Prof. Patricia Berjak                                                                          

Prof. Pat Berjak



                   Room 05-028, Biological and Conservation Sciences Building

                         Tel:  +27 31 2603197

                         Fax: +27 31 2601195







 Patricia graduated as a biochemist with a first-class B.Sc (Honours) degree from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, going on to Master’s research in the medical sphere, before realising her true passion as a cell biologist focused on seed biology – and particularly on the problems involved in successfully storing seeds. The earlier phases of Patricia’s research career, that started with her Ph.D. studies at the University of Natal in Durban, were devoted to studies on deterioration of stored maize seeds. Subsequently, with her graduate students in Durban, the group focused on the effects of the toxin-producing fungi that remain active in, and cause the degradation of, the dry seeds under the relatively poor storage conditions commonly used in rural practice in the sub-tropics and tropics. Patricia’s deep commitment to elucidating the basis of the responses of desiccation-sensitive, recalcitrant seeds, was a mid-career shift in her research focus. Since then, her investigations with her research students and major collaborators, have revealed much about the basic nature of recalcitrance that underlies the inability of such seeds to survive for anything but impractically short periods in storage. Based on their growing understanding of recalcitrant seed responses, the group has gone on to refine storage practices, define the role of the deteriorative seed-associated fungi, and focuses particularly on the application of the principles of cryobiology to the long-term conservation of the genetic resources and biodiversity of plant species producing recalcitrant seeds.    

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