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Record number of qualifications to be awarded at SU December 2019 graduationhttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=6980Record number of qualifications to be awarded at SU December 2019 graduationCorporate Communication<p>​​Acclaimed South African actor, director and playwright Bonisile John Kani will be awarded an honorary doctorate by Stellenbosch University (SU) during its December 2019 graduation.<br></p><p>Kani will receive the degree Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil), <em>honoris causa</em>, in recognition of his 50-year internationally-acclaimed career in the performing arts and playwriting, for his unwavering commitment to ensure that young people have access to the performing arts and for using the arts as a tool to educate, develop communities and give a voice to the oppressed.</p><p>Kani has written and starred in several plays, with his most recent international successes including films such as <em>Black Panther</em> (2018), <em>The Lion King </em>(2019) and <em>Murder Mystery</em> (2019). </p><p>This year the University will again award a record number of qualifications (degrees, diplomas and certificates) at its December 2019 graduation ceremonies – 5 853 compared to 5 769 in December 2018. There is also an increase in the number of doctorates – 154 compared to 149 in December 2018. </p><p>At the ceremonies, the University will also give recognition to some of its foremost academics and other staff members with the awarding of the SU Chancellor's Awards. </p><p>Nine ceremonies are to be held in the Coetzenburg Centre in Stellenbosch from Monday 9 to Friday 13 December 2019.  Kani is to receive the honorary doctorate on Friday 13 December at 10:00.</p><p><strong>The schedule of the December graduation ceremonies </strong><strong><em>are</em></strong><strong> as follow:</strong></p><ul><li>Monday, 9 December 2019 (10:00): Faculties of Theology and Engineering</li><li>Monday, 9 December 2019 (17:30): Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences <strong>(Group A)</strong></li><li>Tuesday, 10 December 2019 (10:00): Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences <strong>(All programmes excluding PG Diplomas)</strong></li><li>Tuesday, 10 December 2019 (17:30): Faculties of Economic and Management Sciences <strong>(Group B)</strong><br> and Medicine and Health Sciences <strong>(only PG Diplomas)</strong></li><li>Wednesday, 11 December 2019 (10:00): Faculty of Science</li><li>Wednesday, 11 December 2019 (17:30): Faculties of Education and Military Science</li><li>Thursday, 12 December 2019 (10:00): Faculties of Arts and Social Sciences <strong>(Group A)</strong>, AgriSciences<br> and Law <strong>(excluding BA Law, BCom Law and BAccLLB)</strong></li><li>Thursday, 12 December 2019 (17:30): Faculties Economic and Management Sciences <strong>(Group C)</strong></li><li>Friday, 13 December 2019 (10:00): Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences <strong>(Group B)</strong></li></ul><p><strong>Streaming: </strong>All the graduation ceremonies can be followed live on the internet at <a href="/streaming">www.sun.ac.za/streaming</a>.</p><p><strong>MORE ABOUT BONISILE JOHN KANI</strong><br></p><p>John Kani's commitment to using the performing arts as a tool for education, community and an expression for the oppressed would become one of the bedrocks of a much-celebrated career spanning some 50 years. </p><p>Bonisile John Kani was born in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth, on 30 August 1943. His connection to drama, which started in school, continued after he matriculated. </p><p>As a young black man growing up in apartheid South Africa, his first desire had always been to be part of the struggle. His need to tell the stories of the oppressed and to see the effect they had on people developed his deeply held belief that theatre was a powerful tool for change and would become the catalyst for all of his work, acting, directing and writing. </p><p>In 1965 he joined the Serpent Players where his association and friendship with Winston Ntshona and Atholl Fugard started. In 1972 Kani, Fugard and Ntshona developed the seminal <em>Sizwe Banzi is Dead</em> and in 1973, they created and produced <em>The Island</em>. They took both plays to local and international stages and in 1974 Kani and Ntshona both won the coveted Tony Award for Best Actor in these two plays. </p><p>In 1977, Kani and Barney Simon established The Market Theatre, which focused equally on theatrical work and social upliftment. In 1990 they also founded The Market Theatre Laboratory, giving young people from marginalised circumstances the opportunity to study the performing arts. </p><p>In 1982, Kani and Sandra Prinsloo shook the very foundations of white South African society when they kissed on stage in Strindberg's <em>Miss Julie</em> at the Baxter Theatre. In 1987, he became the first black South African to play Othello in South Africa in 1987. </p><p>Kani has written and starred in three plays: <em>Nothing but the Truth</em> (2002), Missing (2014) and <em>Kunene and the King</em> (2018). All three deal with deeply difficult South African themes of forgiveness, exile, isolation, identity and loss. </p><p>Kani holds four honorary degrees and his long list of awards include the Hiroshima Prize for Peace from the Swedish Academy, the Olive Schreiner Prize and the South African Film and Television Lifetime Achievement Award. <br></p><p><strong>IMPORTANT NOTES TO THE MEDIA:</strong></p><ul><li><strong>Photos and Video: </strong>Due to security and other measures taken, members of the media should please give an indication of attending one or more of the ceremonies. Please note that the stage area is very small and that photography and videography is contracted to a private service provider. Any requests for photos and videos should be communicated well in advance to the Media Office (tel 021 808 4921 or <a href="mailto:media@sun.ac.za">media@sun.ac.za</a>)  </li></ul><p>The University can unfortunately not guarantee the availability of the recipient of the honorary degree for interviews, but please liaise with the Media Office as soon as possible.<br></p><p><br></p>
