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Dean’s 2023 Welcome Message to Students

Professor Burtram Fielding, Dean: Natural Sciences
It is with the greatest of pleasure that I, as Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences, welcome you students either back to campus, or onto campus and to our Faculty for the first time. I also want to take this opportunity to wish you all a wonderful and blessed 2023.

To the first-year students, you join us at a remarkable moment in campus, Faculty and – yes – world history. The Faculty has decided that this year we will have a complete return to campus, meaning that all undergraduate and postgraduate students will be attending in-person classes.

To those starting their adventures in higher learning, you will experience the campus as it was before the pandemic. You will be sitting in lecture halls and classrooms facing your lecturers in person, while being surrounded by your flesh-and-blood classmates.  
A full return does pose certain logistical challenges, yes, but as I’ve said before, this is how we believe a modern university campus should be experienced. For all its virtues, there is a part of the student experience that cannot fully be reproduced in the online environment. There is nothing like sharing a meal or a drink, or even just a chat, on a campus with friends around you.

To the students whose only experience of life ‘on’ a university campus has been of the virtual or hybrid kind, some adjustments may be required. Trackpants and bare feet are behind us, other than for those who like to keep things casual. For those who remember university life before the pandemic, welcome back to the new normal.

To all of you, I really wish the best of fortunes with your studies. This is a remarkable time in your lives, a truly unique experience.

Being a student or staff member on a university campus anywhere in the world is a privilege. It has been shown that only 6% of South Africans have university degrees. That makes us, yes, an elite. But we cannot be elitist. It was our much-beloved President Nelson Mandela who said about the privilege of education and personnel growth: “Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that a son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation.”

To me, those words are a poignant reminder of the responsibility we bear as degree holders. It is a responsibility not just towards our loved ones, but also to our country and the world. Covid-19 highlighted why the scientific disciplines represented and housed by our Faculty matter. Amid the confusion and uncertainties over the past three years, much of the world turned to the life- and natural sciences for answers.

So, remember to do the very best that you can during your time at UWC, to take advantage of the opportunities you have here.

But – and this is as important – remember to have fun, to make new friends, and to learn more about the world we humans call home. One day you will look back and be reminded just how special this time was. Do not waste it.

Professor Burtram Fielding
Dean: Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of the Western Cape

10 January 2023

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)
Bioinformatics is a specialist discipline straddling the fields of biology, mathematics and computer science and it is integral to modern biological research. The South African National Bioinformatics Institute (SANBI) is a research institute reporting through the Faculty of Natural Sciences at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) in Cape Town.

Our primary focus is the development and implementation of computational methodologies which allow researchers to accelerate their genomics data analyses. SANBI aims to heighten awareness of bioinformatics in South Africa and to assist the country in making optimal use of bioinformatics tools.
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.
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.
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.