Environmental Microbiology and Agricultural Biotechnology Research Group

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The Environmental Microbiology and Agricultural Biotechnology (EMAB) research group at NWU utilizes both fundamental as well as applied microbiological and biotechnological approaches to address agricultural and environmental challenges. The research interests of the group are divided into two categories:

  1. Harnessing microbial activities for conservation of natural resources and environment
  2. Harnessing microbial activities for environmental protection and sustainable agricultural practices

Specific research interests include:

  • Plant and soil health
  • Symbiosis
  • Microbial/molecular ecology and evolution
  • Biodiversity of soil and water microbes
  • Bioremediation
  • Environmental biotechnology and restoration
  • Biohydrometallurgy
  • Renewable energy
  • Biofertilizer production


1 Prof. Rasheed Adeleke is a Full Professor and the Environmental Microbiology and Agricultural Biotechnology research group leader. He obtained his PhD degree from the University of Pretoria, Department of Microbiology and Plant Pathology. He is an alumnus of the Borlaug fellowship programme at Cornell University as well as a Canadian government commonwealth scholarship beneficiary. He collaborates with researchers both nationally and internationally.



    img Dr. Abdullahi Adekilekun Jimoh was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow from February 2020 to January 2022. He obtained his PhD degree in Microbiology. His current research interests is centered on genetic and metabolic engineering, proteomics, biosurfactants-enhanced bioremediation, new biosurfactant-formulated products, microbial cell products, and greener technology.


      Extraordinary Appointments:

      img Dr Obinna Tobechukwu Ezeokoli is an Associate Medical Writer at ApotheCom, an Inizio Company.
      img Dr Feyisara Eyiwumi Oni is the Team Leader for Beneficial Microbes at Rijk Zwaan (NL).


          Postdoctoral Research Fellows:

          img Dr Muiz Oluwatosin Akinyemi is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow.  He obtained his PhD degree in Food and Industrial Microbiology. His current research interest is focused on Food Safety, Mycotoxicology, Antimicrobials and Microbial Ecology
          img Dr Kazeem Alayande is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow.  He obtained his PhD degree in Microbiology from North-West University, Mahikeng, South Africa.


                 PhD Students:

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                Rohan Fourie is a PDP student and is registered for a PhD at the North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus. His focus is on anaerobic pathogens, specifically Clostridium spp. in aquatic and agricultural environments. His research aims to extend the understanding of these microorganisms in the environment by investigating its pathogenicity at a genomic level.   Leani Bothma is a PDP student and is registered for a PhD degree at NWU. She is investigating the effects emerging contaminants have on bacteriophage survival and their bacterial hosts. This research is imperative to gain a better understanding of the secondary effects of these contaminants and how they impact the effectiveness of wastewater treatment plants, international standard methods for evaluating water quality and the microbial ecosystem of natural aquatic environments.  

                Sinawo Tsipinana is a PhD student, registered with North-West University. Her study focus is on endophytes and medical plants. She will be evaluating endophytes from medicinal plants and determine their biological activities such as their ability to promote plant growth and produce secondary metabolites.

                  Adekunle Raimi is a registered PhD student at the North-West University. He is currently investigating plant-microbe interactions and their potential benefits in sustainable agriculture as well as in the therapeutic management of human health.   Sharon Maphala Mokubedi is a masters graduate in Biotechnology. She is currently a PhD student registered with the North-West University. Her research focus is aimed at developing an endophytic inoculum with plant growth promoting attributes, which could be used by South African smallholder farmers to improve crop production.
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                Nolwandle Khumalo is a PhD student registered at the North-West University. Her research focuses on understanding the microbial exchange that occurs between plants and their pollinator and the potential impact on their health and fitness in light of conservation ecology.   Tshepiso Seobi is currently a lecturer at the Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management, North-West University. He is a soil scientist by training and has interest in the effects of microbiology on soil quality, properties and productivity. His current PhD research is on glomalin, a soil glycoprotein associated with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi.   Alicia Fouché is a PhD candidate at the North-West University, Potchefstroom campus. Her research is on Mucoromycota fungi communities and aims to understand how environmental and biotic filtering affects community structures across distance, time and taxonomy.   Cynthia Marokane-Radebe is a PhD student at North-West University. She is investigating the diversity and important functional attributes of endophytes associated with selected rare/endangered medicinal plants from South Africa. The study’s expected outcome is the discovery of beneficial endophytes within the selected medicinal plants that can produce bioactive compounds for use as potential active ingredients with pharmaceutical, agricultural and industrial applications.    


                  MSc Students:

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                  Jacques Malan is registered as an MSc student at the North-West University. His current research focuses on the diversity of secondary metabolites in the rhizosphere of cultivated land. The aim of this work is to gain insight into the effect of land management practices on metabolite diversity and thus on the potential for the plant protection capacity of certain soils.   Fanele Vilakazi is currently a MSc student at the North-West University. Her focus is on surface water quality. She investigates the effects of emerging pollutants and their impact on microbial, environmental and human life. The aim of her research is to understand the overall effect of pollutants of emerging concern in South African surface water systems.   Katiso Mgadi is a MSc student registered with North-West University and is part of the Agricultural Research Councils’ Postgraduate Development Programme. His specific research area is on plant and soil health where his research focuses on understanding the effect nano-fertilizers have on soil and crop microbial communities and their functions. He hopes his research will pave the way to understanding and regulating the use of nanomaterials in agriculture.  

                  Mariska Kleyn is currently a second-year MSc candidate at the North-West University, Potchefstroom campus. Her focus is on endophytes residing within ready to eat vegetables. The aim of her research is to determine the potential impacts of antibiotic resistant endophytes associated with irrigation water and the implications thereof on human health.

                    Mmanoko Napo is a first year MSc candidate at North-West University, Potchefstroom, in the Environmental Sciences field. Her research focus is on the role of endosymbiotic bacteria on the ecological diversity of their Mucoromycota hosts in South Africa. The aim of her research is to identify Mucoromycota fungi and their endosymbiotic bacteria and determine how endosymbiotic bacteria contribute to Mucoromycota diversity in South Africa.


                    Honours Students:

                    • 2023
                      • Lin-Mari Theron
                      • Ivan Schutte
                      • Michaela Koch
                      • Giselle Prinsloo
                    • 2022
                      • Mari-Jo September
                    • 2021
                      • Reabetswe  Moema
                    • 2020
                      • Riyaadh Mahomed
                      • Patroline Nosipho Koetetse
                      • Chabeli Melato
                      • Dumisa Zicina

                    Joining the Microbiology and Environmental Biotechnology Research Group
                    Postdoctoral and postgraduate students who would like to gain and share experience in different aspects of microbiology and biotechnology are welcome to join the Research Group.
                    Please contact Prof Rasheed Adeleke for more information or to discuss possible research projects and funding opportunities:
                    Email: Rasheed.Adeleke@nwu.ac.za
                    Telephone: +27 18 299 2495