Grade 7 learner wins new high school uniform in recyclable waste challengehttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=6969Grade 7 learner wins new high school uniform in recyclable waste challengeWiida Fourie-Basson<p>A Grade 7 learner from Kayamandi Primary School has earned himself a brand new high school uniform from De Jagers in Stellenbosch after he won a recyclable waste collection challenge in Enkanini.<br></p><p>Liyahluma Peteni (15) is one of 11 learners who participated in the challenge as part of an environmental education project called Iqhawe Yemvelo (Nature Hero). The project equips learners from informal settlements to deal with water and waste challenges in their immediate environment. It forms the educational arm of the Amanzi Yimpilo (Water is Health) project, a collaborative effort between the Stellenbosch University Water Institute (SUWI) and Stellenbosch Municipality to improve municipal water, waste and sanitation services in Enkanini. </p><p>Dr Leanne Seeliger, senior researcher at SUWI and project leader, says they would like to see the uniform for waste programme become adopted by individual schools in Kayamandi: “We want to encourage more sponsors to come on board so that recyclables become a commodity that families can use to buy school uniforms. Not only will this assist the parents, but it will also help to clean up the streets and the rivers in the area."</p><p>Depending on how much recyclables they collected, the other learners received items such as a pair of school shoes, school shirts and pants, also sponsored by De Jagers.</p><p>Mr Devon Strauss, manager of De Jagers' Stellenbosch branch, says they are more than happy to kick-start such a worthy initiative in this way: "Liyahluma Peteni and his friends have instantly improved their community through their actions and they can be very proud of what they have done. We are honoured to contribute to such and exciting project." ​<br></p><p>The young learner's mother, Mrs Ntombesizwe Peteni, says she is very proud of her son, as he even went to the river and the bushes to collect more waste in order to win.<br></p><p>Mr Saliem Haider, manager of the solid waste division at Stellenbosch Municipality, congratulated the learners and thanked De Jagers for their generous contribution.</p><p>Mr Lwando Bottomane, a waste entrepreneur from Kayamandi and part of the Amanzi Yimpilo team, says more waste can be collected if they had access to appropriate containers at the local schools. </p><p>For more information, or to become involved in the waste initiative, contact Mr Bottomane at 060 407 9676 or <a href="mailto:lbhobhoyi@gmail.com">lbhobhoyi@gmail.com</a></p><p><strong>On the photo: </strong>Liyahluma Peteni (15), a Grade 7 learner from Kayamandi Primary School, collected his high school uniform from De Jagers in Stellenbosch this week, after winning the waste collection challenge in Enkanini. On the photo, from left to right, Mrs Ntombesizwe Peteni and her son, Liyahluma Peteni, with Dr Leanne Seeliger (SUWI). At the back, Mr Lwando Bottomane and Ms Nasiphi Mgqwetno (Amanzi Yimpile), Mr Saliem Haider (Stellenbosch Municipality) and Mr Divan Strauss (De Jagers). <em>Photo: Wiida Basson</em></p><p><br></p>
Prof Piet Steyn awarded RSSA’s Marloth medalhttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=6960Prof Piet Steyn awarded RSSA’s Marloth medalMedia & Communication, Faculty of Science<p>Prof Piet Steyn, emeritus professor in organic chemistry and former senior director of research at Stellenbosch University (SU), is the recipient of the Royal Society of South Africa's (RSSAf) Marloth medal for 2020, in recognition of “a highly distinguished career in advancing his discipline, organic chemistry, in the service of science and mankind".<br></p><p>According to a media release from the RSSA, Prof Steyn's contributions to the field of biologically active natural products, mainly mycotoxins and some plant-derived toxins, are legendary. During his research career at the CSIR, the University of the North West and SU, he contributed significantly to the isolation, characterisation, biosynthesis, degradation and analysis of several of these naturally occurring toxins. </p><p>Mycotoxins pose an enormous threat to international trade, with an estimated 60% of Africa's grain supplies at risk of fungal contamination and mycotoxin formation. For the USA's grain industry, the estimated annual loss due to mycotoxin contamination amounts to about $2 billion. </p><p>Prof Steyn's research endeavours established him as a global leader in this field, and in 2004 he was honoured by the Centraalbureau voor Schimmelcultures in the Netherlands for his Ochratoxin A research by having a highly toxigenic strain named after him, namely <em>Aspergillus steynii</em>. In 1973 he was appointed as a member of the Food Contaminants Commission of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, and in 2002 he became the first scientist from Africa to be elected as President of IUPAC. His international standing contributed to his selection as President of the International Association of Cereal Science and Technology (ICC) and to his service on the scientific advisory boards of many scientific journals. In 1993 the ICC acknowledged his stewardship by awarding him with the coveted Friedrich Schweitzer Medal.</p><p>In 2011 he received the prestigious National Order of Mapungubwe in recognition of his contributions to the chemistry and biosynthesis of mycotoxins.