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Faculty of Natural & Agricultural Sciences

Faculty's NSTF Awards finalists

By Phindiwe Nkosi

Posted on 28 May 2009

STANDING TALL: Prof Zander Myburg
STANDING TALL: Prof Zander Myburg

The University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences is proud to announce that at least four of its staff members and affiliates were nominated as finalists for the National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) Awards, which took place on 26 May 2009 at Emperors Palace. The Awards were presented by the honorable new Minister of Science and Technology, Ms Naledi Pandor.


They are, namely: Professor Pat Eriksson (Professor and Head of Department: Geology), Professor Zander Myburg (Associate Professor, Department of Genetics), Ms Rudi Horak (Manager: Sci-Enza Science Centre), and Marti-Diagnosis; Molecular and Cellular Medical Institute (Prof Jan Verschoor and Team).

“Being acknowledged reflects credit on my co-workers, students and colleagues of many years, as well as the excellent support always provided by the University,” says Prof Eriksson who is nominated for his research contribution which is focused on reconstructing the history of the evolution of the earth by analysing sedimentary deposits. According to Prof Eriksson, he established an international collaboritive endeavour of 16 experienced scientists, known as the Global Precambrian Sedimentation Syndicate (GPSS). It has contributed to global studies of the evolution of Precambrian basins.
Professor Myburg, who also serves as Research leader of the Forest Molecular Genetics Programme, is acknowledged for his invaluable input with regard to the genetic enhancement of trees, particularly Eucalyptus trees grown in the country. Apart from that, he has made extensive contributions within the discipline of forest molecular genetics and genomics in South Africa.

“The genomics research community in South Africa is entering into an exciting new era in which whole-genome analysis will come within the reach of individual researchers. For the forest research community, it means that we will soon have the complete genome sequence of a Eucalyptus tree, as well as a complete catalogue of genes expressed during wood formation. This will accelerate our efforts to improve the growth and wood properties of forest plantations in South Africa,” says Professor Myburg.

According to Rudi Horak the manager of Sci-Enza, which is the oldest interactive science centre in the country, the dissemination of science related matters is not only of institutional importance, but one that transcends to the national sphere. Science centers give science a presence in the community and offer people of all ages and backgrounds the opportunity to ask questions, discuss, and explore. Horak was nominated for her efforts with regard to the management of Sci-Enza, the oldest science centre in the country located at the University of Pretoria. At least 50 000 people visit the centre annually.

Marti-Diagnosis (University of Pretoria’s Molecular and Cellular Medical Institute) is one of Prof Verschoor and his team’s projects to establish a new method of diagnosis for TB. What distinguishes this method from others is that the result is produced within 8 hours, is not dependent on sputum from the patient and is not affected by HIV co-infection.

“This project is just another example of how science can influence the lives of ordinary people, especially in developing countries burdened with HIV/AIDS. At present, more than 100 000 people die of TB each year in South Africa, of which two thirds could be prevented if they were diagnosed in time. Most were co-infected with HIV. The MARTI-test aims to save those lives and significantly reduce the billions of rand that are spent each year in South Africa to control TB. ” states Prof Verschoor.




MAKING A MARK: Prof Jan Verschoor





ONE OF A KIND: The logo of MARTI-diagnosis contains the acronym for the test (Mycolic acids Antibody Real-Time Inhibition) with the first letter depicting the chemical structure of the mycolic acid antigen and the background showing the biosensorgram result typical for a TB positive patient.
 


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