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21 ICONS featuring Jill Farrant

21 ICONS South Africa will feature the sixteenth icon of its second season: Jill Farrant, a scientist and professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of Cape Town (UCT) specialising in plant responses to water deficit stress.

On her selection as an icon Steirn comments, “Jill Farrant has gone through a voyage of discovery in both her professional and personal life. The resurrection of the plants that she devoted her work and research to is symbolic of the personal transformation that can be achieved through a spirit of courage, passion and conviction. It is a fascinating story that should be shared with others, so that they may be inspired to strive for success regardless of life’s afflictions.”

In an intimate conversation with Steirn, Farrant talks about her life growing up in a small village in Limpopo and her fascination with outdoor exploration. Today, she is a pioneer in the field of plant molecular and cell biology and has made a global impact with her research into ‘resurrection plants’; extraordinary drought resistant plants that magically ‘come back to life’ from a dried up, death-like state just 24 hours after being given just a mere drop of water.

Described as one of South Africans heroines, she is the ‘Queen of Rain., Jill Farrant. Picture: supplied.

Described as one of South Africans heroines, she is the ‘Queen of Rain., Jill Farrant. Picture: supplied.

Her research has contributed to the understanding of mechanisms used by resurrection plants to tolerate desiccation. This knowledge has been fundamental to identifying characteristics (genes) that might be important for use in bioengineering of crops for improved drought tolerance.

The plants that are able to be revived and live again is a mirror to Farrant’s personal life that has experienced tumultuous times. Despite enormous academic and professional successes from an early age, Jill has battled with alcoholism, hit rock bottom, stints in rehabilitation and suffered relapse. Somehow, however, Farrant has turned her life around.

Of living in the present she says “We must celebrate our diversity and work with it.”

Catch 21 Icons on SABC 3 at 20h27 on SABC3.


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