Sandra Rodrigues Videira successfully defended her thesis by Webmaster News 2018-10-16 15:41:03

Sandra I.R. Videira studied biology in Coimbra in Portugal before she came for her PHD to the Netherlands.. Since her MSc she fell in love with fungi. That fact is mentioned by Pedro Crous in his Judicium today: ‘You started with studying the ecology and management of commercially harvested macrofungi like Tricholoma flavovirens in Portugal. It is funny that this mushroom is commercially harvested in Portugal, while in Dutch Mycology books this fungus is documented as being doubtful to eat. You then studied the biodiversity of microfungi occurring on historical documents by molecular tools and evaluated whether they could be controlled by gamma radiation. With all this expertise you were the favourite candidate for a PhD project at the Westerdijk Institute.’

She never envisioned a thesis of 589 pages, and she never thought it would take her more than 4 to 5 years for her promotion. Yet today, about 7 years after she started, Sandra succesfully defended her 589 pages record-breaking thesis. Well, maybe in history a few equally heavy manuscripts have been reported, but not more than a handful. ‘Mycospaerellaceae revisited’ the thesis is called.
This PhD was funded by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science through an endowment of the FES programme ‘Making the tree of life work. This was essentially a DNA barcoding grant that the Westerdijk Institute received together with the Naturalis Biodiversity Centre in Leiden – the aim being to produce DNA barcodes and descriptions of fungi in the Westerdijk collection.
In the end this PhD research led to more than everyone would have expected:
Crous says: “Looking back at your original PhD proposal, you originally set out to work on the phylogeny on Ramularia and allied genera – formerly referred to as Mycosphaerella. We were particularly interested in the Ramularia eucalypti complex, as during that time we received several clinical isolates from hospitals, and we also wanted to look at the mating structure of Ramularia beticola on sugarbeet, as this was shown to be an important disease of this crop in the Netherlands and several other European countries. 
You spent more than a year collecting populations of Ramularia beticola, and once we started the mating type work, we could only find a single mating type, and this looked like a less exciting avenue to explore, which meant we had to revise the original research plan. In the end, you dived into the deepest pool possible, and revised not only the genus Ramularia, but also the family, the Mycosphaerellaceae, a group that we have been collecting cultures of for the past 30 years.
This was a project that I have always dreamt of, but never dared to think that it would one day be accomplished.’

Yet Sandra Videira did, she accomplished a lot and her research definitely shows the power of molecular genetics. Sandra proved even an iconic paper like the 1983 paper of Von Arx Mycosphaerella and its anamorphs to be wrong. ‘Showing that these genera did frequently not even belong to the same class of fungi. Morphologically similar, but genetically so very, very different. [..] Still in 1990s oomycetes were called fungi, but now we know they are more distantly related to fungi than fungi to man.’ Pedro Crous is very clear in his admiration for the project Sandra took on and accomplished.
‘I doubt that I have ever had a PhD student that has seen or described as many taxa as you during this thesis, and I hope that this unique experience, will stand you in good stead for your future scientific career..’

Congratulations Sandra!