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Jill Farrant


Professor Jill M. Farrant
Telephone: +27 21 650 4496 | Facsimile: +27 21 650 1861



Professor Jill Farrant is a leader in the field of plant responses to water deficit stress (drought/desiccation tolerance), receiving international recognition for her research. She was the African/Arab States recipient of the 2012 L'Oreal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science (download the press release), one of only five scientists worldwide who were selected by an international jury as "researchers who will have a major impact on society and help light the way to the future". SSubsequently,she has been invited to give talks and lectures on the international stage (TED talk, 2015; TEDx Cape Town, 2015; BioVision, 2013; the prestigious Falling Walls conference in Berlin,2013), has been awarded and nominated for numerous awards and is a fellow of the The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS). She has been awarded and maintained an A-rating by the National Research Foundation (the first female researcher at UCT ever to receive such a rating) and was made a member of the University of Cape Town College of Fellows. After holding the UCT Research Chair of Molecular Plant Physiology of Desiccation Tolerance for several years, she was awarded the NRF SARChI Chair in 2015 which she holds at the Molecular and Cell Biology Department at UCT. 

A recipient of the Department of Science and Technology's Distinguished Woman in Science for 2010, Prof. Farrant's 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. At the MSc and PhD level, she studied the unusual desiccation-sensitive (recalcitrant) seeds of Avicennia marina, comparing them to desiccation-tolerant (orthodox) seeds to identify characteristics that are important for desiccation tolerance. On arrival at the University of Cape Town, Prof. Farrant initiated work on resurrection plants. Her research encompasses physiology, biochemistry and molecular biology, and focuses on several different species of resurrection plant, making comparisons amongst them. She also currently serves on the scientific board of the Agropolis Foundation, Montpellier, France, the TWAS Award Committee and is the panel chair of ASSAf Committee assessing biosafety and biosecurity in South Africa.

International TED talk: November 2015. TED is a nonpartisan nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. TED Talks are videos that present a great idea in 18 minutes or less. They’re filmed at flagship TED conferences, independent TEDx events, and other programs. Their goal is to share Ideas Worth Spreading — in fields like science, technology, business, culture, art and design — around the world.

21 Icons: 21 Icons is a visual celebration of the lives of men and women who have shaped the world around them for the better. Inspired by the life of Nelson Mandela, it tells the stories of people who have continued his legacy – whose lives have made the world a better place. The project seeks to celebrate those who have achieved success and widespread recognition. The project combines fine-art portraits, short films, behind the scenes photography, written narrative and a feature length documentary. The hope was to capture in an immersive manner the lives of the people it features. This meant striving for intimacy during the portrait shoots and interviews, to ensure that the charm, humility and sincerity of South Africa’s most remarkable people came through.

Every year, the EPFL & EPFL WISH holds the prestigious Erna Hamburger Prize and Conference, an event that brings into the limelight an influential, leading woman who is transforming her field and executing change, creating role models for students and young researchers on campus, and the public at large. The 10th anniversary of the Erna Hamburger Prize was celebrated by welcoming Prof. Jill Farrant.

Falling Walls 2013: Berlin, Germany – Breaking the Wall of Famine

BioVision World Life Sciences Forum 2013 presentation: Lyon, France


100 World Class South Africans (City Press, Sept 2013)

Piante "Lazzaro" contro la siccità (Le Scienze, Jan 2014)

How plants come back from the dead (Wired, 3 Jan 2014)

La científica que estudia el secreto de la resurrección (BBC Mundo, 22 Dec 2013)

Jill Farrant: The Resurrection Plant - and Woman (Daily Maveick, 12 April 2012)

Falling Walls Conference: Unique Access to Breakthrough Research

The Falling Walls Conference is an annual global gathering of forward thinking individuals from 75 countries organized by the Falling Walls Foundation. Each year, 20 of the world's leading scientists are invited to Berlin to present their current breakthrough research. The aim of the conference is to connect science with the innovation industry, politics, media and culture; identify trends, opportunities and solutions for global challenges; make research understandable to a broad audience; inspire people to break down the walls that we face today.