University of Cape Town
Jill Farrant is a full Professor and holds a South African Research Chair in “Systems Biology Studies on Plant Desiccation Tolerance for Food Security” in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Cape Town. She is an acknowledged world leader in the field of plant desiccation tolerance (holding a rarely given A rated status by the South African National Research Foundation), working on both seeds and resurrection plants. Her fundamental research involves use of a systems biology approach (using techniques in molecular biology, biochemistry, cell biology and physiology) to understand the protection mechanisms (and regulation thereof) laid down in orthodox seeds and vegetative tissue of resurrection plants, with the ultimate aim of using key protectants identified to make extremely drought tolerant crops. Jill’s PhD involved investigating developmental aspects of the recalcitrant seeds of Avicennia marina to identify reasons for their desiccation sensitivity and she has recently re-entered this field of investigation. She has received considerable recognition for her research, having achieved 10 national and international awards, the most recent being the L’Oreal-UNESCO award in life sciences (2012) that ‘recognizes women whose exceptional careers in science have opened up new and sometimes revolutionary ways of improving human well-being’ and the EPFL WISH Foundation Erma Hamburger award for ‘ground breaking work in phytology and being a exceptional role model to plant biologists world wide’. Jill has graduated 33 MSc students and 18 PhD students during the 23 years she has been an academic.