Ms Erika Viljoen
I completed my undergraduate degree in BSc Biotechnology in 2005, and carried on to complete an Honours degree in the Plant Science Department working with microarrays and the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. I joined the FABI group in 2009, and was also based at the Biotechnology section in Plant Science. Under the supervision of Prof DK Berger, Dr. Antoinette van Schalkwyk and Prof AE van Wyk, I obtained an MSc degree investigating the morphological and genetic diversity within the traditional leafy vegetable group, the Solanum nigrum complex. Currently, I am doing a PhD degree based at the Biotechnology Platform of the Agricultural Research Council in Onderstepoort, investigating another important indigenous leafy vegetable, Amaranthus. In the present study, a South African Amaranth germplasm collection is being characterized using morphological and molecular tools, with comparisons to global Amaranth species. In depth phylogenetic analysis will be performed with in-house developed SSR markers, multiplexed high throughput sequencing and assembly of whole chloroplast genomes for all accessions. The results of this study will provide important resources for the enhanced breeding of superior Amaranth genotypes. My PhD study is registered in the Plant Science Department at UP, and thus I continue my association with the MPPI group of FABI.