Science made seriously sexy: Gerda Fourie

2012-07-28 15:57

Pine pitch canker is a big headache for the forestry industry and causes huge losses every year. But Gerda Fourie wants to stop it.

Her research into this complicated fungus is now of significant economic interest.

She says little is known about the fungus, and the aim of her study was to identify its genetic factors.

She spends her days talking to foresters, walking in plantations and in laboratories, trying to decipher its complicated genetic code.

“Once genes have been identified, their evolution will be compared with species evolution in order to gain insight into the influence of the evolutionary forces on genes under selection,” she says.

“It is a worldwide problem and seedling mortality is high.”

The highly complex fungus has 14 000 genes, and Fourie’s research is a long-term project that will go on for more than a decade.

Fourie has worked at the University of Pretoria’s Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute since 2003.

Married with two children, she constantly has to pace her career to allow herself to be both a mom and a scientist.

“Of course, it is difficult for me to go for a nine-month research fellowship overseas, and also I can’t attend all my kids’ activities. But
it is all about balance. Yes, I will take longer, but I will get there.”

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