</p><p><strong>More about Prof Steyn's career</strong></p><p>Prof Steyn was born in Vryburg in North West Province in 1940. In 1959 he enrolled at Stellenbosch University for a BSc degree, and in 1963 he completed an MSc in organic chemistry (<em>cum laude</em>) under Prof Chris Garbers, professor in organic chemistry (1958-1978) and later president of the CSIR (1980-1990). Prof Steyn spent most of his career at the CSIR (1964-1993), where he became the founding director of Foodtek, the current Division of Biosciences. After a stint as SASOL Professor of Chemistry at North West University (1993-1999), he became director and later senior director of research at SU (1999-2008). During this time he was closely involved with the establishment and development of the Central Analytical Facilities (CAF) at SU. He is married to fellow chemistry student, Margot Steyn, and they have 3 children and 5 grandchildren.</p><p><strong>More about the Marloth Medal</strong></p><p>The medal is in honour of the chemist and botanist Professor Hermann Wilhelm Rudolf Marloth (1855-1931), as well as his son Dr Raimund Hilmar Marloth, whose passion was Pomology, the study and farming of fruit trees. Both father and son were Fellows of the Society (appointed in 1908 and 1957 respectively) and continued their legacies by leaving significant bequests to the RSSA. <br></p>
Researchers to uncover intricacies of life in the ‘rhizosphere’http://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=6961Researchers to uncover intricacies of life in the ‘rhizosphere’Dane McDonald, FBIP<p>A team of researchers are set to uncover the intricacies of life in the 'rhizosphere' after receiving funding from the Foundational Biodiversity Information Programme (FBIP) to conduct a large scale project.<br></p><p>In an article written for <em>Nature,</em> David H. McNear describes soil as “one of the last great scientific frontiers and the rhizosphere as the most active portion of that frontier in which biogeochemical processes influence a host of landscape and global scale processes".</p><p>The 'rhizosphere' can be described as the area around a plant root that is inhabited by a unique population of microorganisms influenced by chemicals released from plant roots.</p><p>Project leader Prof Karin Jacobs from Stellenbosch University's Microbial Ecology and Mycology lab said that it is increasingly being recognized that soil microbiomes play crucial roles in nutrient cycling, soil formation, plant growth and ultimately in the production of food.</p><p><strong>'Smart farming'</strong></p><p>Jacobs said understanding the soil microbiome has clear and very practical applications in food production. She believes that understanding and harnessing the functional power of microbial communities will enable farmers to reduce input costs, while maintaining yield, or even increasing yields over time.  </p><p>According to Jacobs the data generated will inform the identification of microbial profiles that will be conducive to plant growth, and farmers will be able to evaluate and adapt their practices to steer their soils towards harbouring more diverse and resilient microbial populations. It will also allow researchers to design, develop and assess effective microbes in an effort to 'farm smarter'.</p><p>“This study has a direct impact on the bioeconomy as it informs managing inputs and practices, and optimising production - working towards sustainable agriculture will alleviate the effect of global environmental change," Jacobs said.</p><p><strong>Increased desertification</strong></p><p>Agriculture significantly contributes to the South African economy and has been recognized as a sector which could potentially drive economic growth. However, less than 12% of the country's land mass is suitable for use as arable land.</p><p>Alarmingly, said Jacobs, substantial proportions of soils are subject to increased desertification, reducing the proportion of productive lands. Given South Africa's increasing population, increasing the productivity of arable lands is crucial for sustenance.</p><p>Over the last few years, there has been a significant demand on the farming sector to alter agricultural practices while simultaneously improving yield.</p><p>According to Jacobs the developments in analytical approaches such as high throughput sequencing and culture methods has helped reduce the knowledge deficit around microbial diversity and their specific roles.</p><p>“The power of this approach has been evident in the study of the human microbiome, which revolutionized our perception, diagnosis and treatment of diseases," she said.</p><p>This FBIP large project is novel and in addition to providing key foundational biodiversity data, successful completion of the project is likely to result in a number of publications in reputable international journals, and aid in the development of a measuring tool for soil health. The project will receive FBIP funding over three years.</p><p>The project will also involve experts and students from several South African institutions including Stellenbosch University, Elsenburg College, University of Pretoria, Free State University, Rhodes University, North-West University, ARC-Plant Health and Protection Unit, and the University of the Western Cape.<br></p><p>- This article was originally published on the website of the Foundational Biodiversity Information Programme, at <a href="http://fbip.co.za/2019/11/27/researchers-to-uncover-intricacies-of-life-in-the-rhizosphere/">http://fbip.co.za/2019/11/27/researchers-to-uncover-intricacies-of-life-in-the-rhizosphere/</a></p><p><br></p>
