FABI Director Prof. Bernard Slippers applauded the passion with which FABIans had “weathered storms” in 2019 at the Institute’s year-end and awards ceremony on 16 November. He said this passion and a culture of excellence were strong enough to “weather changes” and to allow FABIans to exploit new opportunities during challenging times in the future. FABIans celebrated their successes on the night at the University of Pretoria’s Future Africa campus with colleagues, friends and the Institute’s academic partners. 

Guests included Vice-Principal for Research and Postgraduate Education at UP Prof. Stephanie Burton (also chairperson of the Steering Committee of the CTHB); Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences Prof. Barend Erasmus (who delivered the keynote address); head of the Department of Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology at UP, Prof. Paulette Bloomer; Director of the Centre for Microbial Ecology and Genomics, Prof. Don CowanExtraordinary Prof. Coert Geldenhuys of UP and Stellenbosch University; Vice-Chancellor of Bindura University of Science Education, Prof. Eddie Mwenje and Extraordinary Prof Steve Verryn

In his address, Prof. Erasmus highlighted the “tipping points” that the planet faces because of climate change. Prof. Erasmus warned that because Africa is warming at twice the global rate, it needed “bold and brave action” to counter its effects. He asserted that the Continent could not rely on legislation alone in its response to climate change. “Deep scholarship” and “quantitative science”, which he suggested were critical to nurturing “interdisciplinary scientists to drive the continent’s responses in addressing the social and economic effects of climate change, he said. He said FABI was perfectly placed to form partnerships with researchers across various disciplines to achieve this. 

Dr Irene Barnes presented a number of awards on the night, with the premium award, FABIan of the Year going to PhD student Stephanie van WykDesre Pinard, Katrien Brown and Martin Wierzbicki received the Best Student Publication Awards for their articles published in the journal, New Phytologist. Dr Michelle Schröder received the Best Postdoctoral Publication Award. The Best MSc Student award, based on merit, went to Annah Zanele Mahlangu

In the new category, Best Postdoctoral Fellow, two awards were given to Dr Marc Bouwer and Dr Victoria MaloneyAngel Maduke received the FABI Award for Mentorship. The Best Student Website awards went to Elisa Pal and Josephine QueffelecDarryl HerronJoey Hulbert and the five students who make up the CTHB Outreach Team; Juanita AvontuurModjadji MakwelaSthembiso MngadiFezile Mthunzi and Benedicta Swalarsk-Parry were lauded as ambassadors of the Institute and received the FABI Award for Getting the Message to the Public. 

For their creativity,Prof. Wilhelm de Beer and Prof. Brett Hurley received the FABIans at Work Photographic Award and the FABI Research Photographic Award respectively. President of the Board of Trustees at the Hans Merensky Foundation, Dr Khotso Mokhele received the FABI award recognising the contributions by a person external to the Institute. For his bioinformatics support over the years, Prof. Fourie Joubert received the FABI recognising the contribution of a staff member at UP. 

Prof. Slippers thanked the FABI Social Club, led by Dr Gerda Fourie and Eugene Kabwe for organising the event.