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21 May 2019 | Story Thabo Kessah | Photo Ian van Straaten
Dr Thandi Gumede
Dr Thandi Gumede graduated with a PhD in Polymer Science. She is from Intabazwe, Harrismith.

The Qwaqwa Campus of the University of the Free State was a hive of activity on 17 and 18 May 2019, when over 800 degrees, diplomas, and certificates were conferred on deserving achievers. These included six PhDs and 14 master’s degrees across the four faculties.

Congratulating the graduates on both days, was Africa’s youngest PhD and Industrial Psychology lecturer, Dr Musawenkosi Saurombe, and Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor.

Be like heat

Dr Saurombe started her address by relating her school journey that saw her starting Grade 1 at age 5, thus later matriculating at the age of 15, having skipped Grades 3 and 10. She went on to emphasise the importance of building an honourable character.

“As a graduate, you will soon realise that your degree is useless if you do not have character,” she said to an attentive audience that continued to marvel at her remarkable school history. She encouraged graduates to be like heat that cannot be seen but can only be felt. “Noise can often be seen and heard, but it cannot be felt. However, while heat cannot always be seen, it is always felt. Be like heat and may your presence always be felt,” she said.

Do not focus on yourself

Prof Francis Petersen also encouraged graduates to look beyond their degrees by developing a set of critical values.
 
“For us as the university, this ceremony is not just about your degrees. It is about the values that you must live by,” he said. “As a graduate of the UFS, do not just believe what you are told. Ask questions and engage critically. Secondly, do not just focus on yourself. Remember that you are part of a community and it is your responsibility to make our world a better place for others. You need to be socially responsive to the needs of your community. Thirdly, remember that integrity plays a very important role. This will determine how others value you,” he said.

The two ceremonies also saw three current SRC members graduating. They are Lebohang Miya (BEd FET – Accounting and Business Studies), Duduzile Mhlongo (BA – Geography and isiZulu), and Mhlongo Sinemfundo (BA – Geography and isiZulu).

News Archive

Plant scientists address wheat rust diseases at SASPP congress
2015-02-02

Pictured from the left are: Prof Zakkie Pretorius, Dr Botma Visser and Howard Castelyn.
Photo: Supplied

In his research, Dr Botma Visser, researcher in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of the Free State, highlighted the population dynamics of the stem rust fungus (Puccinia graminis f. sp. tritici) in Southern Africa. In recent years, two foreign stem rust races were introduced to South Africa, and a local virulence adaptation occurred in a third.

All of these races form part of the Ug99 group, a highly virulent collection of rust races endangering wheat production in many parts of the world. Despite the fact that half of the members of the Ug99 race group is prevalent in South Africa, Dr Visser’s work has clearly shown that Ug99 did not have its origin here. This emphasised the need to include neighbouring countries in the annual stem rust surveys, to proactively identify new races that could threaten local wheat production. In his research, Dr Visser also mentioned the way in which he has optimised modern molecular tools to accurately detect Ug99 isolates.

Dr Visser is one of three scientists from the Department of Plant Sciences that addressed delegates attending the biennial congress of the Southern African Society for Plant Pathology (SASPP) on the Bloemfontein Campus earlier this month on progress regarding research on wheat rust diseases conducted at the UFS.

Howard Castelyn, a PhD student in Plant Sciences, presented his research on quantifying fungal growth of the stem rust pathogen in wheat varieties displaying genetic resistance. This resistance, which is best expressed in adult plants, has the potential to remain durable in the presence of new rust variants. His presentation at the congress focused on optimising microscopic and molecular techniques to track fungal development in stem tissues of adult plants. These results now allow scientists to link rust infection levels and cellular responses with particular resistance genes expressed by the wheat plant, and contributing to the understanding and exploitation of durable resistance.

Prof Zakkie Pretorius presented his research, explaining how new genetic diversity for resistance to the stripe (yellow) rust fungus (Puccinia striiformis) is discovered, analysed and applied in South Africa. This research, conducted in collaboration with Dr Renée Prins and her team at CenGen, is unravelling the genetic basis of stripe rust resistance in a promising wheat line identified by Dr Willem Boshoff, a plant breeder at Pannar. The line and DNA markers to track the resistance genes will soon be introduced to South African wheat breeding programmes.

The rust research programme at the UFS contributes significantly to the successful control of these important crop diseases.

In addition to the contributions by the UFS, rust fungi featured prominently at the SASPP, with first reports of new diseases on sugar cane and Acacia and Eucalyptus trees in South Africa. A case study of the use of a rust fungus as a biological control agent for invasive plant species in the Western Cape, was also presented.

 

For more information or enquiries contact news@ufs.ac.za .

 

 

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