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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 continues to excel in teaching, learning, research and innovation and a number of our successes are highlighted here to give you a snapshot of the Faculty’s recent achievements.  Embedding big data science in the academic programme has been a strategic Faculty focus for the past three years.  In 2017 the BSc Honours Statistics degree with a Data Science stream was rolled out successfully for the first time.  With the collaborative support of international data analytics company Statistical Analytical Systems and North West University, an MSc Statistical Science degree (with specialization in Data Science) was launched in 2018.  Another Faculty strategic project initiated in 2017 focussed on the design of a post-graduate diploma in the field of virtual and augmented reality in partnership with Eon in France.  Later in 2018 UWC will be the first institution to roll out a diploma course specializing in this cutting edge technology in South Africa.


The recently renamed Department of Physics and Astronomy continued to be the most research productive Department in the Faculty in 2017.  The internationally renowned team of UWC astrophysics researchers, led by three South African Research Chairs, produced over 70 research publications in 2017, including contributing to the first research publication to emerge from the largest science experiment ever embarked on in the southern hemisphere, the Square Kilometer Array radio telescope, under multi-phase construction in the Northern Cape.


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Professor Nico Orce and his team of UWC nuclear physics students led an experiment at the premier nuclear research facility at CERN in Switzerland in 2017 – a first for UWC!




The award of a R35 million Strategic Research Equipment grant from the National Research Foundation to a consortium of four South African universities, led by UWC, for the GAMKA project (a gamma ray detector to be installed at iThemba Labs) has generated excitement among nuclear physicists across the country.




The search for ways to tap into alternative energy sources and new energy storage systems are 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 South African Institute for Advanced Materials Chemistry and in the past year two international patents for novel hydrogen storage technology have been granted. The commissioning of a new R6 million vapour deposition system in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, coupled with the donation of complimentary equipment from the University of Utrecht, will enable the UWC solid state physicists to produce large photo-voltaic solar panels for the first time.




Elsewhere in the Faculty over the past year, the commissioning of the R13 million Fluorescence Activated Cell Sorter in the Institute of Microbial Biotechnology and Metagenomics (IMBM) has now placed IMBM and UWC at the forefront of single cell genomics research in South Africa, providing opportunities for collaborative, multi-disciplinary, cutting edge research.


The drought in the Western Cape has impacted on all of our communities and water researchers from the Faculty’s Institute of Water Studies and the UNESCO Geohydrology research chair continue to use their professional expertise to assist the City of Cape Town manage dwindling water supplies.  With climate change a visible reality in South Africa, research from the Plant Stress Research Group, led by Prof Ludidi in the Department of Biotechnology, in collaboration with UWC’s Centre of Excellence in Food Security, is rapidly emerging as a key niche area within the Faculty.


UWC has an enviable reputation as a community-engaged university and the Faculty facilitates “science in action” projects within our communities whenever this is possible.  Standing out amongst these projects is the Zenzeleni project, led by Professor Bill Tucker from the Department of Computer Science, in which ICT is being developed within a poor rural community to enable the community to access data and cell phone communication at minimal cost.  The Zenzeleni Networks project was recognised as “Best Innovation with Social Impact” by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) at the Innovation Bridge event in October 2017.



For the second time in four years, the Centre for High Performance Computing undergraduate computer cluster team, anchored by UWC computer science students, represented South Africa in the international inter-university competition held in Germany in 2017.  The CPHC team were credible runners up against stiff competition from some of the world’s leading universities.  Every year, for the past five years, a science post-graduate student from UWC has attended the prestigious Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau, Germany.  Only 400 students from around the world are invited to this annual event to honour recent Nobel Prize laureates and last year post-doctoral research fellow in the Department of Chemistry, Dr Sarah D'Souza, was selected to participate in the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting.


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. The project to transform the old Life Sciences buildings into a state of the art Computational and Mathematical Sciences building has been completed and now houses the Departments of Computer Science, Mathematics and Applied Mathematics, Information Systems and Statistics and Population Studies in a conducive environment for producing the graduates who will drive South Africa’s science and technology future in the 21st century. 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

April 2018​


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