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Molecular and Cell Biology The PhD by thesis in Molecular and Cell Biology has focus areas in in the fields of Applied Bioinformatics, Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Genetics and Developmental Biology, and Microbiology and Biotechnology.
Molecular and Cell Biology The PhD by thesis in Molecular and Cell Biology has focus areas in in the fields of Applied Bioinformatics, Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Genetics and Developmental Biology, and Microbiology and Biotechnology.

Qualification: PhD

Faculty: Science

Duration: 2 - 4 years

School: Molecular and Cell Biology

Study mode: Full-time; Part-time


Molecular and Cell Biology encompass a wide range of focus areas, each with its own unique advantages:

Applied Bioinformatics: Several researchers within the school work at the interface of experimental biology and bioinformatics, therefore, the school provides an ideal environment for students to learn and apply bioinformatics skills on a wide variety of biological data. Students will get hands-on experience in bioinformatics tools and working at the command line.

Biochemistry & Cell Biology: The field of Biochemistry and Cell Biology provides theoretical and experimental understanding of the structure and function of the important biological molecules, the most fundamental entities of a living organism. The application of this knowledge can, for example, help to develop new drugs to combat complex and deadly diseases affecting mankind.

Genetics & Developmental Biology: This is the era of the gene. You can sequence it, research how it functions, study how it makes an animal, plant, bacterium or virus, how it evolves and how it can make cells cancerous. See how it is transforming biology, biotechnology, pharmacology and medicine.

Microbiology & Biotechnology: All life as we know it is dependent on microbes. The field of microbiology aims to expand our current understanding of not only individual microorganisms but also the impact they have on humankind as a whole. This new found knowledge can be applied across a variety of fields including agriculture, biotechnology and medicine, thereby addressing many of our global challenges benefitting both humankind and our environment.

A PhD in molecular and Cell Biology:

  • Exposes students to theoretical and analytical aspects in the field of either Applied Bioinformatics, Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Genetics and Developmental Biology, or Microbiology and Biotechnology.
  • Exposes students to the range of experimental and analytical techniques fundamental to research at the molecular and cellular level.
  • Allows students to contribute to the knowledge economy by doing novel research.
  • Allow students to become independent researchers with exceptional problem-solving skills, and resilience.

Why pursue a PhD in Molecular & Cell Biology at Wits?

The School of Molecular and Cell Biology is unique in that it offers excellence in teaching and research at the postgraduate level in diverse focus areas. As such, we do research in protein biochemistry and drug discovery (Dr Achilonu, Prof Cronje, Prof Dirr, Dr Fanucchi, Prof Kaur, Prof Sayed), cancer cell biology (Prof Cronje, Dr Jivan, Prof Kaur, Prof Mavri-Damelin, Prof Veale, Prof Weiss), developmental biology (Prof Nikitina), industrial microbiology (Prof Bouwer, Prof Rumbold), immunology (Dr de Assis Rosa, Dr Gentle, Dr Meyer), microbial biological control (Prof Bouwer, Prof Rumbold), insect pathology (Prof Bouwer, Prof Rey), molecular genetics (Dr de Assis Rosa, Dr Gentle, Dr Meyer, Dr Mollett), plant pathology (Prof Rey), genetic engineering (Dr Botes, Prof Nikitina, Prof Rey), functional genetics (Dr Gentle, Dr Jivan, Prof Mavri-Damelin, Dr Meyer), epigenetics (Dr Meyer, Prof Rey), metagenomics (Dr Botes, Dr de Maayer), biotechnology (Dr Botes, Prof Bouwer, Dr de Maayer, Prof Rey, Prof Rumbold), mycology (Dr Botes), pharmacogenetics (Dr de Assis-Rosa, Prof Mavri-Damelin), synthetic biology (Prof Rumbold), bioengineering (Prof Rumbold), biocatalysis (Prof Rumbold).

During your PhD, you will be doing cutting-edge research, be actively involved in creating new knowledge and disseminating that knowledge through publication.

Analytical biochemist, Biomedical scientist, Healthcare scientist, Clinical biochemist, Industrial enzymology, Life science research scientist, Medical diagnostics, Cryopreservation of cells and tissues, Stem Cell Technology, Agricultural, Medical, Environmental & Veterinary biotechnology, Industrial biotechnology, Insecticides research and production, Water quality research, Production of scientific products, Medicinal products and Pharmaceutical Industry, Food Industry, Biotechnology Industry, Brewing Industry, Science Journalism, Patent Law, Bioinformatics, Bioconsultant, Application Specialist, Life science & pharmaceutical sales, Academics, Principal investigators, Medical-Science Liaisons, Data Scientists and Consultants. 

  • A Research Masters degree in a related field.
  • must be identified and approached prior to application.

Contact course coordinator.

Applications for Research Masters and PhD may be lodged at any time during the year.
  • Applications are handled centrally by the Student Enrolment Centre (SEnC). Once your application is complete in terms of requested documentation, your application will be referred to the relevant School for assessment. Click here to see an overview of the Wits applications process.
  • Please apply online. Upload your supporting documents at the time of application, or via the Self Service Portal.
  • Applicants can monitor the progress of their applications via the Self Service Portal.
  • Selections for programmes that have a limited intake but attract a large number of applications may only finalise the application at the end of the application cycle.

Please note that the Entry Requirements are a guide. Meeting these requirements does not guarantee a place. Final selection is made subject to the availability of places, academic results and other entry requirements where applicable.

International students, please check this section.

For more information, contact the Student Call Centre +27 (0)11 717 1888, or log a query at

Click here to see the current average tuition fees. The Fees site also provides information about the payment of fees and closing dates for fees payments. Once you have applied you will be able to access the fees estimator on the student self-service portal.

For information about postgraduate funding opportunities, including the postgraduate merit award, click here. Please also check your School website for bursary opportunities. NRF bursaries: The National Research Foundation (NRF) offers a wide range of opportunities in terms of bursaries and fellowships to students pursuing postgraduate studies. External bursaries portal: The Bursaries South Africa website provides a comprehensive list of bursaries in South Africa.