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Professor Don Cowan



University of Pretoria, South Africa

Don Cowan is a Professor in the Department of Genetics at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, and Director of both the University of Pretoria Centre for Microbial Ecology and Genomics and the Genomics Research Institute. Over a research career spanning more than 30 years, he has led numerous research projects on the microbial ecology of extreme environments, particularly the deserts of both hot and cold regions. Over the past decade, his research has fully encompassed the new genomic technologies (particularly metagenomics) and provided fascinating new insights into the presence and behaviour of microorganisms in extremely hot and cold desert soil environments.

The Unseen Majority: The World of Microbes


We are in the midst of a new scientific revolution! In little more than a decade, dramatic developments in the technologies available for sequencing genetic material (DNA and RNA) have reduced the costs of sequencing by a million fold and opened entire new fields in environmental, biotechnological and medical research. In this presentation, I will describe how these new technologies have enabled us to understand the true diversity of microorganisms in natural environments, to probe how they survive environmental extremes and how they interact with each other.
Emergin infectious diseases with Associate Professor Gavin Smith

Watch Professor Don Cowan’s Sci21 webcast, The Unseen Majority: The World of Microbes