Welcome to the SAGS webpage. I vividly recall the first SAGS congress that I attended as an MSc student. I was nervous but excited to present my research on a pseudogene we had identified in sugarcane to this prestigious community. It was stimulating to speak to other researchers working on different organisms, learn new techniques and make new friends. Throughout my career, I remained a member of the society and benefitted greatly from this interaction. Now, I am honoured to serve as the South African Genetics Society President in 2018.
We are living in an exciting time in the field of Genetics. It is hard to believe that this immense field developed with the work of Austrian monk Gregor Mendel in the mid 1800’s based on experiments on the humble pea plant. Researching his life, I was somewhat surprised to discover that Mendel experienced a fair number of challenges. His family did not have the means to pay for his education; he suffered bouts of illness and depression but persevered to complete high school and university to become a scientist that has presented us with his legacy: Genetics. Mendel’s example of perseverance is a model for the challenges facing higher institutions in the South African context.
How far the field of Genetics has developed over the decades with the discovery of the DNA double helix, polymerase chain reaction and more recently genomics and genome editing. It is applied to every organism or population to study evolution, structure, function and therapeutic applications. Consequently, the science continues to advance at a tremendous pace. It is hard to ignore that the lines between fields are blurring as genetics penetrates into diverse areas. We have been collaborating with related fields and societies to become more relevant and innovative in problem solving. Our close association with the South African Society of Bioinformatics (SASBi) is one such example. We held an immensely successful joint congress with SASBi in 2016 at the University of KwaZulu Natal Nelson Mandela School of Medicine, and we look forward to hosting the 2018 joint congress at the beautiful Golden Gate Resort, Free State, from 16-18 October 2018.
I want to take the opportunity to thank the outgoing SAGS Executive Committee, ably led by President Dr Eduard Venter (University of Johannesburg) for their service and individual contributions to the society. I welcome the new Executive Committee who will be taking on new roles in 2018, the existing SAGS members and a special word of welcome to new student members of SAGS. I hope that you will find this a rewarding experience.
I look forward to working with you to uplift SAGS and South African science further!
Associate Professor: Division of Genetics, Department of Biochemistry, Genetics & Microbiology
University of Pretoria
Next Einstein Forum Fellow 2017-2019