Nelisa Mbambalala, a student at the Institute for Plant Biotechnology (IPB), recently travelled to Valencia, Spain, to attend the Global Conference on Plant Science and Research. The event focused on recent trends and the latest innovations in plant science, and brought together scientists from across the world to discuss innovative research in plant molecular biology and biochemistry, plant genetic engineering and genomics, and plant morphology and metabolism.
Nelisa received the Best Poster award at the conference for the poster she presented on her work, entitled "Analysis of the role of transcription factors in enhancing drought tolerance in sugarcane (Saccharum spp.)". This formed part of her MSc study, for which she has developed transgenic sugarcane that over-expresses a basic leucine zipper (bZIP) transcription factor (TF). TFs are natural regulators of gene expression and can act as molecular switches of stress-response genes in plants. bZIP can potentially regulate the expression of genes related to abiotic stress response to enhance drought tolerance in sugarcane.
Nelia's trip was made possible through the National Research Foundation's bilateral South Africa-India Joint Science and Technology Research collaboration grant, awarded to her project supervisor, Dr Christell van der Vyver.
She says she boarded her flight to Spain with a lot of excitement and a bit of anxiety, as it was her first ever flight, but she enjoyed every minute of it. Fortunately her visit to Valencia was not all work and no play, and she made time to visit a few iconic landmarks, such as the Valencia Cathedral dating from around 1238, built on the site of a former Visigothic cathedral used as a mosque under the Moors, and the grandiose Plaza del Ayuntamiento, the main square in Valencia. The City of Arts and Sciences and its L'Oceanogràfic, an open-air oceanographic park, and the architect Calatrava's masterpiece, the Plaza de Toros, or L'Ágora, a huge multifunctional covered space, were definite highlights.