carlien Pohl-Albertyn

Opinion article by Prof Carolina Pohl-AlbertynNRF SARChI Research Chair in Pathogenic Yeasts, Department of Microbiology and Biochemistry, University of the Free State.

The WHO has published a list of fungal pathogens that are of concern because they can cause deadly invasive infections. It also proposes actions that need to be taken to deal with this threat. These are:

  • Strengthening laboratory capacity and surveillance (i.e., monitoring the environment for these fungi)
  • Sustainable investments in research, development, and innovation
  • Public health interventions

The Department of Microbiology and Biochemistry has a long history of research on fungi. Since 2006, research has been performed on some of the pathogenic fungi (Candida albicans, Candida auris, and Cryptococcus neoformans) ranked as ‘critical’ on the WHO list because of their ability to cause deadly diseases as well as the fact that they are often very resistant to antifungal treatment.
Read more

Long Service Recognition 

Prof Garry Osthoff was presented with 30 years Long-Service Awards for contributions to the UFS at a Recognition of Service Awards Ceremony held in October.

Prof Garry Osthoff

Post office tiles inspire Prof Garry Osthoff’s book

Despite his great interest in nature, specifically dairy chemistry, Prof Garry Osthoff, an NRF-rated scientist in the Department of Microbiology and Biochemistry, has several other pastimes. Colleagues describe him as the most balanced person they know, with interests that range from restoring a jeep to metallic silhouette shooting (he represented Team South Africa in Sweden in July). He recently published a book titled Post Office Murals of South Africa. The book is a photographic collection of ceramic tile artworks applied to the decoration of government buildings, specifically post offices, in the 1930s. Read more

Post office tiles

Prof Olihile Sebolai

Celebrating excellence at the UFS Learning & Teaching awards

Innovating My Curriculum Through Assessment

Runner-up: Prof Olihile Sebolai, Associate Professor: Microbiology and Biochemistry, Bloemfontein Campus


Members of the Molecular Virology group in the Department of Microbiology and Biochemistry participated in the annual partners meeting for the DFG-funded project, "Antigens and Reassortant Strains for rotaviruses circulating in Africa (AfRota)”  from 14 to 16 September 2022 in Maputo, Mozambique. 

Inaugural lecture sheds light on new strategies for rotavirus vaccine development


Prof Trudi O’Neill, Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Biochemistry at the University of the Free State (UFS) – whose research over the past 14 years is geared towards the development of a low-cost rotavirus vaccine for use in Africa – recently delivered her inaugural lecture on the Bloemfontein Campus on the topic: Rotavirus: New strategies to outsmart an old foe, a very appropriate topic for the time we live in. Most of her work is funded by the German Research Foundation.
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Prof-Trudie-O-Neill-3b605952-5a50-47e3-ad29-60814fc89f26 (1)

UFS busy with exciting research into flavours and fragrances


Flavours and fragrances are widely applied in the food, feed, cosmetic, chemical and pharmaceutical sectors. Many flavour compounds are still produced via chemical synthesis or extraction from plant or animal sources. However, there is increasing interest in their bio-production or the use of flavour compounds of (micro) biological origin.

Prof Martie Smit and Prof Dirk Opperman are conducting exciting research in this area. They filed a patent entitled “Process for the chemical modification of alkanes, fatty acids and fatty alcohols”. 
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Visiting Professor at the University of Kent in Canterbury

As part of her activities as visiting Professor at the University of Kent in Canterbury, the UK, Prof Carlien Pohl from the Department of Microbiology and Biochemistry visited her research collaborator, Professor Jennifer Hiscock, from 24 June to 2 July 2022. She presented a seminar and met with various academics in both physical sciences and biological sciences. As a result of this visit and the ongoing collaboration between her and Prof Hiscock, two funding proposals were also completed and submitted to UK funding agencies. Her MSc student, Mr Henco Steyn, is also researching for his degree in Prof Hiscock’s laboratory.

Visiting Professor Kent

Photo: (From Left to right): Professor Jennifer Hiscock in front of one of the typical pubs in Canterbury; Prof Carlien Pohl presenting her lecture at the University of Kent; The famous Canterbury cathedral.

Flash Fact competition

The annual Flash Fact competition was held on 14 and 15 June 2022. Contestants provided interesting and entertaining presentations, which fostered inter-departmental knowledge dissemination.

Flash Facts MSc

Left to right: MSc winners (1) Ruth Hadebe from Agricultural Economids, (2) Bernadette Belter from Microbiology and Biochemistry, and (3) Glendin Swart from Chemistry

Flash Facts PhD

Right to left: PhD winners (1) Alex Edwards from Plant Sciences, (2) Corinne Fourie from Microbiology and Biochemistry, and (3) Grance Mochologi from Plant Sciences

Flash Facts Staff

Left to right: Staff winners (1) Brian van Soelen from Physics, (2) Carlien Pohl-Albertyn from Microbiology and Biochemistry, and (3) Gert Marais from Plant Sciences

Yeast Culture collection

Dr Ogundeji Ultrafreezer

The Yeast Culture collection, housed in the Department of Microbiology and Biochemistry, has recently received a make-over funded by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) under the Biobanks SA initiative, with generous contributions from the University. This funding has allowed for expansion and upgrade of the infrastructure and equipment and the appointment of a curator, Dr Adepemi Ogundeji.  The culture collection currently houses more than 3000 yeast cultures from all around the world. These cultures are available for research purposes as well as potential commercial applications.

Photos: Dr Ogundeji in the expanded culture collection space with the new, dedicated -80oC freezer (left) and biosafety cabinet (right).

Dr Ogundeji Biosafety Cabinet

Honorary doctorate

The University of the Free State (UFS)  conferred five honorary doctorates during its graduation ceremonies from 19 to 22 April 2022. One of the recipients was a lecturer at Microbiology and Biochemistry.

Prof Mike Wingfield began his academic career at the University of the Free State in 1988. Shortly after, he received the National Research Foundation (NRF) President’s award and has held an NRF A-rating for more than 26 years. He was the founding director of the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI), established at the University of Pretoria in 1998. He stepped down from this position at the end of 2017 after 20 years. Currently, he serves as an adviser to the Executive of the University of Pretoria and conducts research in South Africa and globally.



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