As part of ongoing collaboration between Dr Christell van der Vyver of Stellenbosch University and Professor Sanjib Kumar Panda, Prof Panda recently visited the Institute for Plant Biotechnology (IPB). Prof Panda is the head of the Department of Biochemistry at the Central University of Rajasthan in Ajmer, India and is a world leader in the field of plant abiotic stress. It was Prof Panda's first visit since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, which made international travel almost impossible. Prof Panda's association with the Institute of Plant Biotechnology started in 2017, with a South Africa-India science and technology bilateral funding grant from the National Research Foundation (NRF). Since then, Prof Panda has been appointed as a professor extraordinary in the IPB at Stellenbosch University, actively collaborating on aspects of student training and research. In the field of plant abiotic stress, he focuses specifically on heavy metals, reactive oxygen species, antioxidants and osmotic stress, and contributes significantly to a core research theme within the IPB, namely “sustainable agriculture in a changing environment". He has published over 120 papers in international journals covering this topic, and these papers have been cited more than 8 100 times.
Prof Panda's recent visit was made possible by a Knowledge, Interchange and Collaboration Programme (KIC) grant from the NRF, awarded to Dr van der Vyver for hosting an international researcher. Prof Panda's visit coincided with the BIO2022 Bioscience, Big Data and the 4th Industrial Revolution conference, hosted by the South African Genetics Society and the South African Society for Bioinformatics. He attended the conference, which was held in Stellenbosch, South Africa, as a keynote guest speaker and gave a presentation entitled Functional genomics for abiotic stress tolerance in crops.
In the future, student exchange and staff visits between the IPB and Prof Panda's laboratory will be encouraged, and postgraduate student co-supervision is planned. Students will be trained in various applicable molecular techniques and given the opportunity to learn from fellow scientists at the two laboratories.