The following alphabetical list of areas of research excellence touches on a few of the active areas at Wits. Any reader wishing to know more about these or other areas is encouraged to contact Robin Drennan.
The fundamental study of using large data sets and neural networks to process them using cutting edge algorithms is at the heart of Wits’ research in to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine Learning.
Using the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), when it is completed, and the existing Meerkat and Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory facilities, scientists at Wits are well placed to tackle the big questions about the origins of the Universe and to probe the outer extremities of our solar system.
This is a multi-disciplinary subject, which looks at such topics as urban morphology and its impacts on transport and service provision, informal settlements and the lifestyles which underpin them, employment patterns, changing suburban ethnicities, inner-city rejuvenation, commercial and domestic security and access control and much else.
HIV and TB in particular are a major health threat in South Africa and are the subject of sustained research into causes, transmission and control. Great strides have been made in developing effective vaccines to control the spread of pneumococcal diseases, particularly amongst children.
Novel methods of drug delivery are being developed, often using nanoscience, so that medication is delivered directly to the areas of the human body where it is most needed, so that maximum benefit is obtained by patients with minimal delay.
The scope of this multi-disciplinary area includes, but is not limited to, effects and mitigation of climate change, food sustainability, effects on diversity of flora and fauna, water, waste and energy management, pollution control, environmental effects of extractive industries, water supply and ecosystem maintenance.
Wits has a strong geoscience School that not only considers economic geology and petrology, but is also active in geophysics. This earth science is well aligned with the strong mining engineering school that currently focuses on digital-mining that looks to use technology for the purpose of safety in deep and dangerous mining.
Obesity, hypertension, diabetes, cancer and heart disease are an increasing problem in South Africa. To some extent, these diseases are associated with a change in lifestyle, especially of our urban population. Pioneering research on children is underway, in an attempt to address root causes of these diseases before it is too late. Malaria continues to be a fatal disease, especially amongst children across the continent. Wits research targets both the vector (mosquito) and the parasite it lays, together with the shifting target of an effective prophylactic.
Situated in close proximity to the World Heritage Site known as the Cradle of Humankind, research into the evolution of modern humans, with discoveries such as Little Foot, and the Sediba and Naledi fossils has made worldwide impact in recent years. Studies elsewhere in South Africa, particularly in the Karoo, continue to broaden the known range of mammal-like reptiles and dinosaurs which inhabited the country in prehistoric times. Middle-stone age studies in the Eastern Cape have shown conclusively that modern human behavior evolved in Africa from about 100,000 years ago.
The sometimes uneasy co-existence of established South African populations with more recent migrants, particularly from other African states, is well documented in the media. Wits researchers try to better understand the underlying causes by looking at factors influencing migration, migrants’ access to social services, housing, employment, transport and other basic human rights.
The development of new and stronger materials continues, with applications in such industries as aerospace, mining and manufacturing. Materials studied include composites, ceramics, diamond, thin films, carbides and metallic alloys.