20 January, 2012
The new Plant Sciences Complex
New Home for Plant Sciences
The Vice-Chancellor and Principal at the University of Pretoria
officially opened a new complex-the Plant Sciences Complex - which
houses diverse departments and institutes in the plant science field.
The opening of the complex coincided with a launch of the SAFCOL
Forestry Chair by the organisation's acting Chief Executive, Ms Maureen
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
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
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
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
"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
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
"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: 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
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 - 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).