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Faculty of Natural Sciences

Welcome to the web page of the Faculty of Natural Sciences at the University of Western Cape.

Despite the challenges of the global pandemic, which changed all our lives in March, 2020, the Faculty of Natural Sciences remains well placed to make a difference in an ever-changing global society with an exponentially increasing dependence on technology.  In the past decade an investment of ca. R1.3 billion has been made in science infrastructure and research facilities in the Faculty. Since 2010 the Faculty has been the recipient of new, state-of-the-art Chemical, Life Sciences and Computational and Mathematical Sciences buildings and has been the beneficiary of an influx of high-end research equipment.  Concomitant with this investment, the Faculty has been able to annually graduate record numbers of MSc and PhD graduates, and continuously increase its outputs of peer-reviewed research publications in national and international journals.

The Faculty of Natural Sciences encompasses nine academic Departments and a School of Pharmacy, four research Institutes, two research centres and two research units.  The 2021 academic programme will offer ten undergraduate degrees and one professional pharmacy degree. At the postgraduate level the Faculty offers twelve different honours degrees, one post-graduate diploma in integrated water resource management and MSc, MPhil and PhD degrees in a wide range of scientific disciplines.   This year we welcome over 4000 students in the Faculty, of which, 828 will be first time entrants into university, and just over 30% of the total number of our science students will be postgraduates.

The Faculty of Natural Sciences is committed to excellence in undergraduate learning and teaching and in 2019 staff members in the Faculty were the recipients of a Higher Educational Learning and Teaching Association of South Africa commendation for our Maths Turnaround Project, which saw a doubling of the success rate of our students in second year undergraduate mathematics.   The success of this project continued in the online teaching and learning environment necessitated by the pandemic in 2020.  The Faculty has also embarked on a new partnership with Learning Science UK in which we have introduced interactive online pre-practical simulations and “smart worksheets”.  Earlier this year the Faculty, together with our colleagues in the university’s Centre for Innovative Education and Communication, were awarded an international teaching innovation award for our innovative roll out of the Learning Science programme.

Applied research and innovation is a key driver of research across the Faculty.  From researching new ways to tap into alternative energy sources eg via platinum based hydrogen fuel cells, to the discovery of new commercially exploitable, “green,” biosurfactants (produced by bacteria collected from extreme environments), to developing a novel Y Chromosome test kit for identifying male perpetrators of sexual violence, the Faculty is making great strides in research and innovation with societal impact.   The seven South African Research Chairs in the Faculty continually strengthen the international footprints of our premier niche research areas including, inter alia, radio astronomy, nanoscience, nuclear physics, material science (including sensor technology), metagenomics and health bioinformatics.  Researching  the consequences of global environmental challenges, like climate change, are also key research foci for many of our biologists, chemists and water scientists, while the ongoing exploration and beneficiation of South Africa’s abundant natural resources drives much of the multi-disciplinary research in the Faculty.

The News links on the Faculty Homepage are regularly updated and archived and provide interesting up-to -date a snapshots of what is happening in our vibrant and productive Faculty.

Finally, the availability of world class infrastructure and expensive research equipment is undoubtedly important to enable the accelerated success of the science research programme at UWC. However, it is the commitment and dedication of the academic and professional support staff, working together with enthusiastic under-graduate and post-graduate students, who are the ultimate architects of the Faculty’s success.  

Thank you for visiting our web page.  

Professor Mike Davies-Coleman
Dean of Natural Sciences 
May 2021


 


 
Welcome to the Biodiversity and Conservation Biology Department homepage. The department was formed as an amalgamation of the former Botany and Zoology departments. Our location at the southern tip of Africa places us in an ideal position for field research into a host of interesting plants and animals.
The simplest definition of biotechnology is “applied biology” through the application of biological knowledge and techniques to develop products or services. It may be further defined as the use of living organisms to make a product or run a process. By this definition, the classic techniques used for plant and animal breeding, fermentation and enzyme purification are to be considered biotechnology.
Chemistry is often described as the central science because it touches all the other sciences.
Our vision is to provide innovative programmes in Computer Science, in order empowering our graduates to advance the quality of life in Africa.
The Department of Earth Sciences at UWC offers challenging opportunities in the nationally strategic areas of natural resources combining the disciplines of Applied geology, environmental and water sciences. These rapidly expanding programmes have established an international profile through teaching and research. Our research aim as a department is to study fundamental processes, and to investigate linkage between different components of the earth system (solid earth, hydrosphere, biosphere and atmosphere).
The Department of Mathematics offers programs for undergraduate and post graduate degrees. We have established programs of fundamental research in mathematics, as well as research in various areas such as Mathematical Modelling, Financial Mathematics and Mathematics Education among others.
In the Department of Medical Biosciences, we aim at training and developing scientists who will conduct research with a view to reduce the many lifestyle associated diseases.