Winner of Dean’s medal believes in determination, consistency and hard workhttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=6956Winner of Dean’s medal believes in determination, consistency and hard workMedia & Communication, Faculty of Science<p>​​Matthew Greenwood, a postgraduate student in genetics, is the recipient of the <a href="/english/faculty/science/">Faculty of Science</a>'s Dean's medal for continuous excellent performance. </p><p>The medal, cast in solid silver, is awarded annually to an honours student who scores the highest average percentage throughout both the BSc and BSc Honours programmes. Greenwood completed both his BSc and BScHons-degrees with distinction, and is currently pursuing an MSc in genetics. </p><p>Greenwood, a former learner from <a href="https://www.cannonscreek.co.za/">Cannons Creek Independent School</a> in Pinelands, Cape Town, says he was set on studying science since he was ten years old: “My older sister's partner, who was studying towards a PhD in microbiology at the time, introduced me to some basic scientific facts and concepts, and I became immediately interested."</p><p>His big break came in Grade 3 when, with the support of his mother, Miranda Greenwood, he obtained a scholarship at Cannons Creek Independent School based on early academic merit. Despite moving around a lot, from Kraaifontein to Thornton and later Athlone, he matriculated in 2014 and was offered a bursary from Stellenbosch University.</p><p>Greenwood recalls that his first year at university wasn't all plain sailing: “I failed my first Physics 114 tutorials, and my Physics 114 early assessment test by a large margin. I distinctly remember struggling with the idea of switching courses before the deadline. In the end, I decided to buckle down. I asked for help and started to put more personal hours into the subject. It was really as simple as realising that university requires consistency, determination and hard work."</p><p>As an undergraduate BSc-student, he also struggled with the concept of postgraduate studies: “I think undergraduate students do not understand what it means to progress to postgraduate studies. This lack of understanding makes one question the value of completing an undergraduate degree. </p><p>“Knowing why you need to complete certain subjects can be extremely helpful for developing internal motivational skills. To gain that understanding, you need to do job shadowing and internships and read up on future employment and postgraduate study opportunities. </p><p>“Also, having the support of a network of friends with similar academic goals can do wonders for productivity," he adds.</p><p>As an MSc student in genetics, he is currently discovering new fields, such as data analysis: “I'm finding that exploring existing data is far more satisfying than its collection or generation!"</p><p>He plans to complete his MSc by December 2020, and would then like to pursue a PhD in genetics in Sweden or Switzerland.<br></p><p><em>Photo: Stefan Els</em><br></p>
First-class research possible at new imaging research facilityhttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=6943First-class research possible at new imaging research facilityElbie Els & Wilma Stassen<h4>“Let us celebrate innovation, scholarship, and finding African solutions for Africa."</h4><p style="text-align:left;">These words of congratulation came from Dr Beth Engelbrecht, Head of the Department of Health in the Western Cape, during the launch of a state-of-the-art imaging research facility that opened its doors at Tygerberg Hospital last week.</p><p style="text-align:left;">The Nuclear Medicine Research Infrastructure (NuMeRI) Node for Infection Imaging (NII) is South Africa's first positron-emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) facility dedicated to clinical research. It has one of the most advanced PET/CT systems currently available in the world, a Philips Vereos PET/CT – only the second of its kind installed in the southern hemisphere.</p><p style="text-align:left;"><img class="ms-rtePosition-1" src="/english/faculty/science/CAF/Documents/Photo%2001%20kleiner.jpg" alt="" style="margin:5px;width:450px;height:296px;" />“We are very fortunate to host one of the Department of Science and Innovation's Centres for Excellence in Tuberculosis Research, and through this particular node of NuMeRI, we will be able to do a lot of research to bring us closer to eradicating the disease," Prof Eugene Cloete, Stellenbosch University's Vice-Rector: Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies said in his address at the launch. </p><p style="text-align:left;">The NuMeRI NII forms part of the South African Research Infrastructure Roadmap (SARIR). The Node is hosted by the Stellenbosch University's Central Analytical Facilities and is located at Tygerberg Hospital, in Cape Town. It is funded by the Department of Science and Innovation, Stellenbosch University and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.</p><p style="text-align:left;">“Given the high prevalence of TB in the Western Cape, the facility is poised to use research to find novel solutions to address this disease burden," said Dr Daniel Adams, Chief Director: Basic Sciences and Infrastructure at the Department of Science and Innovation (and acting Deputy-Director General). “Its presence should touch the lives of people of the Western Cape and contribute to the improvement of quality of life of people in the country at large."</p><p style="text-align:left;">Dr Alex Doruyter, Director and Staff Scientist at the NuMeRI NII said that “PET/CT is well suited as a research tool to study the diseases that plague our society. These include infectious diseases like HIV and TB, but also malignant diseases such as breast, lung, cervix and prostate cancer; neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and traumatic brain injury; psychiatric diseases such as depression and anxiety; and cardiac diseases such as coronary artery disease." PET-CT is an imaging technique that allows for non-invasive, precision imaging of biological processes through the use of radioactive molecules of interest (radiopharmaceuticals); coupled with the anatomical detail of conventional CT scanning. “This allows researchers to visualise and quantify selected biological processes with a high degree of accuracy," Doruyter said.</p><p style="text-align:left;">The NII includes a fully-equipped radiopharmacy laboratory with hot and cold labs; clean room; and quality control area and is supervised by a specialist radiopharmacist. This component of the facility ensures injected radiotracers are of high quality and are safe for injection; allows for on-site radio-labelling of kit-based PET tracers; and is involved in the de-novo synthesis of novel candidate molecules. </p><p style="text-align:left;">Although PET-CT has been available in the Western Cape for some time, researchers have had to compete with the main mandate of these scanners, which is one of clinical service provision. “There has until now not been much access for researchers. The combination of the world's only truly digital PET-CT camera, combined with our radiopharmacy facilities and research expertise, presents researchers with a great opportunity to perform first-class research" Doruyter said.