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Distinguished Professors


Commerce, Law and Management

Prof. P Bond


Prof. R Langlois


Prof. V Padayachee

Professor Vishnu Padayachee is Distinguished Professor and Derek Schrier and Cecily Cameron Chair in Development Economics, in the School of Economic and Business Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand. Among other academic fellowships he is a Life Time Fellow of the Society of Scholars at Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC and Baltimore. His research exists at the confluence of Keynesian macroeconomics, political economy, economic history, and development. His current research interests include monetary history, theory, and policy in South Africa; the political economy of restructuring South Africa, and a study of South African capitalism. He was a non-executive director of the South African Reserve Bank for 12 years, among many other board appointments in the public and private sector since 1994.

Prof. D Posel

Dorrit (Dori) Posel is an economist who specialises in applied micro-economic research, exploring the interface between households and labour markets. From 2007 to 2015, Dori held an NRF/DST Research Chair in economic development at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). In 2016, she moved to the University of the Witwatersrand as a distinguished professor and to take up the Helen Suzman chair. Dori, who completed her PhD in economics in 1999 at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst), has been the recipient of a number of research awards, including the Vice-Chancellor’s Research Award at UKZN. She is a B-rated NRF scientist and an elected member of the Academy of Sciences of South Africa.

Dori has published widely on issues related to marriage and family formation, labour force participation, labour migration, the economics of language, and measures of well-being.

Health Sciences

Prof. N Kandala

Ngianga-Bakwin Kandala, PhD

Kandala is a Distinguished Professor of Biostatistics and was appointed in June 2016 as part of the Vice-Chancellor Distinguished Scholar at the School of Public Health, University of Witwatersrand. He also holds a position as Professor of Biostatistics and Direction of Business and Enterprise at Northumbria University, UK. Prior to this, he worked as Head of Health Economics and Evidence Synthesis Research Unit at the Luxembourg Institute of Health, Luxembourg and was Associate Professor in Health Technology Assessment, a joint appointment with the University of Oxford and University of Warwick. He is also a Visiting Professor of Biostatistics both at University of Warwick, UK and the University of Agder, Norway.

For the past 20 years, his main research interests are in Bayesian statistical methods and their application to epidemiology and health including maternal and child health both in the developing countries and command economies, using large scale household data. Kandala has published widely in high impact peer review journals in both the field of Statistics and health in diverse populations. His recent books with Springer Nature are titled ‘Advance Techniques in modelling Maternal and child health in Africa’ (2014) and He is working on a book with Springer Science on ‘Female Mutilation around the World: Analysis of Medical Aspects, Law and Practice (2018).

Prof C Feldman


Prof. L Manderson


Prof. C Mathew

Christopher Mathew is a Distinguished Professor in Human Genetics in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Witwatersrand University, based at the Sydney Brenner Institute for Molecular Bioscience. He also holds a joint appointment as Professor of Molecular Genetics in the Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics in the Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine at Kings College London. His main research interest is the investigation of genetic factors which contribute to the development of African cancers, and of genomic changes which are driving tumour development. He is a Principal Investigator on two major grants from the Newton Fund to investigate the genetics of common African cancers. He has published over 260 peer-reviewed articles and has an H-index of 83, with >30,000 citations. His contribution to an increased understanding of the genetics of human disease was recognised by election as a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences UK in 2001. He was awarded a National Research Foundation A- rating in 2017.  

Prof. L Richter

Prof Richter is a Distinguished Professor at the University of the Witwatersrand and the Director of the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Human Development. She is a Distinguished Research Fellow at the Human Sciences Research Council in South Africa, a Research Associate in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford (UK), a Faculty Affiliate of the World Policy Centre at the University of California in Los Angeles, and an advisor to the World Health Organization in Geneva on early child development. From 2003-2006, she was a Visiting Researcher at the University of Melbourne, from 2007-2010 a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University (USA), and from 2010-2012 she served in Geneva as Advisor on Vulnerable Children at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. She obtained her PhD in Psychology from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.


Prof. M Askew

Mike Askew is Distinguished Professor of Mathematics Education in the School of Education at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, having previously been a Professor at King’s College, University of London and Monash University, Melbourne. Mike believes that mathematical activity can be engaging and enjoyable for all learners and that the majority of learners can master mathematics. He is closely involved with both the Primary and Secondary Wits Maths Connect Projects and current research includes studying how foundation and intermediate phase learners come to reason multiplicatively. As well as research papers, this work has lead to a series of teaching guides available to all teachers. His books include: Transforming Primary Mathematics (2016) and A Practical Guide to Transforming Primary Mathematics (2016). In the broader South African terrain, Professor Askew has given plenary addresses at the SAARMSTE 2017 Annual Conference on the WITS research and plenary presentations focused on development in Mathematics teaching and teacher education at the request of the Gauteng Department of Education (July, 2017) and the Department of Higher Education and Training (February 2017). