Ensuring that we enjoy fresh farm produce is not only done on the farm. Annelize Treurnich (29) is one of the people who takes care of one of the many steps to test our produce and guarantee its quality and taste.
As a biotechnologist at the Starke Ayres seed company she is responsible for testing the vegetable crops’ genetic material to confirm to confirm the presence of disease resistant genes and selecting superior varieties to breed new material.
“You should be comfortable in a lab setting with little outside exposure,” says Treurnich. “If you’re content with routine work coupled with a sense of curiosity and if you love science, then consider this profession”.
Treurnich advises Mzansi’s youth to decide early in their careers if they want to have hands-on experience in the industry or if they want work in research and development in a learning environment. “Do not be afraid to test the waters and look for opportunities in this career. It’s good to have passion for what you want to do, but don’t be scared of trying something a little off course and see where it may lead,” she says.
If this career or field of study interests you then follow the links below to find out more and about to get involved. Over the next few weeks we will feature many more careers to choose from in the agri sector on Food for Mzansi and 19 radio stations all over the country.
Ok, now it’s over to 29-year-old Annelize Treurnich, geneticist and biotechnologist at Starke Ayres:
1Could you sum up your job for us? I test the DNA for vegetable crops (mainly tomatoes) with molecular markers to confirm their purity for quality control. In addition I test breeder material to confirm disease resistant genes for the selection of superior varieties to breed as new material.
2So, what does the day-to-day of your job entail? A typical day will involve the extraction of DNA, (short for the big word deoxyribonucleic acid) which is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms, from either seed or leaf samples submitted to the lab. This is followed by testing with molecular markers on our SNP platform (which is a database where the information on many plants are stored) for the analysis of the data generated. Once the tests are done a a report is sent to the breeders or seed production department for further action.
What qualification do you need for this career? A Bachelor of Science (BSc.) and Honours degree in genetics from the University of Pretoria. At the moment I am furthering my studies and have nearly completed a Masters of Science (MSc.) degree in genetics. Typically, a BSc in genetics or biotechnology is a must. But a Bachelor of Technology (what we commonly know as a B.Tech) from a technical university can get your foot in the door. You will then start off as a laboratory assistant or junior biotechnologist. From there you can work your self up to higher levels in a company or university laboratory.
4What are the character traits you need to be great at your job? You should be comfortable to work mostly indoors in a laboratory and content with routine work most of the time. Most importantly, you should have a sense of curiosity, a drive to want to explore and know more. This is a career in science afte rall.
5What subjects do I need to become a biotechnologist? Definitely mathematics and physical science to get accepted for this degree, but natural science (biology) would definitely be an added advantage.
6What do you love about agriculture as a space to work in? The peace and quiet. There is no sense of rush like in a city setting.
7Don’t be modest, tell us about your proudest career moments? I would not say I have any moments to single out, I am still quite young and have not been working for that long, but every time we achieve something new in the lab together as a team it is quite a proud moment. Also every time I learn and achieve a new skill or understand a process that maybe was not clear at first, it makes me feel proud and good.
8What do you do when you’re not at work? I am a mom of a three-year-old boy and expecting my second child while finishing a part-time MSc degree, so I do not have a lot of time to myself. I do enjoy spending time with my family and making them happy. I also love coffee dates with my friends to get that much needed “me-time”.
9Any advice for young people who are inspired by your career story here on AgriSETA Learner Connect? Try to make sure you know where you want to be, doing research or working in the industry. Trying to further your studies on a part-time basis while trying to have a career is challenging. Also do not be afraid to test the waters, to look for opportunities in this career. I applied for a bursary programme at Starke Ayres funded by AgriSETA and got placed as an intern and ultimately worked myself up to a junior biotechnologist and ultimately a biotechnologist. It’s good to have passion for what you want to do, but don’t be afraid to try something a little off course and see where it may lead.
10Where can I study to become a biotechnologist? Like I mentioned, I obtained my qualifications at the University of Pretoria, but most universities offer these type of degrees, even universities of technology are available across the country that will allow you to enter this career.
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