</p><p style="text-align:left;"><strong>Photo Captions:</strong></p><p style="text-align:left;">Header:</p><p style="text-align:left;">From left to right: Dr Daniel Adams, Dr Beth Engelbrecht and Prof Eugene Cloete with the PET/CT scanner.</p><p style="text-align:left;">NuMeRI:</p><p style="text-align:left;">From left to right: Dr Dimitri Erasmus, Prof Eugene Cloete, Prof Gary Stevens, Dr Daniel Adams, Dr Beth Engelbrecht, Dr Alex Doruyter, Prof Jimmy Volmink, Mr Charles Mokonoto and Prof Nico Gey van Pittius.</p><p style="text-align:left;">Photos by Stefan Els</p>
Four easy ways to keep diabetes at bayhttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=6934Four easy ways to keep diabetes at bayFaadiel Essop<p>​​Thursday (14 November) is World Diabetes Day. In an opinion piece for <em>News24</em>, Prof Faadiel Essop from t<span style="font-size:11pt;line-height:107%;font-family:calibri, sans-serif;">he Centre for Cardio-Metabolic Research in Africa at Stellenbosch University highlights four steps people can take to protect themselves and their families against diabetes.</span><br></p><ul><li><font face="calibri, sans-serif"><span style="font-size:14.6667px;">Read the article below or click <a href="https://www.health24.com/Medical/Diabetes/About-diabetes/opinion-four-easy-ways-to-keep-diabetes-at-bay-20191111" style="text-decoration:underline;"><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style="text-decoration:underline;">here </strong></a>for the published version.</span></font></li></ul><p style="text-align:justify;">There are currently 425 million people living with diabetes globally, with this number projected to further increase to 629 million by 2045. Research shows that in South Africa, the prevalence of diabetes is estimated at around 5,6% but this number is likely much higher due to the substantial number of individuals that are currently undiagnosed. As a country, we are burdened with this debilitating condition which can cause blindness, amputation, heart disease, kidney failure and early death. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Since diabetes doesn't discriminate, it is important that individuals and families arm themselves with the knowledge of how to prevent and manage it. An opportune time to start doing so would be on World Diabetes Day that's being celebrated annually on 14 November since 1991 when it was initiated by International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and the World Health Organisation in response to the growing global threat of diabetes. <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">The theme for this year's World Diabetes Day is ''Protect your Family'' which, according to the IDF, is to raise awareness of the impact that diabetes has on the family and to promote the role of the family in the management, care, prevention and education of the condition. Protecting your family against diabetes need not be a daunting task. There are four relatively easy steps that people can take to help protect their family against the onset of diabetes and also assist those already burdened with this disease.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">A very<strong> </strong>important first step is to<strong> </strong>test your status. Statistics produced by the IDF show that there are a substantial number of persons who are actually diabetic but who are not yet diagnosed. For example, a study completed in Bellville in 2012 revealed that around 56% of those diagnosed with diabetes (by the researchers) were not aware of their condition. It is therefore essential to test for diabetes because failing to do so holds serious consequences for the health and well-being of such individuals. In this regard, an easy online <a href="https://www.idf.org/type-2-diabetes-risk-assessment/" style="text-decoration:underline;"><span class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style="text-decoration:underline;"><strong>self-assessment for diabetes</strong></span></a> should do the trick. In addition, knowledge regarding the warning signs for diabetes e.g. excessive thirst, frequent urination, and numbness of the hands and feet is useful and informative to then seek assistance from the medical fraternity. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Secondly, a supportive culture should be promoted within families and communities. Research studies show that good support provided by family members or spouses plays an important role in this context. Such support can be useful in both prevention of diabetes onset and also for relatives already diagnosed with diabetes. In this instance, family support can help individuals in terms of their medication compliance, associated mental health complications such as depression, and also with the adoption and longer-term implementation of modified lifestyle choices (e.g. diet, physical activity, etc).