SCIENCE > DEAN'S REPORT

A notable research achievement was our record number of PhD graduates in the Science Faculty with 67 doctorates being awarded in 2009. This number has increased from 35 in 2006, 44 in 2007 and 47 in 2008 and reflects modest growth in doctoral degree enrolments alongside a significant reduction in the average number of years taken by students to complete the degree. Postgraduate funding awards to honours, master’s and doctoral science students amounted to over R32 million in 2009.

Our focus on quality research activities gathered further momentum with citation and impact measures showing a sharp rise. Among our academic staff, 129 currently hold a rating from the National Research Foundation, with 64 of our scientists being in the A or B category. The six chairholders in the Science Faculty, funded by the DST/NRF South African Research Chairs Initiative, provide additional capacity for supervising postgraduate students and hosting postdoctoral fellows, two areas in which we seek further growth as a Faculty, and where we made good progress in 2009. Our number of Postdoctoral Research Fellows has grown to 97 in 2009 with funding of more than R13 million. The recently awarded Square Kilometre Array Chair in Extragalactic Multi-Wavelength Astronomy will further augment this capacity-building activity and will be based in the Department of Astronomy at UCT. The Chair is one of five new SARChI Chairs dedicated to the South African Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project.

Our academic colleagues were awarded several honours and prizes during 2009. Emeritus Professors Brian Warner (Astronomy) and George Ellis (Mathematics and Applied Mathematics) were honoured with honorary doctorates by UCT and Professor Warner was also elected a fellow of University College London. Professor Johann Lutjeharms (Oceanography) was awarded the Order of Mapungubwe: Silver by the President of South Africa for his lifetime contribution to the understanding of the Aghulhas Current and the role it plays in the earth’s climate. Professor Jill Farrant (Molecular and Cell Biology), the first female A-rated natural scientist at UCT, was runner-up in the Distinguished Woman Scientist category at the Department of Science and Technology (DST) South African Women in Science Awards. Professor Farrant was acknowledged for her research on resurrection plants. Professor Mino Caira (Chemistry) was awarded the South African Chemical Institute’s Gold Medal for 2009 for his research on altering the physical properties of medicinal compounds to improve their performance as therapeutic agents. Professor Linda Haines (Statistical Sciences) won the 2009 Sichel Medal for the best paper by a South African author in a statistical journal. Dr Amanda Weltman (Mathematics and Applied Mathematics), co-author of two papers proposing the chameleon mechanism – an exciting new topic in theoretical cosmology – won the DST’s Best Emerging Scientist award at the South African Women in Science Awards. Professors Kelly Chibale (Chemistry), Susan Bourne (Chemistry) and Jill Farrant were elected as Fellows of the University of Cape Town.

Our postgraduate students earned national and international acclaim for the quality of their work. Renee Hlozek (Astronomy) won the South African Association for the Advancement of Science medal for original research at master’s level for her work on dark energy. Three postgraduate physics students, Wole Solana, Batsirai Magunje and Stanley Walton, scooped applied physics prizes at the Conference of the South African Institute of Physics (SAIP). The trio won for their work on an Innovation Fund project to develop novel printed silicon electronics. Chris Barnett (Chemistry) was awarded a SASOL Postgraduate Medal for 2009. At the 2009 Zoological Society of SA Conference, Alta de Vos, Tali Hoffman, Caitlin Smith, Mathew Lewis and Owen Davies won prizes for their presentations. At the Operational Research Society of South Africa Conference, Dieudonne Kabongo Kantu and Tim Blake (Statistical Sciences) won prizes for their presentations. Sandra Jasinoski (Zoology) won the Young Investigator Award at the International Biomechanics Conference. Mmoto Mabuselele (Botany) won a prize for the best poster at the Savanna Science Network Meeting. Mark Cyrus (Zoology) won the best student presentation award at a Conference of the Aquaculture Association of Southern Africa.

The Centre for Astrophysics, Cosmology and Gravitation was accredited by the University Research Committee and will provide an inter-departmental meeting point for joint research. The Faculty’s researchers attracted significant external funding for their projects. Professor Kelly Chibale, whose group is using plants to find novel compounds for antimalarial drugs, received a R3.6 million grant from the Medicines for Malaria Venture. The Hasso Plattner Institute in Germany funded the development and launch of the UCT Information Communication Technologies for Development Centre (ICT4D). The Nature Conservation Corporation has sponsored 15 computers for Conservation Biology master’s students at UCT’s FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology.

The Faculty of Science has several exciting research projects that have attracted Vice-Chancellor’s Strategic Funding and will get under-way in 2010.


Professor Kathy Driver
Dean of the Faculty of Science

 

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