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Faculty of Natural Sciences

Welcome to the web page of the Faculty of Natural Sciences at the University of Western Cape.

It is with the greatest of pleasure that I welcome you to the Faculty of Natural Sciences at the University of the Western Cape. I wish you all, students and staff, a wonderful and blessed 2022.

CLICK HERE FOR THE FACULTY'S VACCINATION MANDATE

Regrettably, we remain mired in one of the strangest and stressful of periods in recent memory. But these unusual times also present me with the opportunity to congratulate you – the first-year students entering our faculty – on overcoming the almost-unheard-of obstacles that you have faced over the past two years of pandemic lockdowns and restrictions. Finishing school and moving into university is exceptionally stressful at the best of times. That you have done so during a global pandemic, during which time you often had to take greater personal responsibility for your studies, is an achievement to be recognised and applauded. Over the coming years, when confronted with other obstacles, I want you to remember how much you have already overcome, and take strength from that.

You now find yourself in a faculty whose role in society – and by extension, your role – you should never forget. The COVID-19 pandemic has, once again, highlighted the importance of science and technology for the well-being of all people globally. Amid the confusion over the past two years, much of the world turned to the sciences for answers. By choosing the Faculty of Natural Sciences, you have taken the important first step in becoming an intellectual and scholar who can not only contribute to the growth and public life of not just our little Rainbow Nation, but the world. Only some 6% of South Africans hold university degrees. That makes us and, soon, you, a small but influential group. It is a special privilege that comes with certain responsibilities.

A short introduction to our Faculty. It houses nine academic departments as well as a School of Pharmacy, four research institutes, two research centres and two research units (links to each are below). Our 2022 academic programme will offer ten undergraduate degrees and one professional pharmacy degree. At the postgraduate level, the Faculty offers 12 honours degrees, one postgraduate diploma, and a number of master’s and doctoral programmes across a wide range of scientific disciplines.

Our Faculty boasts innovative and relevant learning and teaching programmes at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. We aim to create an enabling environment for students that encourages their intellectual curiosity, and debate. In our Faculty you will find scholars who are recognised as national and international leaders in their fields, and who are actively engaged in ground-breaking research. As a Faculty we are committed to research that is relevant to the needs and challenges facing our local communities and our country as a whole, but also has a global impact.

The pandemic will remain a part of our lives for some time to come. Over the immediate months, we will be committed, however, to creating as many opportunities as possible for you to engage, face to face, with a diverse group of students and staff, peers and scholars who will inspire you to learn and grow. Many students on our campus, as has happened on campuses across the globe, have over the past two years been denied this vital experience. We hope that we can soon offer such opportunities again.

The Faculty’s friendly staff are welcoming and supportive. Please seek assistance if you feel lost or uncertain. You are part of a community. Believe me, you will not be the only student with what you think is that ‘dumb’ question. This is an institution of higher learning – it is our very job description to encourage the asking of questions. We are committed ourselves to equipping and graduating students with the skills that will allow them to address our society’s needs, from the ‘small’ to the immense (think our challenges with poverty and inequality). Our Faculty is equipped with some of the most state-of-the-art infrastructure and technology available in South Africa. We want you, as students, to benefit as best as possible from these.

American author Tom Brokaw famously said about the privilege, joys and responsibilities of being a university student and graduate: “You are educated. Your certification is in your degree. You may think of it as the ticket to the good life. Let me ask you to think of an alternative. Think of it as your ticket to change the world.” So, remember to work hard during your time at UWC, but also to make friends and have fun on this journey. One day you will look back and be reminded what a wonderful moment this will be in your life. Do not waste it.

And once again, welcome to YOUR Faculty.

Professor Burtram Fielding
Dean of Natural Sciences 
January 2022
Welcome to the Biodiversity and Conservation Biology Department homepage. The department was formed as an amalgamation of the former Botany and Zoology departments. Our location at the southern tip of Africa places us in an ideal position for field research into a host of interesting plants and animals.
The simplest definition of biotechnology is “applied biology” through the application of biological knowledge and techniques to develop products or services. It may be further defined as the use of living organisms to make a product or run a process. By this definition, the classic techniques used for plant and animal breeding, fermentation and enzyme purification are to be considered biotechnology.
Chemistry is often described as the central science because it touches all the other sciences.
Our vision is to provide innovative programmes in Computer Science, in order empowering our graduates to advance the quality of life in Africa.
The Department of Earth Sciences at UWC offers challenging opportunities in the nationally strategic areas of natural resources combining the disciplines of Applied geology, environmental and water sciences. These rapidly expanding programmes have established an international profile through teaching and research. Our research aim as a department is to study fundamental processes, and to investigate linkage between different components of the earth system (solid earth, hydrosphere, biosphere and atmosphere).
The Department of Mathematics offers programs for undergraduate and post graduate degrees. We have established programs of fundamental research in mathematics, as well as research in various areas such as Mathematical Modelling, Financial Mathematics and Mathematics Education among others.
In the Department of Medical Biosciences, we aim at training and developing scientists who will conduct research with a view to reduce the many lifestyle associated diseases.