<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Thirdly, suitable lifestyle changes need to be implemented. The onset of diabetes is a complex process where there is an intersection of genes and lifestyle choices. We know that poor dietary choices and a sedentary lifestyle are strongly linked to the onset of diabetes and heart diseases. However, recent data show that so-called epigenetic changes – stable changes at the gene level without altering the gene sequences – also play a key role in the onset of diabetes. In this case, the impact of environmental factors can now extend beyond the individual and be passed on to your offspring and future generations. For example, this would mean that a pregnant woman's behavioural and lifestyle-related choices such as smoking, substance abuse and malnutrition can result in epigenetic changes in the foetus and hence place the new-born at increased risk for the future onset of diabetes and heart diseases. Thus there is now a much stronger onus than ever before on individuals and families to adopt healthier lifestyle choices. <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">As research studies show that it is difficult to sustain lifestyle-related changes over a long period of time, it is best to start with smaller, manageable changes. The plan should be to establish lifestyle changes as part of a revised daily routine and thereafter to continue to build from this platform. There are a plethora of online diets and lifestyle interventions available that can often result in poor choices being made as such options were not necessarily subjected to rigorous scientific testing and/or clinical trials. It is, therefore, essential that people consult with their doctor and to only use authoritative online sources when deciding on a particular lifestyle intervention(s). For example, a useful starting point would be the reputable <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/in-depth/diabetes-diet/art-20044295" style="text-decoration:underline;"><span class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style="text-decoration:underline;"><strong>Mayo Clinic</strong></span></a> that recommends healthy carbohydrates, fiber-rich foods, fish, ''good'' fats and the avoidance of saturated and trans fats, cholesterol and sodium.  </p><p style="text-align:justify;">People should also be mindful of hidden sugars in processed foods such as sugar-sweetened beverages (sodas, fruit juices). Our research group recently <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jes/article/1/11/1372/4587524" style="text-decoration:underline;"><span class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style="text-decoration:underline;"><strong>reviewed</strong></span></a> the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages on health and found that in some cases as little as two sugar-sweetened beverage servings per week is linked to a greater onset of diabetes. It is important to remember that the daily limit for <a href="https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/added-sugars" style="text-decoration:underline;"><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style="text-decoration:underline;">sugar intake</strong></a> is nine teaspoons per day for men and six teaspoons for women as stipulated by the American Heart Association. People need to be aware that drinking an average can of sugar sweetened beverage already exceeds the daily sugar intake limit.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">​Lastly, but certainly not least, it is essential that we<strong> </strong>stand up and walk. Many people live sedentary lifestyles which include both the lack of physical activity and sitting for long periods at the office in traffic, or spending too much time in front of the computer or television. This type of sedentary behaviour is associated with an increased risk for diabetes onset. An easy way to start ditching a sedentary lifestyle is to walk wherever you are able to. For example, walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator, go on lunch time walking breaks, walk to nearby friends and family or to the local store. If you spend most of your day at the office, try to take regular breaks and/or short walks, and also consider sit-stand desks. These could be the first steps towards protecting you and your family against diabetes.</p><p style="text-align:justify;"><strong><em>*Professor Faadiel Essop is the Director of the Centre for Cardio-Metabolic Research in Africa at Stellenbosch University.</em></strong></p><br>
SU honours top postdoctoral researchershttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=6925SU honours top postdoctoral researchersCorporate Communication / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie [Alec Basson]<p>Stellenbosch University (SU) boasts more than 300 registered postdoctoral fellows who are making a meaningful contribution towards realising the institution's vision of becoming Africa's leading research-intensive university. <br></p><p>The top 20 fellows out of this group were honoured at SU's annual Postdoctoral Research Day recently. They each received R10 000 and a certificate of recognition for their outstanding research output as well as their contribution in academia through student training, presentations at conferences as well as other non-academic endeavours.<br></p><p>Initiated in 2017 by the Vice-Rector for Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies, Prof Eugene Cloete, and sponsored by the SU's Postdoctoral Society and the Division for Research Development, the Postdoctoral Research Day provides a platform for postdoctoral fellows to showcase their research activities.<br></p><p>Commenting on the awards, Cloete said, “The contribution of postdoctoral fellows to academic performance at the University is significant, and postdocs support students and are the muscle behind major research. The fellows honoured here had published upwards of 10 manuscripts, formed parts of collaborative research teams, landed large grants and also are active members in university and other academic societies."<br></p><p>He added that SU valued its postdoctoral researchers and wanted to grow the current cohort to 500 within the next two years, in line with the University's strategy and vision to have a global impact.<br></p><p>The following postdoctoral fellows (in alphabetical order) were honoured at the Research Day:<br></p><p>Shameemah Abrahams (Biomedical Sciences); Hayley Clements (Centre for Complex Systems in Transition); Rosemary Cripwell (Microbiology); Anna Hartfort (Philosophy); Martin Heine (Health and Rehabilitation Sciences); Heidi Hirsch (Botany and Zoology); Marion Javal (Conservation Ecology); Tanya Kerr (Biology and Human Genetics); Lizabé Lambrechts (Africa Open Institute); Gina Leisching (Biomedical Science); Mohsen Mandegari (Process Engineering); Jan-Lukas Menzel (Earth Science); Corneile Minaar (Botany and Zoology); Charissa Naidoo (Biomedical Science); Mario Mairal Pisa (Botany and Zoology); Julia Riley (Botany and Zoology); Letitia Schoeman (Horticultural Sciences); Wendy Stone (SU Water Institute); Alemayehu  Tsige (Horticultural Sciences)and Caitlin Uren (Biomedical Sciences)</p><ul><li><strong>​Photo</strong>: Some of the top postdoctoral fellows at the Research Day. <strong>Photographer</strong>: Riana Coetsee</li></ul><p> </p><p><br></p>
