The DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Tree Health in Biotechnology (CTHB) at the University of Pretoria hosted a lunch on 26 October to honour those who participated in its outreach and mentoring programmes. Held in the FABI courtyard, the lunch was attended by the 2017 cohort of undergraduate students in the CTHB Mentoring Programme, their mentors, and members of the CTHB-funded Mpepu Rural Youth Encouragement (MRYE).

Co-ordinator of the CTHB’s Outreach Programmes, Dr Martin Coetzee applauded the role MRYE plays in ensuring that high school learners in rural schools across South Africa have access to life-changing information on study and funding opportunities beyond Grade 12. Deputy Director of the CTHB Prof. Emma Steenkamp also awarded certificates to 16 BSc undergraduate students who completed a mentorship programme in FABI.

The students are paired with postgraduate students, postdoctoral Fellows and sometimes staff within the CTHB, for practical research lab experience that prepares them for when they are in charge of their own postgraduate research projects. Dr Coetzee said the hours they spent with their mentors in the research lab gave them an advantage over other undergrad students without this experience. Prof. Brenda Wingfield encouraged the mentees to consider pursuing their Honours degrees after spending a year at FABI, which is recognised internationally for excellence in research in the fields of mycology and tree health.