Don Cowan was educated (BSc, MSc, PhD) at the University of Waikato (New Zealand) and completed a 4‑year period of postdoctoral research in extremophile enzymology before taking a Lectureship at University College London (UK) in 1985. In 2001 he was appointed to the Chair of Microbiology and Head of the Department of Biotechnology at the University of the Western Cape (RSA), where he established the Institute for Microbial Ecology and Metagenomics. In 2012 he moved to the University of Pretoria where he is currently the Director of both the Genomics Research Institute and the Centre for Microbial Ecology and Genomics.
Don also holds the posts of Professor Emeritus at the University of the Western Cape, was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa in 2007, as a Member of the Academy of Sciences of South Africa in 2008, and as an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 2009. He was awarded the University of the Western Cape Vice-Rector’s Award for Research Excellence in 2008 and the South African Society for Microbiology Medal for Research Excellence in 2009. He is a past President of the Royal Society of South Africa. He received the National Science and Technology Forum Capacity Development award in 2014. In April 2015 he received the University of Pretoria’s highest research award, the Chancellor’s Medal. He was elected as a Fellow of African Academy of Sciences in March 2017. More recently, he was awarded an NRF A1 rating, the 2019 Royal Society of South Africa’s John F.W. Herschel medal, the University of Pretoria’s 2020 Exceptional Supervisor’s Award and the SASBMB 2021 Gold Medal.
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