Extinct species rediscovered in Winterhoek Mountains, after 200 yearshttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=6893Extinct species rediscovered in Winterhoek Mountains, after 200 yearsWiida Fourie-Basson<p>One of the first recorded species to have been lost to forestry and agriculture in the Western Cape in the 1800s, a type of fountain bush from the pea family that used to grow next to mountain streams in the Tulbagh region, have been rediscovered.<br></p><p><a href="https://plants.jstor.org/stable/10.5555/al.ap.specimen.sam0015569-0"><em>Psoralea cataracta</em></a> was discovered by Brian du Preez, a PhD student in botany, when he accidentally stumbled upon a population on a narrow track close to a river on a farm near Tulbagh.</p><p>Until now, <em>P. cataracta</em> was only known from a single specimen collected from “Tulbagh waterfall" in 1804, and in 2008, after many fruitless searches, it was officially declared extinct on the <a href="http://redlist.sanbi.org/species.php?species=327-24">Red Data List of South African Plants</a>.</p><p>From previous search efforts as a volunteer with the <a href="https://www.sanbi.org/biodiversity/building-knowledge/biodiversity-monitoring-assessment/custodians-of-rare-and-endangered-wildflowers-crew-programme/">Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers</a> (CREW) around the Tulbagh waterfall, he instantly knew what a find this was: “As soon as I saw those delicate thread-like flower stalks, I knew it was <em>Psoralea</em> <em>cataracta</em>." </p><p><a href="http://www.sophos.uk.com/charlesstirton.htm">Prof Charles Stirton</a>, an internationally recognised specialist on the genus <em>Psoralea</em> based in the United Kingdom, and his co-supervisor, has since confirmed that it is indeed the long lost species rediscovered, last seen in 1804.</p><p>“For me the definitive characteristics are the remarkable stipules, very long filiform pedicels, and the unique flower colour. This is a very important find as it shows how the Cape is still relatively unexplored in many mountainous areas. Given than many of the Cape Flora only come up briefly after fires, fading quickly, and that sometimes these fires are irregular, the chances of being in an area at the right time is slim. Well done to Brian for a wonderful find," he writes in an e-mail from the UK.</p><p>Mr Ismail Ebrahim, project manager at CREW, agrees that it is an extraordinary finding: “It is really uncommon to find a properly extinct species, something that hasn't been seen for ages. And with Cape Flora it is even harder, because most species are restricted to a really small patch and it is easy to miss them if you don't go off the beaten path.</p><p>“It also just shows you the value of proper field botany, like they did it in the old days," he adds.</p><p>Thus far, the 26-year old student is building up quite a reputation for finding long lost species. As a BScHons-student in botany at Stellenbosch University (SU) in 2016, he rediscovered two presumed extinct species in the pea family, <em>Polhillia ignota</em> and <em>Aspalathus cordicarpa</em>, last seen in 1928 and the 1950s respectively, and subsequently completed an MSc on <em>Polhillia</em> in 2017, also at SU. </p><p>This year he collected a new species of <em>Aspalathus</em> growing on sand dunes on the banks of the Riet River in the Swartruggens Mountains north of Ceres. He is now in a rush to get the species described, as this part of the Riet River is earmarked for orchard expansion.</p><p>“We can only conserve what we have described. Only species that have been formally described can receive a Red Data List status, which by law then protect it from development, depending on its conservation status," he warns. </p><p>For this reason, Brian has decided to tackle a revision of the genus <em>Indigofera</em> in the Greater Cape Floristic Region (GCFR) for his PhD. This diverse genus comprises over 100 species in the region, with at least 30 new species to be formally described.</p><p>He has been covering thousands of kilometres in his Nissan bakkie – from the Richtersveld through into the Eastern Cape, and everything in between for the past six months, and has already collected over 60 <em>Indigofera</em> species.</p><p>For botanists, the period from September to November every year is when most plants are in flower. So next week he is off on a three week field trip to the Garden Route and the Eastern Cape.</p><p><b>On the photos above:</b></p><p>Last seen in 1804, <em>Psoralea cataracta</em> was rediscovered by Brian du Preez, a PhD student in botany at the University of Cape Town, when he accidently stumbled upon a population on a narrow track close to a river on a farm near Tulbagh in the Western Cape. <em>Photo: Wiida Fourie</em></p><p>The delicate flower and thread-like flower stalks of <em>Psoralea cataracta</em>, a type of fountain bush which only occur close to mountain streams in the Tulbagh region of the Western Cape, last observed in 1804. <em>Image: Brian du Preez</em></p><p><strong>Media interviews</strong></p><p>Brian du Preez</p><p>C: 072 553 1442</p><p>E: <a href="mailto:brian.enviro@gmail.com">brian.enviro@gmail.com</a></p><p> </p><p>Ismail Ebrahim</p><p>C: 076 475 5321<br></p>
