14 September 2021 | Story Leonie Bolleurs | Photo Supplied
Ofhani Mavhungu, Carina le Roux, Dr Foch de Witt , and Andries van der Merwe.

The Department of Animal Science at the University of the Free State (UFS) walked away with numerous awards at the 52nd congress of the South African Society for Animal Science (SASAS).

Dr Foch de Witt, Senior Lecturer in the department, explains that the SASAS congress is an annual event where scientists, academics, students, and various industry role players come together to share the latest research findings regarding different aspects of animal science and production. 

Acknowledging greatness

The SASAS Gold Medal was awarded to Prof Michiel Scholtz, affiliated professor in the department. “He was presented with this award for his honourable lifelong service to animal science. His scientific contributions and achievements have been recognised as exceptionally meritorious by both national and international animal scientists,” says Prof Frikkie Neser, Head of the Department of Animal Science.

Andries van der Merwe, a postgraduate student, received the SASAS Student Postgraduate Merit Award. According to Prof Neser, this is an annual national merit award to postgraduate students for exceptional academic achievement in Animal Science during undergraduate studies at any South African university.

Dr Sinobongo Mdyogolo, a PhD student of Prof Neser, was presented with the SASAS Bronze Medal in respect of her PhD achievements in the research and technology transfer categories. This is the highest honour a student can get after completion of their PhD degree.

During the SASAS congress, a total of 22 oral and poster contributions were delivered by staff and students from the Department of Animal Science.

A great networking opportunity 

Another highlight for the department was when three of its students – Carina le Roux, Ofhani Mavhungu, and Andries van der Merwe – participated in and won the SASAS national student quiz. Team UFS was one of 13 student teams from various tertiary institutions participating in the competition. The external panel of judges complemented the team on how they integrated theoretical principles in a practical and applied manner.

According to Dr De Witt, UFS Animal Science graduates compare very favourably with other students from tertiary institutions in South Africa. “Many of our students seek employment in the animal feed industry and they excel in their professional career development. It is clear that the curriculum updates of the past few years were successful in ensuring that students are able to integrate theoretical and practical concepts in an applied manner – a skill that is sought after in the industry,” he says. 

He also believes that an event such as the SASAS congress is an ideal network opportunity where students can get exposure to congress presentations, while having the opportunity to meet potential employers and/or sponsors.

“The SASAS congress creates a platform for students to measure themselves in terms of scientific development and career preparedness by interacting directly with other students from different tertiary institutions as well as industry members. Exposure to events such as this furthermore prepares them for their professional registration with the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions (SACNASP),” adds Dr De Witt. 

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