NRF Women's Month 2022: Georgette Pyoos

NRF Women’s Month 2022: Georgette Pyoos

Women’s Month 2022 is celebrated under the theme of “Generation Equality: Realizing women’s rights for an equal future” and links to the achievement of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 5) of Gender Equality by 2030. The NRF is committed to supporting women to advance their careers and establish themselves as researchers and, to this end, has developed a range of funding instruments aimed at supporting emerging female researchers.

Ms Georgette Pyoos is currently a Researcher at the Agriculture Research Council (ARC) in Irene, Pretoria. She is an NRF Thuthuka* grantholder and a PhD candidate in Animal Science at the University of the Free State, specialising in climate-smart agriculture, beef breeding, genetics and animal reproductive physiology.

What impact did NRF funding have on your career?

The first project I was a part of was under the NRF’s National Equipment Program. This funded a project for a GrowSafe system that enables the real-time recording of cattle feeding behaviours and feed intakes. The second project is my PhD research study – I applied for an NRF Thuthuka Grant in 2020.

These projects afforded me the experience and the exposure in the research field as a scientist, not only theoretically but also practically. I had opportunities to meet other scientists via international and national congresses and to engage with local commercial and emerging beef cattle farmers.

This work has provided me with opportunities to grow and develop further skills in my field which I may ultimately harness for future research and capacity development in the youth of South Africa.

What has been your study/career journey: how did you end up where you are today?

I started with a BSc in Agricultural Science at UNISA. I wanted to pursue a career in animal science, so I continued my postgraduate journey. I completed a BTech at the Tshwane University of Technology and then an MSc specialising in animal breeding and genetics, whilst doing a Postgraduate Development Program with ARC. Later, I was appointed as a permanent employee at ARC.

What is your research focus on/what is your area of expertise?

This field of research (Animal Breeding and Genetics) focuses on the production performance of cattle. Currently, I work with crossbreeding in cattle in order to utilise heterosis, using animal genetic gain, to improve their meat quality, carcass quality, weaning weights, fertility etc. I also specialise in reproductive biotechnology, utilising assisting reproductive technologies to evaluate fertility in crossbred cattle and mitigate the impacts of heat stress on reproduction.

Why is your research important?

The research possibilities are many. With this system, the effect of temperature on animal behaviour as well as water and feed intake can be determined. The system can also be used to collect the information from Central Testing (Phase C) more accurately and it can even shorten the length of the tests. Seed stock, commercial and emerging farmers will all benefit from this information as it will facilitate sustainability and climate-smart production systems, whilst also providing consensual data needed for research in this field.

We, therefore, need to capacitate our emerging farmers, ensure they are well-informed and innovative, and enable them to succeed. Not only because of transformation targets or for addressing injustices of the past, but also for stability and jobs in the rural areas.

What advice do you have for girls who are interested in STEM-related careers?

I would advise young women to do proper research before registering for any courses or degrees they wish to pursue as a career. One should identify the usefulness of the qualification in the working world and also the weight it may hold on a global level, in case they may wish to work abroad in future.

It would also be beneficial to sign up for volunteer work to gain any and all practical experience, as experience is always valuable. Never give up even when things may seem unattainable, there are always alternate routes to gaining resolution.

*The NRF’s Thuthuka funding instrument, initiated in 2001, aims to develop human capital and to improve the research capacities of researchers and scholars from designated groups with the ultimate aim of redressing historical imbalances.

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