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 Dean's Welcome Message

Author: Professor Michael Davies-Coleman

 Welcome to our Faculty of Natural Sciences web page.The Faculty of Natural Sciences is enjoying an unprecedented period of growth and diversification and it is an exciting time to be a member of the Science Faculty at this University

Welcome to Science@UWC

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


The Faculty of Natural Sciences comprises nine Departments and the School of Pharmacy (the only Pharmacy School in the Western Cape) and has a registered student body of approximately 3300 of which 28% are post-graduates.  The Faculty delvers ten BSc and BSc Honours endorsed degrees, one professional degree (BPharm), and a Post Graduate Diploma in Integrated Water Resource Management.  All our academic Departments and the School of Pharmacy have vibrant MSc and PhD post-graduate degree programmes.  Details about all these degree programmes can be found elsewhere on this website.  The Faculty hosts five research institutes (IDIA, IMBM, IWS, SANBI and SAIAMC) two research centre (Centre for Radio Cosmology and the DST/Mintek National Innovation Centre-Biolabels) and two research units (UWC/ARC Proteomics Unit and the Electron Microscope Unit).


The Faculty of Natural Sciences continues to excel in teaching, learning, research and innovation and a number of our successes are highlighted here (with links to further information) to give you a snapshot of the Faculty’s achievements over the past year.  


The Faculty continues to adapt to the irreversible changes in the way we live brought about by the 4th Industrial revolution (4IR).  Areas such as big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning and immersive technologies including augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) are evolving at a breath taking rate. 


The post-graduate diploma in e-skills development, presented in collaboration with the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences under the banner “two faculties one team” for the first time in 2019, will include an immersive technologies stream.  In collaboration with international partners, the advanced hard- and soft-ware required for research and teaching in virtual and augmented reality has been installed in the Department of Computer Science.  UWC is the first institution to roll out a diploma course specializing in this cutting edge technology in South Africa.


A recent highlight for the Faculty was the official opening of the newly refurbished Computational and Mathematical Sciences building in 2018 by the Minister of Higher Education and Training, the Honourable Dr Naledi Pandor.,-One-Team-Computational-And-Mathematical-Sciences-Centre-Fuels-The-Fourth-Industrial-Revolution.aspx


The installation of over one thousand new computers in the CAMS building will provide ready access to the opportunities of the 4IR for all our students.  Proficiency in mathematics is also key to maximizing the opportunities provided by the new technologies emerging from the 4IR.  Interventions aimed at facilitating the transition between first and second year mathematics, led by our Faculty Teaching and Learning specialist and the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics, has resulted in the doubling of our second year mathematics pass rate in 2018 and a tripling of the number of students entering third year mathematics in 2019. 


The internationally renowned team of UWC astrophysics researchers and post-graduate students, led by three South African Research Chairs in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, continue to contribute significantly to the design of the experiments for the MeerKAT radio telescope in the Northern Cape and the interpretation of the huge data sets currently being generated by this telescope.


Recognition of the Department of Earth Sciences petroleum geology niche area was recognised last year by the donation of 5500 books and periodicals by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG).  The recent discovery of new extensive gas and light petroleum condensate reserves 175 km off Mossel Bay will hopefully provide new momentum to petroleum geology at UWC.,500-Petroleum-Books-Fuel-Next-Generation.aspx


In parallel with our contribution to the development of South Africa’s oil and gas reserves the search for ways to tap into alternative energy sources and new energy storage systems are also significant research and innovation endeavours in the Faculty.


The beneficiation of platinum in the form of hydrogen fuel cell technology development is being pursued rigorously in the HySA programme at the Faculty’s South African Institute for Advanced Materials Chemistry and further multi-million ZAR funding to support this important national programme for the next three years were secured at the end of 2018.,-Greener-Future-(With-Hydrogen-Power).aspx


An international Carbon Capture and Storage workshop held in the Department of Chemistry in February 2019 explored new technologies to capture global warming gases eg carbon dioxide as they are released from coal-fuelled power stations and other industrial sources.


Capitalizing on the innovative research being generated in the Faculty is an important component of the Faculty and the University’s strategic research and innovation goals.  Therefore a highlight for the Faculty in 2018 was the launch of a DNA test kit produced after nearly 15 years of research by the Forensic DNA research group in the Department of Biotechnology.


Innovation fuels entrepreneurship and we are proud of the recent achievements of our young bio-entrepreneurs.


Elsewhere in the Faculty over the past year, significant research discoveries have ranged from cannibalism in Cape cobras, saving African penguins, revealing the complex microbiology of our skin to the formation of galaxies.


The Faculty was also very pleased to be awarded its 7th South African Research Chair (SARChI) in 2018.  Professor Priscilla Baker in the Department of Chemistry was awarded the Chair in Analytical Systems and Processes for Priority and Emerging Contaminants (ASPPEC).


Some of the other stellar achievements of Faculty staff and students over the past year can be found in the following links.


The most visible manifestation of the University of Western Cape’s commitment to developing and sustaining a world class science Faculty at UWC, is the more than R1 billion investment in new science infrastructure over the past decade. While the availability of world class infrastructure is important to the accelerated success of the science research programme at UWC, it is the commitment and dedication of the academic and support staff working with the under-graduate and post-graduate students who will ultimately continue to determine the Faculty’s success. 


Thank you for visiting our web page.  


Professor Mike Davies-Coleman

Dean of Natural Sciences

February 2019​


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