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3 August 2017
Science Research Open Day 2017

Science Research Open Day 2017: Cosmic Dawns, Sharing Wonder and Changing Lives through Science

Science can change the world - as long as there are researchers willing to put in the long hours in the field and in the lab, and to bend their intellects and imaginations to approaching some of the great challenges and problems humanity faces.

Many of those tireless researchers can be found at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) - and some of the best made an appearance at the UWC Science Faculty Research Open Day on 3 August 2017.

19 Master’s and PhD candidates* presented their research to the faculty, staff and students, and research day sponsors, discussing interesting work on matters from forensics to physics education to cloud-based bioinformatic workflows to modelling TB transfer in prisons, and more.

Professor Michael Davis-Coleman, Dean of the Faculty of Natural Science, thanked all the event’s sponsors (including Inqaba Biotec, Separations Laboratory Specialists, Whitehead Scientific, Merck, Celtic Molecular Diagnostics, Lasec and Kimix chemical lab supplies) and all those who made ROD 2017 possible.

“This is the first year our Research Open Day was organized by the Department of Biotechnology,” Davis-Coleman said. “Thanks to your efforts and hard work in putting the day together.”


Watching Cosmic  Dawns: The Big Wonders of Big Science

“We are looking forward to exciting times in science - particularly in Africa, and especially in South Africa.”

So said ROD 2017 keynote speaker Professor Roy Maartens, Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Research Chair at UWC, part of the Centre for Radio Cosmology (CRC) in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and one of the leading lights in astrophysics.

“The SKA is the biggest experiment in Africa - this is a big step for putting Africa and South Africa in the forefront in the world of Astronomy,” he said.

Prof Maartens, who obtained his PhD in Cosmology from the University of Cape Town in 1980, is interested in how we can use 3D maps of the galaxy distribution to probe the very early Universe to measure Dark Energy and to test Einstein’s theory of gravity.

“We are in for some thrilling times in the future - In the next ten years the SKA will provide the biggest maps of the galaxy ever imagined,” he said. “And those maps will contain clues about what was happening in the first few seconds of the Universe, and the history of the cosmos since.”

The CRC is also helping to train a new generation of astrophysicists, who will in the future do world-class science with the data produced by South African MeerKat Radio Array, the precursor telescope to the SKA, and then the SKA itself. The MeerKAT  Radio Telescope in Carnarvon will be the best in the world.

Prof Maartens ended his address by saying that he is looking forward to the SKA seeing Cosmic Dawns in the future.

“There will be many benefits for the world and African universities in the years to come - world class science will come from Africa,” Maartens said. “And UWC will be right there to be a part of it.”


*In one sense, all of the ROD 2017 presenters were winners - they all presented interesting research, fielded tough questions, and shared in the spirit of science. But only a few of them could walk away with prizes...and in this case, those few were...

Masters Students

  • MSc 1st prize: Shanice Adams (IMBM): Investigating secondary metabolites in Thalassomonas viridans ?
  • MSc 2nd prize: Aarifah Jakoet (BCB): Unbuttoning the button daisies: towards a refined taxonomy of the genus Cotula and its allies (Cotulinae, Anthemiidae, Asteracae) ?
  • MSc 3rd prize:  Samantha Cairncross (MBS): The encapsulation and quantification of Olea africana in Nanoliposomes?

Doctoral Researchers

  • PhD 1st prize: Robert Schlegel (BCB): Predominant air-sea during coastal marine heat waves ?
  • PhD 2nd prize: A. Witzemann (Physics & Astrophysics): Model-independent curvature determination with 21cm intensity mapping experiments ?
  • PhD 3rd prize: Lonnie van Zyl (IMBM): Novel phages of healthy skin metaviromes from South Africa ?