To prepare students, the Medical Biosciences programme teaches students anatomy, physiology and medical microbiology thereby providing an understanding of the structure and function of the human body, and how the body protects itself against disease.
The Physics and Astronomy Department carries out physics and provides teaching programmes that will contribute significantly to the development of human capacity, science and technology in South Africa. The study of Physics and Astronomy at UWC produces holistically educated citizens who understand our rapidly changing technological world. Our vision is to see our graduates be equipped with the fundamental knowledge of physics, problem solving, life and communication skills.
Welcome to the Statistics and Population Studies Department at the University of the Western Cape.
Our Department revolves around two axes of teaching and research: Statistics with specialisation in Data Science and Population Studies. Two growing and important fields as data become more and more used everywhere and every day for planning purposes and to understand the challenges of our modern societies: from stock markets, medical research, economic forecasting to human populations.
The Institute for Microbial Biotechnology and Metagenomics is headed by Professor Marla Trindade as Director. Recognised as one of the leading research units at UWC, IMBM forms part of the Department of Biotechnology. IMBM is dedicated to excellence in research and in the training of future research leaders. In addition, it contributes to the Department’s undergraduate teaching activities.
The Institute for Water Studies (IWS) at the University of the Western Cape was formed in 2009 with the goal of promoting research, postgraduate training, and outreach on water related issues through the collaborative efforts of UWC staff. The Institute for Water Studies aims to increase the understanding of surface water, groundwater, and ecosystems linkages and how water users are affected and affect these linkages.
South African Institute for Advanced Materials Chemistry (SAIAMC) at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), established in 2004, comprises three distinct and closely interrelated programmes: Hydrogen South Africa Systems Integration Competence Centre (HySA Systems), PetroSA Synthetic Fuels Innovation Centre (PSFIC) and Energy Storage and Fluid Treatment Centre (ESFTC)
SANBI was founded in 1996 by Winston Hide, a South African computational biologist who returned from the USA.
The Inter-university Institute for Data Intensive Astronomy is a partnership of three South African universities, the Universities of Cape Town, of the Western Cape and of Pretoria. IDIA also has an industry partner in SAP.
Pharmacists play meaningful roles in the healthcare of people. They do this through emphasis on correct and rational use of medicines and related products. Pharmacists remain in high demand in the public and private sectors. The corporate part is expanding and the demand for pharmacists continues. This applies to South Africa and other countries of the world.
 
Proteomics is the term that describes a multitude of tools and expertise used primarily to profile and identify proteins of interest in any organism at a large scale. Proteins of interests include biomarkers for certain diseases or physiological/developmental status. For example, one could use proteomics to investigate effects of pathogens on organ protein expression levels and patterns.
The UNESCO Chair in Hydrogeology was established in 2001 at UWC following the introduction of the National Water Act of 1998 by the National Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF). As the Chair mainly focuses on groundwater related education, research and outreach, the Centre strives to contribute towards sustainable utilisation of groundwater resources in South Africa, Africa and the developing world.
 
The UWC Nature Reserve Unit provides an educational and recreational asset for the University of the Western Cape’s staff and students as well as surrounding communities by functioning as a base for ecological teaching, environmental education and research.

Our role is to develop an awareness and understanding by reconnecting students with nature, to inspire them to find a new appreciation for their natural surroundings, thus having an important bearing on future decision-making by the same individuals.
UWC has collaborated with an international software developer to offer the first of its kind postgraduate diploma in South Africa. This accredited postgraduate diploma in e-skills with immersive technologies stream can provide you with a hands-on approach to learning VR & AR software design and development skills, empowering you to join an exciting new field in the Fourth Industrial revolution (4IR) that is gaining a vast amount of interest globally.
The Department of Science and Innovation identified nanoscience as an important new field that South Africa needs to develop.

As such, they introduced a dedicated postgraduate programme for training in nanoscience and nanotechnology.