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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.

Although the past year has been a challenging year for all South African universities, the Faculty of Natural Sciences has continued to excel in teaching, learning, research and innovation and a number of our successes are overviewed here to give you a snapshot of the Faculty’s achievements over the last year.   

In amongst the national challenges around university funding and access we were gratified in August, 2016 to be informed that the prestigious Nature Index, UWC ranked UWC number 1 in South Africa and in Africa, for  Physical Science research outputs over the period 1 June 2015 - 31 May 2016.  This recognition is attributed largely to the high impact of selected publications from astronomy emerging from the Department of Physics and Astronomy. The significance of UWC’s achievements in physical science, in particular astronomy, over the last two decades was featured in a further news article in Nature Index:

For the past five years the African Innovation Foundation has selected the most innovative project on the African continent for the award of its highly competitive and prestigious Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA).  The ten finalists for the 2016 IPA were announced on 9th May, 2016 and amongst this elite group was UWC 2015 PhD graduate and post-doctoral research fellow, Dr Imogen Wright, representing UWC’s spin-off company, Hyrax Bioscience’s Exatype program.  Exatype is a novel software application which enables health care workers to rapidly evaluate HIV DNA in an HIV-AIDS infected patient’s blood in order to gauge the patient’s level of resistance to different HIV antiretroviral drugs.  With 71% of those living with HIV/AIDS residing in Africa the speed, simplicity and accuracy of this unique solution to a complex problem has the potential to bring personalized medicine within reach of those most in need. After a series of one on one interviews with the ten finalist the IPA announced that Exatype was the 2016 IPA runner-up at a gala event in Gaberone, Botswana on 23 June, 2016.  A prize of US$25000 was presented to Dr Wright and the Hyrax team for finishing as runner-up in this competition:​

Amongst our undergraduate student successes, three UWC Computer Science students (Kyle Jordaan, Daniel Collins and Liam Doult) won the national Standard Bank Undergraduate Computer Science competition in August, 2016 and a prize of R100 000.  They designed an application which will enable partially sighted people access electronic banking and this is the first time a UWC computer science team has won this competition in its 12 year history.  Our undergraduate computer scientists (Kyle Jordaan, Liam Doult, Mishka Mohamed and Tyrone De Ruiters) further excelled by winning the national Student Cluster Competition  at the Centre for High Performance Computing conference held in East London in December, 2016.  These four young UWC undergraduate students will anchor the South African computer cluster team at the world undergraduate computer cluster competition to be held in Germany  in mid- 2017.  South Africa last won the world completion in 2014 with a team also anchored by four UWC undergraduate students.  For the second year in a row a UWC Astrophysics PhD student, Siyambonga Matshawule, was selected to attend the 2015 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, as one of 402 young scientists world-wide invited to this event.   Amongst our staff achievements over the last year Professor Leslie Petrik, from the Department of Chemistry, was awarded the 2016 Science and Technology Businesswoman of the Year by the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa, for her innovative work on managing waste water generated by the power, mining and hydrocarbon processing industry.

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 investment in new infrastructure. The project to transform the old Life Sciences buildings into a state of the art Computer and mathematical Sciences building is approaching completion in 2017. The renovated building will eventually house the Departments of Computer Science, Mathematics and Applied Mathematics, Information Systems and Statistics and Population Studies.  It is intended that the planned renovation and upgrading of the teaching spaces and research laboratories in this fifty year old building will provide 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 2017


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