New evidence that bacteria drive biodiversity in the Cape Floral Regionhttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=6884New evidence that bacteria drive biodiversity in the Cape Floral RegionWiida Fourie-Basson<p>​​Botanists from Stellenbosch University have come one step closer to unravelling the mystery of the Cape Floral Region's extraordinary levels of biodiversity.<br></p><p>To date at least some of this remarkable diversity has been attributed to plants' ability to adapt to micro-niches, created by factors such as a stable palaeo climate, reliable winter rainfall, geographical gradients and diverse soil types.</p><p>Now botanists from SU's Department of Botany and Zoology have found evidence that the largest Cape geophyte genus,<em> Oxalis</em>, has developed a unique association with the  bacterial genus <em>Bacillus</em>, that help it to fix nitrogen from the air and to perform extraordinary feats of germination.</p><p>Furthermore, they proved that the <em>Bacillus</em> bacteria are so integrated into this symbiotic relationship that they are even inherited from mother plant to seed.</p><p>The results of the study was published in the journal <a href="https://bmcplantbiol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12870-019-2049-7"><em>BMC Plant Biology</em></a> recently, with the title “Nitrogen-fixing bacteria and <em>Oxalis</em> – evidence for a vertically inherited bacterial symbiosis".</p><p><a href="http://www.biointeractionslab.com/prof.-leanne-dreyer.html">Prof Léanne Dreyer</a>, a leading expert on Southern African <em>Oxalis</em> at SU and one of the authors, says this is the first report of such a system of vertical inheritance of endophyte bacteria for geophytes. </p><p>The Cape is renowned for the most diverse geophyte flora in the world, with 2 100 species from 20 families, but the factors driving this remarkable diversity are still poorly understood. This diversity is even more remarkable if one takes into account that it occurs in an environment that measures some of the lowest nitrogen and phosphorous levels globally.</p><p><strong>How does this symbiotic relationship work?</strong></p><p><a href="/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=6565">From previous work</a>, Dreyer's research group established that 60% of <em>Oxalis</em> species have recalcitrant seeds. This means they cannot tolerate desiccation and have to germinate immediately after being shed.</p><p>But even more unique in these species is the incidence of inverse germination, where the seed leaves and the first foliar leave unfurl within the first 24 to 48 hours, without any support of a radicle or roots. </p><p>It was in the process of trying to figure out this extraordinary feat of germination that one of Dreyer's postgraduate students, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Michelle_Jooste">Dr Michelle Jooste</a>, found evidence of an assemblage of bacteria and fungi in the vegetative and reproductive organs of six <em>Oxalis</em> species.</p><p>“We found that the bacteria and fungi inhabit the mucilage surrounding the base of recalcitrant <em>Oxalis</em> seedlings. The mucilage is a thick gluey substance that is excreted by the seed upon germination. Some of the bacteria and fungi we found in the mucilage were recruited from the surrounding soil, but others were provided via inheritance by the seed itself," Jooste explains.</p><p>These bacteria are hosted within the plant body, quite possibly in specialized structural cavities, where they feed on oxalate – an organic acid produced by plants as a byproduct of photosynthesis. Nine of the most abundant species of bacteria identified in the study were from the genus <em>Bacillus</em>, and three of these have the capacity to utilise oxalates as their only and often preferred source of carbon.</p><p>“We think this unusual relationship must have evolved over millions of years, helping <em>Oxalis</em> to make the most of a very predictable winter rainfall season, giving it just enough time to spurt enough growth above ground to also form a bulb underground in order to survive until the next winter's first rains. Indeed a Russian roulette of germination strategies!" Dreyer explains.</p><p>But there are still many more questions than answers in this story.</p><p>How the mucilage is formed and what it consists of are the foci of a current study, while another postgraduate student is devising microscopic techniques to pinpoint whether these endophytic bacteria do, in fact, dwell in the unusual cavities that traverse all organs of most recalcitrant <em>Oxalis</em> species. The extremely rapid mode of bulb formation is also under investigation.</p><p>“In comparison with other Mediterranean environments, the biodiversity of the Cape Floral Region is off-the-chart. But why that is so, is still one of the greatest mysteries that botanists are trying to unravel," Dreyer concludes.</p><ul><li>The article “<a href="https://bmcplantbiol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12870-019-2049-7">Nitrogen-fixing bacteria and <em>Oxalis</em> – evidence for a vertically inherited bacterial symbiosis</a>" was published in <em>BMC Plant Biology</em> in October 2019, and authored by Dr Michelle Jooste, Dr Francois Roets, Prof Guy Midgley and Prof Léanne Dreyer from Stellenbosch University, and Dr Kenneth Oberlander from the University of Pretoria.</li></ul><p>The research was supported with grants from the National Research Foundation's (NRF) Scarce Skills Doctoral Scholarship programme and a Blue Skies Research Grant, also from the NRF. <br></p><p>On the photo above, left, over millions of years this species from the genus <em>Oxalis</em>, <em>Oxalis hirta</em>, have developed a symbiotic relationship with bacteria from the genus <em>Bacillus</em>, to such an extent that the bacteria are inherited from mother plant to seeds. And on the right, a microscopic image showing oxalate crystals  within the cavities. Photos: Léanne Dreyer and Michelle Jooste</p><p><strong>Media interviews</strong></p><p>Prof Léanne Dreyer</p><p>Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University</p><p>Tel: +27 _21 808 3070</p><p>E-mail: <a href="mailto:ld@sun.ac.za">ld@sun.ac.za</a></p><p> </p><p>Dr Michelle Jooste</p><p>Tel: +27_79 219 7943</p><p>E-mail: <a href="mailto:mich.jooste.m@gmail.com">mich.jooste.m@gmail.com</a> <br></p>