In early January 2017, academic staff and postgraduate students from Stellenbosch University's Institute for Plant Biotechnology (IPB) attended the 43rd annual conference of the South African Association of Botanists (SAAB) at the Lagoon Beach Hotel, which is situated in Milnerton along the Cape West Coast. The conference brought together scientists from across South Africa as well as several international colleagues interested in plant-based research. Topics such as plant systematics, ecology, plant development, photochemistry, plant physiology, invasion biology and biotechnology were covered in the course of the event.
The SAAB conference is considered an ideal forum for postgraduate students to practise their presentation skills, compare their work with that of their peers at other South African universities, and familiarise themselves with current trends in scientific experimental methodology. Six IPB postgraduate students ranging from honours to PhD level presented their experimental work conducted during the past year or two of their academic degrees. The presentations mostly pertained to plant biotechnology and entailed a poster presentation by Pedri Claassens and oral presentations by Ingrid Jacobs, Hanno Loubser, Malira Masoabi, JJ Fernout and Dominic Vogel. A seventh IPB member, postdoctoral fellow Dr Bianke Loedolff, also delivered a talk entitled "Towards improving nutritional food security through phytochemical enhancement in micro-greens".
In addition, the IPB's Dr Paul Hills was handed the reins as the new SAAB president during the final gala function. He will serve a two-year term as the association's president until January 2019. Dr Hills, who at the conference spoke on the effect of lumichrome on plants, is a plant molecular physiologist whose work centres on plants' response to environmental cues and how these regulate their growth and development on a molecular level. Prior to his current position, Dr Hills served as treasurer on the SAAB council for five years. We congratulate him on his appointment and wish him all the best with this new commitment.