Jennifer Ann Thomson – Microbiologist

Jennifer Thomson has a BSc in zoology from the University of Cape Town, an MA in genetics from Cambridge University and a PhD in microbiology from Rhodes University in South Africa. She was a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School and spent a sabbatical year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  She was a lecturer, senior lecturer and Associate Professor in the Department of Genetics at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa before starting and being the Director of the Laboratory for Molecular and Cell Biology for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. She then became Professor and Head of the Department of Microbiology at the University of Cape Town (UCT), a post she held for 12 years until the Department merged with the Department of Biochemistry. She is now Emeritus Professor of Microbiology in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at UCT. Her main current research interests are in the development of maize resistant to the African endemic maize streak virus (MSV) and tolerant to drought. The MSV work has been shown in glasshouse trials to give excellent protection and was the first transgenic crop developed in Africa, by Africans for an African problem. Other positions held in the past include the Deputy Dean of Science at UCT, chair and member of the South African Genetic Engineering Committee, co-founder and chair of SA Women in Science and Engineering, and Vice-President of the SA Academy of Science. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa and of UCT and Vice-Chair of the board of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agribiotech Applications (ISAAA). She is a member of the National Advisory Council on Innovation which advises the Minister of Science and Technology and chairs the South African chapter of the Organization for Women in Science in the Developing World. Honours received include the L’Oreal/UNESCO prize for Women in Science and an honorary doctorate from the Sorbonne in Paris. She is a regular writer and speaker internationally on the subject of genetically modified organisms, especially crops and foods derived from them. These include addressing the World Economic Forum in Davos for two successive years, and the United Nations as the guest of Secretary General Kofi Annan. Her three books, Genes for Africa, Seeds for the Future and Food for Africa are geared towards the interested layperson.

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