Prof Juan Vorster

Prof Juan Vorster

South Africa

University of Pretoria

Plant and Soil Sciences

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Work and Research

My research focus is on Plant Stress Physiology, particularly focusing on the role that a group of proteins (cysteine proteases) and their inhibitors (cystatins) play during stresses such as drought. My research group works mainly on Soybean, an important oil and protein crop, the production of which is threatened by climate change. While focusing on a particular group of proteins I believe in a holistic approach to research focusing on multiple levels of plant biology. As such I have started my research career as a Masters student focusing on plant genetics and molecular biology, during my PhD I studied the dynamics of plant genomes and evolution using a bioinformatical approach.

Fields Of Expertise

Plant Stress Physiology
Molecular biology
Herbicide resistance

Research Profiles

My vision for the future of research at UP and how I will contribute to this development

I would like to see more interdisciplinary research projects at UP. Most South African universities have a history of a very individualized research approach with a multitude of small research projects and very little contact between research groups. While a variety of skills and expertise is important I would like to see those skills and experience focus on fewer essential problems but addressing a specific problem from multiple angles. An example from my own field would be a problem on plant stress adaptation being address from a physiological, genetic, biochemical and bioinformatical approach but also to look at issues related to that from a nutritional, sociological and economical point of view. I have seen similar approaches used with high levels of success at other institutions. Furthermore I would like to see more international collaboration but also a higher amount of international student exchanges and international researcher being stationed at UP. I also believe that our postgraduate students should be given more opportunity to spend at least a month or more stationed with international research groups. While technology have the ability to connect us with any lab across the globe the experience of spending time working at a different laboratory results in students (and staff) with a much more rounded and mature world view both scientifically but also personally.