The Department of Physics & Astronomy delivers physical sciences teaching and research. It provides learning programmes that will contribute significantly to the empowering of graduates who use physics in their jobs and to the advancement of physics and astronomy research and innovation in South Africa. The study of physics and astronomy at UWC produces holistically educated citizens who understand our rapidly changing technological world. Our aim is to equip our graduates with fundamental knowledge in physical sciences, problem solving, life and communication skills. This will be achieved by reviewing and developing relevant academic programmes and research projects to address southern African technological needs in areas like - but not limited to - astronomy, nuclear physics, nanotechnology and materials science.
Our vision is to be a vibrant Department that is anchored in its environment via dissemination of its findings through public awareness and is recognized globally through productive partnerships with other international institutions that address challenging issues of global concern.
Our mission in education is to provide students from the South African school system and elsewhere with a sound physics knowledge base and the required computational and programming skills that will make equip them for the workplace in different sectors, including industry, government laboratories, financial institutions requiring processing of big data, academia and high school teaching on physical science streams. We will continue to develop relevant introductory physics modules for professionals like dentists, pharmacists, nurses and physiotherapists.
In research, our mission is to produce MSc and PhD graduates who have the international-level skills needed for the research and innovation goals of the country. We aim to produce internationally recognized research outputs in our key research areas: astronomy, nuclear physics, nanotechnology and materials science. In each of these areas we have built strong links to relevant national facilities and international collaborations. For example, in astronomy, we are major contributors to the research and training programmes of the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) which manages the world-famous South African radio telescope MeerKAT, a precursor to the world’s biggest radio telescope array, the Square Kilometer Array. In nuclear physics, we actively collaborate with the iThemba LABS national user facility, for research in both fundamental and applied nuclear physics. We also have several international collaborations, namely with CERN-ISOLDE, the University of York, TRIUMF, and the University of Washington. Some of our researchers are also part of a large-scale next-generation experiment called nEXO, which aims to observe 136 Xe neutrinoless double beta decay. In nanotechnology and materials science, we are the hub of a specialized advanced nanophysics course where three other major institutions are partnering.