Honorary doctorates

05 April 2019 | From Kgethi

Dear colleagues and students

Every year the University of Cape Town (UCT) bestows high academic honours by awarding honorary doctorates to distinguished individuals for their significant contribution to society in various fields.

An honorary degree is an academic degree for which a university or other degree-awarding institution has waived the usual requirements, such as matriculation, residence, a dissertation, and the passing of comprehensive examinations.

This year I am delighted that UCT will confer honorary doctorates on the following distinguished scholars:

Professor David Roger Jones Owen: Doctor of Engineering (honoris causa)

Professor David Owen is considered an international authority on finite element and discrete element techniques. He is Professor of Civil Engineering at Swansea University, Wales, in the United Kingdom (UK). He will receive his honorary doctorate from UCT on Saturday, 13 April 2019.

After undertaking his initial degrees at Swansea University, he completed his PhD at Northwestern University in the United States (US) in the field of theoretical and applied mechanics. This work, and his early postdoctoral experience as Walter P Murphy Research Fellow at Northwestern, involved both the analytical and computational study of fundamental plastic material deformation described by continuously distributed dislocation mechanisms.

Professor Owen’s research in the field of solid and structural mechanics has centred on the development of solution procedures for non-linear problems encountered in science and engineering.

He plays a leading role in national and international scientific affairs. For example, he is a member of the executive council of the International Association for Computational Mechanics, a worldwide organisation established to promote and guide research and applications in the field of numerical modelling. He is also the editor of the International Journal of Industrial Engineering Computations and a member of several editorial boards.

Professor Owen has recently been elected a member of the Civil Engineering Panel for the UK Research Excellence Framework exercise to be undertaken in 2021.

Dr Georges Belfort: Doctor of Science in Engineering - (DSc (Eng)) (honoris causa)

Dr Georges Belfort is one of the premier academic scientists in the field of bio-separations engineering and is a leading academic chemical engineer in liquid-phase pressure-driven membrane-based processes. He received his PhD in 1972 and his master’s in 1969 from the University of California at Irvine – both in engineering – and his BSc in chemical engineering from UCT in 1963.

He will receive his honorary doctorate during the December 2019 graduation season.

Dr Belfort has made seminal wide-ranging fundamental and applied research contributions to the understanding, design and application of pressure-driven membrane processes for the recovery of biological molecules.

His research, both fundamental and developmental, is conducted in the areas of membrane-separations engineering and surface science and the behaviour of proteins at interfaces. In particular, the research involves the design of new membrane modules with highly efficient mass-transfer characteristics, modification of membrane surfaces for reduced fouling, and the use of genetic engineering as a tool in the separation of biological molecules.

He is currently the Russell Sage Professor (endowed chair) of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Howard P Isermann Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, New York, in the US.

He has received the two major awards in the US on separations, from the American Chemical Society (ACS) in 1995 and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) in 2000, the ACS EV Murphree Award in Industrial and Engineering Chemistry in 2008 and was one of the “100 Chemical Engineers of the Modern Era” as part of the AIChE Centennial Celebration in 2008. He was elected a member of the US National Academy of Engineering in February 2003.

Dr Belfort was appointed member of the Scientific Advisory Board, Max Planck Institute for Dynamics of Complex Technical Systems, Magdeburg, Germany, in April 2011, and inducted as foreign corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences of Bologna Institute, Class of Physical Sciences, Section of Technical Sciences in March 2012.

Dr Marlene Belfort: Doctor of Science (honoris causa)

Dr Marlene Belfort is an internationally acclaimed molecular geneticist. She currently holds the position of Distinguished Professor of Molecular Genetics, Biomedical Sciences, School of Public Health, State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany in New York. She is also a Distinguished Scientist at the Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health. Dr Belfort is the only SUNY Albany faculty member who has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr Belfort will receive her honorary doctorate during the December 2019 graduation season.

After graduating with a BSc from UCT, she received her PhD in molecular biology at the University of California and performed postdoctoral work at the Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem, Israel, where she holds an honorary doctorate.

Within a very few years of arriving in Albany as a junior investigator at the Wadsworth Center, she and her colleagues identified the first intron, or intervening sequence, in a prokaryote. Later she discovered that these introns move from place to place on the genome. Then she elucidated the different molecular pathways in which introns splice and move by recruiting proteins of unusual structure and function. This work is leading to the use of introns in biotechnology and medicine. Her research interests are in splicing, mobility and evolution of self-splicing introns, and their application to biotechnology.

Dr Belfort is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Microbiology, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Professor Jonathan Jansen: Doctor of Education (honoris causa)

Professor Jonathan Jansen is an internationally renowned scholar and expert in education. In 2009 he became the first black rector and vice-chancellor of the University of the Free State (UFS). He took up the position of Distinguished Professor in the Faculty of Education at Stellenbosch University in 2017.

Professor Jansen is known for his bold and challenging views on transformation, peaceful reconciliation and unity, which he pursued in earnest while at UFS. Despite setbacks, like the notorious Reitz Four video incident, under Jansen’s leadership the university made great strides towards integration.

He achieved his first undergraduate degree at the University of the Western Cape (BSc), his teaching credentials at UNISA (BEd, HED) and his postgraduate education in the US (MS, Cornell; PhD, Stanford). Professor Jansen was a Fulbright Scholar at Stanford University (2007–2008). He served as a fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford in 2016 and 2017.

In recognition of his contribution to education, Professor Jansen has received honorary doctorates from the University of Edinburgh, the University of Vermont and Cleveland State University. In 2013 he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for Africa at the Education Africa Global Awards in New York, as well as the University of California’s Spendlove Prize for his contribution to tolerance, democracy and human rights. He has published several books and is a columnist in leading newspapers in the country.


Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng

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