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Areas of Excellence

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

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African Art

The Wits Art Museum (WAM) houses one of the world’s finest collections of African art and is a rich resource for research and teaching.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

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.

Astronomy and Cosmology

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.

Communicable Diseases

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.

Data science

Using data science teachniques to analise and interpret problems in the worlds of natural science, socials sciences and humanties.

Nanomedicine and Drug Delivery

Innovating 21st-century patient-centric medicines using novel delivery systems for drugs, proteins/peptides, nucleic acids, or cells either as standalone prototypes or interfaced with Nanomedicine, Tissue Engineering, Regenerative Medicine, and Biomaterials to design world-leading therapeutic interventions that ensure active pharmaceutical ingredients (bioactives) are delivered optimally to areas of the human body where they are most needed -

Equality studies in the Global South setting

Inequality is a major influencing factor in South Africa and indeed in the Global South. The study of this problem using a multidisciplinary approach is an ongoing area of research excellence at Wits.

Global Change and Sustainability

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.

Mathematics and Mathematical Education

Research on mathematics spans the spectrum from primary school teaching of mathematicas to cutting edge research in pure and applied mathematics and statistics.

Geoscience and Mining Engineering

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.

Non-communicable Diseases

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.

Palaeoanthropology, Paleontology and Palynology

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.

Refugee and Migrant studies

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.

Material Science and Engineering

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.

Molecular Biosciences

A burgeoning multi-disciplinary research institute dedicated to investigating the molecular and genomic aetiology of diseases among African populations.

Reproductive Health and HIV

Focused on research, technical assistance, advocacy, policy development and health systems strengthening, in the areas of HIV, sexual and reproductive health (SRH), and vaccine preventable diseases (VPD).

Water Research

Focusing on Water - Systems and the Environment, Water Recovery - Recycle, Re-use and Remediate, Society for Water - Citizenship and Stewardship and Water - Education.