Ronishree Mangwanda presented the first prestige seminar of 2016 on January 27 at the Plant Sciences Auditorium, University of Pretoria. Celebrated by FABIans, friends and family, the occasion marked the completion of her PhD degree and its successful defence in her oral exam. The title of her presentation was: "Transcriptional profiling of Eucalyptus grandis and Chrysoporthe austroafricana elucidates host defence mechanisms and putative pathogenicity strategies".

Ronishree’s supervisors were Drs Sanushka NaidooAlbe van der Merwe and Prof. Zander Myburg. She is also Dr Naidoo’s first student to pass a PhD degree. Her external examiners were Professors Frederick Asiegbo of the University of Helsinki in Finland, Sofia Valenzuela of the University of Concepción in Chile, and Lucy Moleleki of the University of Pretoria. Dr Naidoo congratulated her on her achievements leading up to the completion of her PhD degree. These included a FABI award for mentorship and being awarded the Whitehead Scientific Travel Bursary twice.

During her PhD project Ronishree studied the immune responses and defences of Eucalyptus grandis to infection by the fungus Chrysoporthe austroafricana. The pathogen not only stunts the growth of the trees but also reduces the quality of the wood. Ronishree’s study showed that the co-ordination and integration of different responses, such as cell wall modifications and the role of phytohormones, were key in Euc. grandis responses against the pathogen. Her study extends to the knowledge and understanding of defence mechanisms in woody plants.