Navigate Up
Sign In

Welcome to Introducing the SARChI Chairs


 Introducing the SARChI Chairs



The South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) is a flagship project of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the National Research Foundation (NRF). Designed to attract and retain excellence in research and innovation at South African universities. The SARChI initiative is a strategic intervention to improve South Africa's international research and innovation competitiveness in a way that responds to the country's social and economic challenges From just one Chair in 2008, UWC now hosts 17 Chairs, including a joint SKA/UCT/UWC Chair - all of whom are profiled below.​


SARChI Chair in Analytical Systems and Processes for Priority and Emerging Contaminants (ASPPEC): Priscilla Baker

The SARChI Chair in Analytical Systems and Processes for Priority and Emerging Contaminants, awarded to Prof Priscilla Baker in 2018, is geared towards measurement and monitoring of a wide range of environmental contaminants, related to the chemical transformations that results in contamination. These chemical transformations include highly specific binding reactions, electrolysis, energy efficient catalytic conversion of chemical reactants, adsorption reactions, diffusion controlled reactions and coupled chemical reactions.​ A recipient of the prestigious Women In Science Award, Prof Baker is co-head of UWC’s SensorLab (alongside fellow SARChI Chair Emmanuel Iwuoha) and specialises in the application of frequency-modulated electrochemical techniques that can be applied in water analysis and treatment, bio- and industrial catalysis, as well as in energy-related applications.

Prof ​SARChI Chair in Astronomy and Astrophysics: Roy Maartens

Professor Roy Maartens is an NRF A-Rated researcher (UWC’s first ever, since 2012) in UWC’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, and has championed the University’s involvement with the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). Since 2011, he has held the SKA/SARChI Chair in Astronomy and Astrophysics, and has built a team of postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers with the aim of using SKA to explore fundamental properties of the Universe. He is working on a research project using the power of the SKA pathfinders and the SKA itself to map the distribution of galaxies in the universe. With these maps, researchers aim to resolve the nature of the Dark Energy that forces the universe to expand faster and faster, a major puzzle in modern physics.

SARChI Chair in Bioinformatics and Human Health Genomics: Alan Christoffels

Professor Alan Christoffels is the Director of the South African National Bioinformatics Institute (SANBI) at UWC, and a recipient of the Hamilton Naki Special Award, recognising his outstanding efforts to build a distinguished academic career and conduct world-class research in the face of considerable equity challenges. Since 2009, he has occupied this SARChI Chair, which focuses on public health genomics, addressing the needs of South African public health research while simultaneously addressing the national imperative to enhance quality research and teaching in science and technology. Its research activities address the development and implementation of high-throughput screening methods to prioritize biomarkers for health intervention. The research activities are centred around tuberculosis genomics research, malaria and trypanosomiasis or sleeping sickness.​

Alan Christoffels.jpg

SARChISA-UK Bilateral Chair in Social Protection for Food Security: Stephen Devereaux

The bilateral SA-UK SARChI Chair in Social Protection for Food Security is intended to be a global leader in research on food security and nutrition in Africa, and aims to promote international exchange and cooperation. Dr Stephen Devereux has held the SA-UK SARChI Chair in Social Protection for Food Security since 2016. A Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK, Dr Devereaux is also based at UWC’s Institute for Social Development, and affiliated to the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security. The Chair addresses questions on why food insecurity in South Africa remains so high, despite the comprehensive social protection system, and how to improve the impact of social protection on hunger.

Ben Cousins.jpg
SARChI Chair in Development Of Human Capabilities and Social Cohesion Through The Family: Nicolette Roman

Professor Nicolette Roman heads the Child and Family Studies Programme at UWC where she specialises in individual and family psychological well-being, family functioning and practices, parenting, self-determination theory, research design and writing methods.  As SARChI Chair in Development Of Human Capabilities and Social Cohesion Through The Family, a position she was awarded in 2018, her initial focus will be to investigate, explore and understand the status quo and the pathways between the variables both internal and external to the family. That information will be integrated in order to develop guidelines for enhancing human capabilities and social cohesion through the family. The target participants will be the individuals (across the lifespan), family (as a group), policies and stakeholders (including programme implementers, professionals, government).​
Wim van Damme.jpg

​SARChI Chair in Health Systems Complexity and Change: Asha George

South African health systems are complex, and must overcome the legacies of both colonialism and apartheid. Prof Asha George of UWC’s School of Public Health has held the SARChI Chair in Health Systems Complexity and Social Change since 2016, and has the tough task of researching (from a governance, gender and human rights perspective) and reforming a system which was never set up to adequately serve the majority of the country. The Chair focuses on four streams of interlinking research: (1) gender, intersectionality and social power relations; (2) community health systems and how they are governed; (3) frontline health workers’ lived realities; and (4) multi-sectoral policy development and implementation that more holistically address social determinants within health systems.

Emmanual Iwuoha.jpg

SARChI Chair in Health Systems Governance: Helen Schneider

Prof Schneider is a medical doctor, public health specialist and health systems and policy researcher at the UWC School of Public Health who has worked for more than 20 years on the problematics of South Africa’s health system - making her the ideal choice for the SARChI Chair in Health Systems Governance. The Chair, which she has held since 2015, aims to develop scholarship in the area of health sector governance, with a focus on the South African health system. The specific intention is to explore the micro-practices of governance and accountability within local / district health services. and undertake comparative analyses of governance between South Africa and other developing countries. The overarching goal is to promote equity and social justice in South Africa and beyond
Cyril Julie.jpg

​FirstRand/NRF Chair in Mathematics Education: Cyril Julie

Professor Cyril Julie is a long-serving member of the Faculty of Education at UWC and now occupies the position of the FirstRand/NRF Chair in Mathematics Education. Unlike most SARChI Chairs, this Chair is not only research-based, but also has a strong developmental component, aiming to improve the skills and knowledge of maths teachers in the basic education system. Prof Julie’s interrelated research interests include elementary mathematics from an advanced point of view and advanced mathematics from an elementary point of view, and the systematic review of issues in maths teaching and learning (among others). These interests stem from the conviction that the enhancement of high-quality teaching will lead to an improvement of learning - and ultimately an improvement in maths results achieved by school learners.
Nico Steytler.jpg

​SARChI Chair in Microbial Genomics: Marla Trindade

The Institute for Microbial Biotechnology and Metagenomics (IMBM) hosts the DST/NRF SARChI Research Chair in Microbial Genomics, held since 2014 by IMBM Director - and Distinguished Young Woman Scientist Award winner - Professor Marla Trindade. The Chair’s major research focus is to use high-throughput and metagenomic technologies to directly access all microbial genomes in any given environment, from the viruses inhabiting human skin to the extremophiles found in environments too hot, salty or otherwise inhospitable for other life. These will enable the exploration of all information and data that microorganisms can offer biotechnology and present infinite bioprospecting possibilities.​ Prof Trindade’s research interest is not only in viruses and bacteria on a microscopic level, but in using the genetic information of viruses and other microorganisms in useful real-world applications.
Smarajit Triambak.jpg

​​SARChI Chair in Multi-Level Government, Law and Development (MLG): Nico Steytler

The SARChI Chair for Multi-Level Government, Law and Development was instituted at UWC in 2012, and is held by Professor Nico Steytler, former Director of the Dullah Omar Institute (DOI). The research focus of this Chair is on current societal questions, among them public safety and the role of the judiciary in multilevel government, which includes a high-level dialogue between leading politicians and international experts. Professor Steytler has been involved in the development of the new constitutional order for the past decade. He has not only researched South Africa’s multi-level system of governance, but also helped to produce policy papers on many aspects of governance. He also continues to play a leadership role In the international arena.


​​SARChI Chair in Nano-Electrochemistry and Sensor Technology (NEST): Emmanuel Iwuoha

Established in 2012, the SARChI Chair in Nano-Electrochemistry and Sensor Technology is held by Senior Chemistry Professor Emmanuel Iwuoha, co-head (along with fellow SARChI Chair Prof Priscilla Baker) of UWC’s SensorLab, which focuses on research in smart materials, electrocatalysis, sensors and electrochemical energy. The Chair’s focus is on designing ‘smart’ nanomaterials (polymeric, dendritic, graphenated and carbon nanotube composite systems). Professor Iwuoha has coordinated the National Nanoscience Postgraduate Teaching and Training Platform, an inter-university initiative offering a Master’s degree in nanoscience. He leads a research project on sensors, which aims to produce easy-to-use tools for point-of-care clinical applications, and the acquisition of data necessary for setting quality standards for priority pollutants in food, drinking water and the environment, as well as for monitoring compliance to set such standards.

