Ms Kayla Alexis Midgley

PhD student


Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology
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Primary Supervisor
Velushka Swart

Co Supervisor
Noelani van den Berg

I am currently a Doctoral candidate (Genetics) within the Hans Merensky Avocado Research Programme, under the supervision of Dr. Velushka Swart and Professor Noëlani van den Berg.

I completed my Bachelors degree in Biotechnology at the University of Pretoria in 2019. I joined the Hans Merensky Avocado Research Programme for my Honours (Genetics) degree in 2020, where I identified and validated crinkling and necrosis (CRNs) genes from the Phytophthora cinnamomi transcriptome during avocado infection.

I subsequently went on to receive my Master's degree with distinction in Genetics in 2023, as a member of the same research group. My dissertation was entitled ‘Identification and expression analysis of Phytophthora cinnamomi CRN effector genes during infection of Persea americana (Mill.)’. This research was a continuation of my honours work, where I molecularly characterised P. cinnamomi CRNs and assigned putative roles in cell death manipulation. This was achieved through analysis of CRN expression during the biotrophic and necrotrophic stages of avocado infection, sequencing of the CRN coding sequences, phylogenetic analyses, and protein modelling. This research highlighted numerous CRN candidates with putative roles as cell death inducers or suppressors. Additionally, the presence of alleles was found for many CRN genes, potentially resulting in varying roles of cell death between the encoded proteins. This allowed for a road to be paved for further research into these important molecular weapons utilised by P. cinnamomi.

Currently, I am working on my PhD. I intend to continue with my work in understanding the roles P. cinnamomi CRN genes play in cell death manipulation during avocado infection, as well as the underlining plant-pathogen interactions taking place.

The Southern African Society for Plant Pathology (SASPP)

The British Society for Plant Pathology (BSPP)

Midgley KA., van den Berg N., Backer R., Swart V. Identification of Phytophthora cinnamomi CRN effectors: Foot soldiers of Phytophthora Root Rot. Poster presentation at the 12th International Congress of Plant Pathology; 20-25 August 2023, Lyon, France. 

Midgley KA, van den Berg N, Swart V. Phytophthora cinnamomi CRN effectors and their roles in manipulating cell death to maintain their hemi-biotrophic life-style. Presentation presented at the 52nd Congress of the South African Society for Plant Pathology; 2022 August 1-3; Pretoria, South Africa.

Midgley KA, Backer R, Swart V & Van den Berg N. Characterising the role of Phytophthora cinnamomi CRN effectors in host plant cell death. South African Society for Bioinformatics – South Africa Genetics Society; 2021 September 2021.


My Galeries

Tzaneen June 2021 field trip

ICPP 2023, France

SASPP 2022


FABI fabulous at the International Congress of Plant Pathology

FABI had a strong presence at the ICPP 2023 with 19 delegates attending from the Institute.

FABI hosts the 52nd Congress of the SASSP

FABI hosted the 52nd Congress of the Southern African Society for Plant Pathologists (SASSP) at the Future Africa campus from 1-3 August.

Export to RIS
Midgley KA, van den Berg N, Swart V. (2022) Unraveling plant cell death during Phytophthora Infection. Microorganisms 10(6) 10.3390/microorganisms10061139 PDF