The Faculty of Science is committed to producing highly qualified graduate students and research of international standard reported in the leading peer-reviewed literature. The Faculty comprises some 240 full time academic staff, about 175 support staff and some 2500 undergraduate and postgraduate students in ten Schools clustered in four groupings, the Mathematical Sciences, the Physical Sciences, the Earth Sciences and the Biological Sciences. We host five SARChI research chairs in the Faculty, have secured two more for 2011, and hope to secure more in the 2011-2012 DST/NRF call.
Our researchers participated in collaborative programmes with researchers at the statutory bodies, private sector companies, and many South African universities, as well as universities in Western Europe, Eastern Europe, North America, Australia, Japan, China, the Middle East and Africa.
We have seen a steady increase in the number of research publications coming from the Faculty between 2004 and 2010; in 2010 there was a notable increase in publications from academics in the Schools of Computational & Applied Mathematics; Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Sciences; Mathematics; Physics; and, most notably, Geosciences.
During 2010 Professor Fazal Mahomed (Computational and Applied Mathematics) was the top producer of research publications in the Faculty (18 publications), followed by Professor Neil Coville (Chemistry) and Professor Abdul Kara (Mathematics), with 14 publications each. Work by our researchers appeared in some of the highest impact journals in their field, including Nature, Science, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, Nature Geosciences, the Journal of High Energy Physics, the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry and Inorganic Chemistry.
Our research continues to attract considerable international attention. Based on the number of citations to work from this University, we are ranked in the top 1% of institutions internationally in Geosciences, Chemistry, Environment & Ecology, and Plant & Animal Science.
The steady decline between 2007 and 2009 in higher degrees awarded was reversed in 2010, with an increase of 48% in higher degree output units, largely due to a doubling of the number of MSc (dissertation) graduations.
There are 96 researchers in the Faculty with a current NRF rating; 24 ratings were awarded or re-awarded in 2010. Most notable was the award of an A2 rating to Professor Lyn Wadley (Institute of Human Evolution) and a P rating to Dr Trevor Vickey (Physics).
The Faculty hosted 35 post-doctoral fellows in 2010 from Western Europe (9), Eastern Europe (3), North America (3), the Indian subcontinent (9), China (3), the rest of Asia (2), South Africa (1) and the rest of Africa (5).
There were many research highlights and achievements in the Faculty and the Faculty congratulates it researchers for their contributions to helping the Faculty progress towards achieving its vision of being an internationally competitive faculty of science. Professor Fazal Mohamed (CAM) and Professor Arnold Knopfmacher were elected Fellows of the Royal Society of South Africa. Professor Ben Smith (GAES) was commissioned by the Department of Science and Technology to draft a national policy for Archaeology and Palaeontology. This policy is already having profound implications for both disciplines. He was also elected the President of the PanAfrican Archaeological Association in November 2010, the first South African ever to hold this prestigious position.
Among the notable achievements were the publication in Science of reports on Prof. Lee Berger’s (Institute of Human Evolution) discovery of the early hominid remains of Australopithecus sediba in the Cradle of Humankind.
Professor Abdul Kara (Mathematics) published some exciting work on the modelling of a variety of physical phenomenon such as fluid flow.
Dr Trevor Vickey (Physics) was a member of the research team working on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) project at CERN, in search of the elusive "God Particle", the Higgs boson.
Professor Neville Pillay (Animal, Plant and Environmental Studies) has reported work which has gained widespread international attention on the semi-desert-dwelling African striped mouse Rhabdomys which has proved to be a critical species behaviour indicator in this era of climate change.
Dr Susan Webb (Geosciences) has been developing a new model of the inner workings of the earth in collaboration with leading international scientists from South Africa, Norway, the United States and Germany.
The team lead by Stefan Weiss (Molecular and Cell Biology) could on the brink of a major breakthrough in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and metastatic cancer.
One of the top priorities of the Faculty of Science has been, and will be for the foreseeable future, to support young researchers and help them launch a research career. We provide once-off start-up grants to new appointees at the Lecturer and Senior Lecturer grade. Initial funding for appointees at Associate Professor and Professor grade is a matter for negotiation with the Dean during the interview and the job offer stage.