Romeel Davé.jpg

​SARChI Chair in Nuclear Physics: Smarajit Triambak

Professor Smarajit Triambak joined the Department of Physics and Astronomy at UWC from the University of Delhi, India, as the first SARChI Chair in Nuclear Physics in 2013. His research expertise is in the field of accelerator-based, low-energy experimental nuclear physics, most of which revolves around measurements of observables with high accuracy and precision. These investigations, mostly in the sub-fields of weak interactions and nuclear astrophysics, are used to probe for and set stringent limits on hitherto unknown physics, beyond the standard model – an approach that is complementary to high-energy collider experiments.​ The research chair has enabled Prof Triambak to take his students to world-renowned facilities inside South Africa and beyond.
Roy Maartens.jpg

​SARChI Chair in Observational Radio Astronomy: Andrew Russell Taylor

The SARChI Chair in Observational RadioAstronomy, held by A-rated scientist Prof Russ Taylor, is co-hosted by the SKA, UWC and the University of Cape Town. Prof Taylor has extensive expertise in radio astronomy, in particular wide-field polarization, cosmic magnetism and Big Data, and has played a prominent role in the SKA project since its inception. Prof Taylor was also one of the founding international SKA project scientists and co-authored the first SKA science case. He represented Canada as one of the national members on the SKA Organization Board. Nowadays he is concentrating on big data, managing  the challenge of the massive datasets generated by MeerKAT and the SKA as the director for the Inter-University Institute for Data-Intensive Astronomy (IDIA).

Russ Taylor.jpg
​SARChI Chair in Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS): Ben Cousins

Professor Ben Cousins is the founding Director of the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) at UWC, launched in 1995 to engage in research, training, policy development and advocacy in relation to land reform, rural governance and natural resource management. His work led to the creation  at UWC in 2010 of this SARChI Chair, which conducts research and training focused on understanding the contemporary processes of agrarian change in South Africa and their implications for land reform policy. The research contexts include large-scale agriculture, communal areas and land reform farms, with research sites located all over South Africa.​ PLAAS research has proven instrumental to informed policy debate in the new South Africa.

Russ Taylor.jpg
SARChI Chair in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET): Joy Papier

Professor Joy Papier, Director of UWC’s Institute for Post-School Studies (IPSS), was appointed as the first SARChI Chair in Technical and Vocational Education and Training in 2017 to bring a new focus and impetus to the historically marginalised TVET field. The Chair recognizes the critical and poorly-understood role of post-schooling in addressing South Africa’s development needs, and is intended to guide research, teaching and social engagement regarding the challenges which inhibit South Africa’s youth and adults from reaching their full potential. The work of the Chair, Prof Papier believes, is to shine a light on student experiences of vocational education, and to focus on home-grown solutions to African TVET challenges.

Russ Taylor.jpg
​SARChI Chair in Visual History and Theory: Patricia Hayes

The SARChI Chair in Visual History and Theory, awarded to Professor Patricia Hayes in 2015, explores the challenges faced in visual studies, investigating key methodological and epistemological questions, as well as issues of civil engagement and representation through popular arts or social media. Specific paradigms and postgraduate research associated with the Chair now include documentary photography; liberation struggles and the post-apartheid; digital photography in the postcolony; and photography and historical method. A scholar of African history, gender studies and visuality, Patricia Hayes began research on photography and the question of history after completing her PhD. As Chair, her starting point was to address the huge neglect of rich photographic archives in South Africa and the subcontinent in terms of historical and humanities research.

Russ Taylor.jpg
​SARChI Chair in Waste and Society: Catherina Schenck

Prof Catherina Schenck of UWC’s Social Work Department took up the SARChI Chair in Waste and Society in 2018. The Chair, one of South Africa's first ever research chairs on waste management, is aimed at transforming the sector while contributing to the country's socio-economic development. The Chair will be researching and exploring: (1) Job opportunities in the waste economy and waste value chain that can improve livelihoods through the transition away from landfilling; (2) Business models to support a secondary resources economy, with a particular focus on SMMEs; (3) Strategies towards behaviour change towards waste prevention, reuse, and recycling. Further, Prof Schenck will also facilitate the development and growth of researchers and research capacity in the broad field of waste and society.

UWC Supports Sustainability
© 2013 UWC | Disclaimer | Sign-in

Contact Centre

University of the Western Cape,
Robert Sobukwe Road,
Bellville, 7535,
Republic of South Africa | +27 21 959 2911