To prepare students, the Medical Biosciences programme teaches students anatomy, physiology and medical microbiology thereby providing an understanding of the structure and function of the human body, and how the body protects itself against disease.
The Physics and Astronomy Department carries out physics and provides teaching programmes that will contribute significantly to the development of human capacity, science and technology in South Africa. The study of Physics and Astronomy at UWC produces holistically educated citizens who understand our rapidly changing technological world. Our vision is to see our graduates be equipped with the fundamental knowledge of physics, problem solving, life and communication skills.
Welcome to the Statistics and Population Studies Department at the University of the Western Cape.
Our Department revolves around two axes of teaching and research: Statistics with specialisation in Data Science and Population Studies. Two growing and important fields as data become more and more used everywhere and every day for planning purposes and to understand the challenges of our modern societies: from stock markets, medical research, economic forecasting to human populations.
The Institute for Microbial Biotechnology and Metagenomics is headed by Professor Marla Trindade as Director. Recognised as one of the leading research units at UWC, IMBM forms part of the Department of Biotechnology. IMBM is dedicated to excellence in research and in the training of future research leaders. In addition, it contributes to the Department’s undergraduate teaching activities.
The Institute for Water Studies (IWS) at the University of the Western Cape was formed in 2009 with the goal of promoting research, postgraduate training, and outreach on water related issues through the collaborative efforts of UWC staff. The Institute for Water Studies aims to increase the understanding of surface water, groundwater, and ecosystems linkages and how water users are affected and affect these linkages.
South African Institute for Advanced Materials Chemistry (SAIAMC) at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), established in 2004, comprises three distinct and closely interrelated programmes: Hydrogen South Africa Systems Integration Competence Centre (HySA Systems), PetroSA Synthetic Fuels Innovation Centre (PSFIC) and Energy Storage and Fluid Treatment Centre (ESFTC)
SANBI was founded in 1996 by Winston Hide, a South African computational biologist who returned from the USA.
The Inter-university Institute for Data Intensive Astronomy is a partnership of three South African universities, the Universities of Cape Town, of the Western Cape and of Pretoria. IDIA also has an industry partner in SAP.
Pharmacists play meaningful roles in the healthcare of people. They do this through emphasis on correct and rational use of medicines and related products. Pharmacists remain in high demand in the public and private sectors. The corporate part is expanding and the demand for pharmacists continues. This applies to South Africa and other countries of the world.
 
Proteomics is the term that describes a multitude of tools and expertise used primarily to profile and identify proteins of interest in any organism at a large scale. Proteins of interests include biomarkers for certain diseases or physiological/developmental status. For example, one could use proteomics to investigate effects of pathogens on organ protein expression levels and patterns.
The UNESCO Chair in Hydrogeology was established in 2001 at UWC following the introduction of the National Water Act of 1998 by the National Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF). As the chair mainly focuses on groundwater related education, research and outreach, the Centre strives to contribute towards sustainable utilisation of groundwater resources in South Africa, Africa and the developing world.
 
The UWC Nature Reserve Unit provides an educational and recreational asset for the University of the Western Cape’s staff and students as well as surrounding communities by functioning as a base for ecological teaching, environmental education and research.

Our role is to develop an awareness and understanding by reconnecting students with nature, to inspire them to find a new appreciation for their natural surroundings, thus having an important bearing on future decision-making by the same individuals.
UWC has collaborated with an international software developer to offer the first of its kind postgraduate diploma in South Africa. This accredited postgraduate diploma in e-skills with immersive technologies stream can provide you with a hands-on approach to learning VR & AR software design and development skills, empowering you to join an exciting new field in the Fourth Industrial revolution (4IR) that is gaining a vast amount of interest globally.
The Department of Science and Innovation identified nanoscience as an important new field that South Africa needs to develop.

As such, they introduced a dedicated postgraduate programme for training in nanoscience and nanotechnology.