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2 April 2013
Science Faculty Dean's Merit Awards

The University of the Western Cape's (UWC) Faculty of Natural Sciences honoured 36 of the best Honours and undergraduate students of 2012 for their achievements at the annual Dean's Merit Award ceremony at the Life Sciences Building on 2 April 2013.

Prof Gavin Maneveldt, Deputy Dean: Teaching and Learning and Head of the Biodiversity and Conservation Biology Department, opened and directed the programme. Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic Prof Ramesh Bharuthram commended the students for doing so well in first-rate undergraduate programmes, but reminded them that it doesn't have to end there. “For those of you receiving your awards today, you should see your first degree as the beginning of your academic career – and you should use the expertise and the knowledge and the facilities available at the University to actually go as far as you can go,” he said.

The awards honoured the Faculty's finest students across all departments who had earned an average mark of 80% or greater for the 2012 academic year. Some were newcomers, while others had been on the list year after year. One student in particular, Alison Louw from the School of Pharmacy, has received the ward for a fourth consecutive year.

Even among the best students at the University, though, there are those who are the best of the best – those who had achieved average marks beyond even those of their fellow Deans Merit Awards winners. This year, third place went to third year (in 2012) Applied Geology student Reddy Bokana Ngili, for his 87.8% average. Second place was awarded to Ismail Vallie, former third year Chemical Sciences student, for attaining an 88.25% average. And top spot on the merit list went to Edyth Parker, who averaged 89.17% for her second year in Biotechnology – Edyth also topped the Dean's Merit List in 2012 (for her stellar performance in her first year in 2011).

Unfortunately the Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Prof Michael Davies-Coleman, was unable to attend due to illness, and so it fell to Prof Charlene Africa, the Deputy Dean: Employment and Gender Equity, to deliver the Dean's Address, and to acknowledge all the prestigious students, awarding them with their certificates.

“The Dean's Merit Awards honour students who have put lots and lots of hours into achieving what they want to achieve,” she said. “As long as you enjoy what you are doing, and you are willing to put in the practice you need, you will achieve.”

Special guests Teaching and Learning Specialist Dr Rita Kizito and nuclear astrophysicist Prof Nico Orce gave brief talks showing how science had intertwined with their lives. The two academics also gave advice to students aspiring to scientific careers.

“We need to find that authentic part of ourselves,” said Dr Kizita, who majored in Maths and Physics and who took a long detour in her life before finding herself back dealing with the field she so enjoyed. “That is the part we need to nourish if we want to live fulfilled lives.”

Prof Orte noted: “Hard work is not enough; it keeps things running, but it doesn't make big changes. To excel we need to commit ourselves in what we do, to immerse ourselves. We need to love it – and still be able to doubt that we have the answer.” As an example, he presented a famous quote from Albert Einstein “The physicist's greatest tool is his wastebasket” - implying that it takes several attempts to get things right.

The evening ended with a cocktail party, where the students could celebrate their achievements with friends, family and fine food.