As the first PhD student successfully placed under the RUFORUM Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA), Mr Anthony Mwije shares his experience of the programme. When I saw the RUFORUM GTA advert, I knew my chance to enroll for PhD studies in a University of my choice had arrived. Immediately, I started working on my application for the GTA as well as admission to Stellenbosch University. I was successful with both applications and have now joined the laboratory and research group at the Faculty of AgriSciences, Stellenbosch University which comprises a team of my supervisors, Dr. Elmi Lotze and Dr. E. W. Hoffman. My research is about the “Dynamics of sunburn reduction in apple fruits upon application of calcium and boron minerals.”
Sunburn is a form of heat and temperature stress that negatively affects fruit and vegetable farming. With increased incidence of drought, brought about by climate change and global temperature rise, it is important to find sustainable solutions to protect crops and reduce production costs. Farmers have attempted to reduce sunburn in crops by using shades, irrigation and spraying reflective substances on fruits, but these have not been sustainable and are expensive. My PhD study will, for the first time, investigate the possibility of reducing sunburn in apples by spraying their leaves with mineral nutrients to to boost antioxidant activity or stabilise plant cells in the fruits. I am pleased to be the first GTA Fellow and I am proud to be associated with the history of this exciting fellowship. I am also happy that I will attain PhD training at Stellenbosh University, one of the top universities in Africa and I hope I will be of immense use when I return to my Department.
Mr Mwije holds a First Class Bachelors degree in Agriculture (Crop Science) and a Masters degree in Crop Science both from Makerere University obtained in 2009 and 2014, respectively. He works in the Department of Agricultural Production, School of Agricultural Sciences at Makerere University and specialises in Plant Physiology and Biotechnology. The RUFORUM Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA) was initiated by 42 African Vice Chancellors whose universities are members of RUFORUM. It aims to build the capacity of their staff members in order to accelerate the production of PhDs in the agricultural sector in Africa. Within the GTA mechanism, the sending university provides upkeep and research fees for their staff member (PhD student) while the receiving/host university assigns teaching responsibilities to the student and waives tuition fees. Applications for GTAs are open throughout the year. Details of the application procedure are online at: http://blog.ruforum.org/2015/03/31/phd-training-opportunities-under-the-ruforum-graduate-teaching-assistantship-program