Professor Jill Farrant holds a Research Chair of Molecular Physiology of Plant Desiccation Tolerance in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the at University of Cape Town. The tenth recipient of the Award and the fourth from UCT, she is an acknowledged world leader in her field and her contributions to science received early acclaim in the form of a National Research Foundation President’s Award for work done in the PhD in 1992. Farrant holds an A rating from the NRF, is a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa and fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa and UCT as well as being an active participant in a number of national and international councils including the South African Association of Botanists and the South African Chapter of the Third World Organisation of Women in Science.
Farrant conducts research on highly unusual plants (termed ‘resurrection plants’, mostly endemic to Southern Africa), in which the vegetative tissues tolerate near total water loss for prolonged periods of time. The research has both fundamental and applied aspects and is novel in that it is multi-disciplinary, encompassing physiology, biochemistry and molecular biology and is conducted on several different species of resurrection plant and seed tissues (whereas other researchers in the field use a discipline-specific approach on a single species). In the applied work, the understanding of the mechanisms of desiccation tolerance has important uses for the development of crops with improved resistance to drought and is all the more significant in the face of global climate change.
The Fellowship afforded Professor Farrant the opportunity to undertake work with two renowned international scholars, Professor Felix Keller of the University of Zurich and Dr Francesco Loreto of the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche in Italy.