New home for Plant Sciences

Posted on January 20, 2012

The new R100 million complex will enhance inter and cross-disciplinary research collaboration, bringing together departments and faculties that would traditionally not have interacted with one another in traditional paradigms. The new facility includes, amongst others, research laboratories that are dedicated to conducting work in fields such as plant diversity, ecology, biotechnology and medicinal plant science.

One wing of the Complex will house the new Forestry Research programme including the SAFCOL Forestry Chair, as well as a suite of laboratories to accommodate the growing activities of the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI).

The new complex has several postgraduate laboratories and two large undergraduate laboratories; a microscopy laboratory that seats 150 students and a biotechnology laboratory for 120 students. There is a double tier auditorium and two smaller meeting rooms. The building houses a herbarium on the ground level, while the roof area will be used to cultivate plants for experimental purposes in a specially designed glass-covered ‘greenhouse’.

The Head of Department of Plant Science, Prof Marion Meyer, said the new complex will form a hub of activity in his department and that for the first time in many decades, staff members of the department have been brought together under one roof. “The new Plant Sciences Complex will enhance collaboration between different departments and institutes which specialise in fundamental research and applied sciences within the Department of Plant Science”, said Prof Meyer.

In her address Prof Cheryl de la Rey, the Vice-Chancellor and Principal, said that the new complex is a means to enable the University of Pretoria to achieve its objectives of quality and increased research output, and also a realisation of a vision and commitment which she made at a sod turning ceremony two years ago. The commitment was that for the University to improve its academic quality and output, it has to ensure an enabling environment where the staff and students can focus their passion for and commitment to intellectual and scientific enquiry. Such an enabling environment includes appropriate physical infrastructure.

While the focus was on the celebration of the new facilities, Prof de la Rey also confirmed that the Department of Plant Science at the University of Pretoria is ranked amongst the top institutions in the world, according to the ISI Essential Science Indicators. She however cautioned staff and students not to be complacent in their achievements but to build on a strong academic foundation to take the institution to new heights of academic discovery and impact in the broad area of plant sciences.

“I am hopeful that these modern new facilities will provide a source of inspiration for all our staff and students to continue to strive to be at the forefront of knowledge in their respective chosen areas in the broad field of plant sciences”, said Prof de la Rey.

The Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, Prof Anton Ströh, also reiterated the successes achieved by the Department of Plant Science over a number of years. He said the Department has accelerated its outputs both within the local and the international sphere which resulted in the University of Pretoria being ranked number 54 in terms of the volume of outputs pertaining to the plant sciences worldwide.

Prof Ströh said the new complex will enable the Department to deliver and significantly accelerate production in the field of plant sciences.

In launching the South African Forestry Company (Ltd) (SAFCOL) Chair at the University of Pretoria, the acting Chief Executive of SAFCOL, Ms Maureen Manyama-Matome, said her organisation endeavours to promote learning and skills development programmes in forestry programmes. This was realised in 2006 together with the University of Pretoria when a need to extend formal education to prospective postgraduate students from South Africa and the SADC region was identified.

“The University of Pretoria was and still is perfectly positioned to successfully contribute to the need for formal education for prospective students focussing on forestry related research”.

Ms Manyama-Matome projected that the establishment of the Plant Sciences Complex will go a long way in supporting forestry research. She also said the SAFCOL Chair launched at the University of Pretoria will become the solution to skills challenges in the thriving forestry industry.

“The success of the SAFCOL Chair in offering quality education and training will depend on the participation of the forestry industry, both within the public and the private sector, and key stakeholders also need to be involved,” said Manyama-Matome.

From left to right - Prof Marion Meyer (HOD Department of Plant Science), Prof Cheryl de la Rey (UP's Vice-Chancellor and Principal), Ms Maureen Manyama-Matome (SAFCOL Acting CEO), and Prof Anton Ströh (Dean of Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences).

Head of Department of Plant Science, Prof Marion Meyer addressing the attendees during the official opening of the new Plant Sciences Complex.

Ms Maureen Manyama-Matome

From left to right: UP's Director of SAFCOL Forestry Chair, Prof Paxie Chirwa; Ms Maureen Manyama-Matome, Acting CEO of SAFCOL and UP's Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Prof Cheryl de la Rey 

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