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Department celebrates 50th anniversary
2009-03-25

 
The first Departmental Head and the subsequent Departmental Chairpersons at the dinner on 14 March this year. From left: Proff Bernard Prior (1991-1998), Piet Lategan (1962-1990), Derek Litthauer (1998-2002) and James du Preez (2002-). These are all the Heads/Chairpersons of the Department since its founding in 1959, with the exception of Prof Hans Potgieter who acted as Head during 1959-1962.
Photo: Stephen Collett
 
Department celebrates 50th anniversary

On 13 March the Department Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology at the University of the Free State (UFS) celebrated its 50th anniversary in a splendid fashion with a lecture entitled, The origin of life: Exactly how did life begin? as part of the Darwin commemorative lecture series, followed by a reunion of current and former staff members and postgraduate students of the department with a barbeque on the following day.

The proceedings were concluded on 14 March with a gala dinner in die Centenary Complex at the UFS attended by 153 staff members, post-graduate students (current and former) and other guests. During the dinner the guests were treated to a presentation of historical photos of the founding and development of the department. Currently the department is one of the largest departments in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences in respect of the number of staff members and students as well as research outputs. This is the result of entrepreneurial actions to increase student numbers and research activities, as well as the merging with the smaller Department of Biochemistry in 1988 and more recently with the Department of Food Science in 2002. The department comprises 20 academics, 24 support staff and 65 postgraduate students. It also boasts 12 lecturers with ratings from the National Research Foundation (NRF), which include three academics with a B-rating, an indication of international recognition for their research. The department has the largest number of lecturers with an NRF-rating at the UFS. 

“It was interesting to learn during the reunion of the variety of professions occupied by former students of the department, i.e. at other tertiary educational institutions, the CSSIR, SAPPI, Sasol and a multitude of other industries, as well as at research institutions in the USA and Australia,” said Prof. James du Preez, Head of the Department.

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