Professor Don Cowan trained as an enzymologist and graduated from the University of Waikato, New Zealand in 1981. After a period of post-doctoral research, he took up a tenured Lectureship in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at University College London in 1985. In 2001 he moved to South Africa to take the Chair of Microbiology at the University of the Western Cape, where he established and directed the Institute for Microbial Biotechnology and Metagenomics. In 2012 he moved to the University of Pretoria as Director of both the Institutional Research Theme in Genomics (now the Genomics Research Institute) and the newly formed Centre for Microbial Ecology and Genomics. During his research career he has published over 310 research papers, reviews and book chapters. He currently sits on the Editorial Boards of 13 international journals. Don Cowan was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa in 2005 and a Member of the Academy of Sciences of South Africa in 2007. He was awarded the UWC Vice-Rector’s Award for research excellence in 2008. In 2009 he was awarded the SASM Silver Medal for “exceptional, meritorious and original research in microbiology” and elected as an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand. He was awarded the University of Pretoria Chancellor’s Medal in 2015. He is the immediate past-President of the Royal Society of South Africa and is an NRF A-rated researcher.