PhD student awarded first prize at SASM 2016

Issued by
North West, Feb 15, 2016

Bukola Rhoda Aremu, a PhD student in the department of biological sciences in the faculty of agriculture, science and technology at North West University (NWU), received first prize for the best student presentation. Aremu, who is studying under the supervision of Prof Olubukola Oluranti Babalola, received the award at the 19th Biennial Congress of the South African Society for Microbiology (SASM) that was held from 17 to 20 January at the Umhlanga Convention Centre in Durban.

The title of her research is "Phylogenetic Analyses of Species-Specific Macergens in South African Exportable Vegetables". The focus is on analysing the evolution of a genetically related group of bacteria capable of releasing pectic enzymes which results in the separation of plant tissues leading to total plant destruction.

The research is specifically aimed at testing exportable vegetables of South Africa to guarantee security and quality which is the foundation of a sustainable quality certification programme. As the current method for the detection of macergens is tedious and time consuming, it leads to low productivity and economic losses of the vegetable availability in South Africa. Thus, there is a need for rapid detection of these macergens before importation and exportation of the vegetables in and out of the country.

The study utilised the Primer3Plus Platform which is a Web interface to construct primers for fast identification of macergens. Four primers were then combined and used for the quick detection of the macergen in exportable vegetable samples from South Africa. The order of the nucleotides within the DNA of the macergens are then detected and deposited in GenBank for scientific usage. In spite of the heterogeneity of these macergens, phylogenetic analyses revealed their similarities and evolutionary trends.

Bukola is an emerging researcher, who has also published part of her research in high-impact peer-reviewed journals such as International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health and Frontiers in Microbiology. On top of that she has also submitted other articles for publication that currently are under editorial review.