Ms Robyn Smith

MSc student


Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology
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Primary Supervisor
Sanushka Naidoo

Co Supervisor
Emma Steenkamp

Currently, I am a first year MSc student with the Eucalyptus and Pine Pathogen Interactions (EPPI) group. I completed my BSc Genetics degree in 2014 with dual major subjects in Biochemistry and my BSc (Hons) Genetics degree in 2015, both at the University of Pretoria. During the third year of my undergraduate studies, I took part in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences Mentorship Program, which gave me a working knowledge of basic laboratory practice and molecular techniques. My Honours project was conducted under the supervision of Dr Martin Kemler for the TPCP (Tree Protection Co-operative Programme and CTHB (DST/NRF Centre of Excellence in Tree Health Biotechnology) programmes. The aim of my project was to identify fungal endophyte species diversity of Eucalyptus in NGS analyses using different sequence similarity cut-offs and a coalescence approach. During this time, I gained experience in various molecular techniques as well as bioinformatic methodologies.


My MSc, under the supervision of Dr Sanushka Naidoo, aims to investigate the model of infection of Pinus species by the agriculturally important fungal pathogen, Fusarium circinatum. Specifically, I will investigate the P. patula transcriptome to elucidate molecular host responses to pathogen challenge. This analysis will be valuable in prioritising putative F. circinatum pathogenicity factors that may be important in manipulating host defence responses. Thus, this study will contribute to aiding in the manipulation of the Pinus-Fusarium circinatum pathogen interaction, so that increased resistance may be selected for or designed in future.