Prof Sanushka Naidoo

Prof Sanushka Naidoo

South Africa

University of Pretoria


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Work and Research

I completed my undergraduate and honours degrees in Cell and Environmental Biology at the University of KwaZulu Natal, followed by an MSc degree in Plant Biotechnology at the University of Stellenbosch. My PhD degree was conducted at the University of Pretoria under the supervision of Prof. Dave Berger and Dr. Katherine Denby (University of Warwick, UK). I am a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Genetics and am involved in teaching GTS352 (Genomes) and BTC361 (Plant Genetics & Crop Biotechnology). I am the programme leader of the Eucalyptus and Pine Pathogen Interactions (EPPI) group at FABI. I have also been selected as a 2017- 2019 Next Einstein Forum Fellow.

Fields Of Expertise

Plant Biotechnology
Cell and Environmental Biology

Research Profiles

My selection as a Next Einstein Forum (NEF) Fellow 2017-2019


The NEF is a platform that leverages scientists to solve global challenges by bringing together leading thinkers in science, policy, industry and civil society in Africa. As an initiative of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) and the Robert Bosch Stiftung, the NEF mobilises the brightest minds to look into the most persistent problems through the lens of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), as well as the social sciences.

The NEF Fellowship is a two-year programme that recognises Africa’s best young scientists and technologists. These top-rated researchers and emerging leaders, at least 40 percent of whom are women, have the opportunity to advance their scientific career by, among other things, presenting their work at unique NEF Spotlight Sessions at NEF Global Gatherings. The NEF Fellows are automatically entered into the NEF Community of Scientists, an exclusive network that offers members opportunities for consulting, grants, research collaborations, speaking opportunities and career mentorship. In return, members participate in national and continental policy formulation, cross-cutting research and innovation activities, lead public engagement around science and technology in Africa, and provide mentorship to early-career scientists and students.

I am a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Genetics and I have over 25 papers in international peer-reviewed journals. I am the President of the South African Genetics Society for 2017/2018 and have been awarded a Y-rating by the South African National Research Foundation (2015–2020). I was awarded a Mellon Foundation Mentoring Scholarship for my PhD studies in plant biotechnology.My research is dedicated to

My research is dedicated to plant defence in forest species, with an emphasis on Eucalyptus. Forest trees are long-lived organisms that are exposed to multiple pests and pathogens in their lifetime. I am focusing on mechanisms that can confer broad-spectrum, long-lasting resistance by dissecting gene families and responses to pests and pathogens. With the development of new technologies, novel genetically modified crops are poised to increase yield and protect against pests and pathogens under harsh African climates. I believe we are better equipped to harness this knowledge to address one of Africa’s biggest challenges – that of food security. For more information on my research, please visit

I applied for the NEF Fellowship to expand my access to impactful collaboration and deliver next-generation thinking with African scientists, social scientists, schools, communities and government leaders. I wish to facilitate education and acceptance, leading to an increased impact of plant biotechnology on society. I believe Africa’s youth should study science, technology, engineering and mathematics to discover robust, tangible, natural patterns. Knowledge of such patterns can be harnessed to address the continent’s unique challenges.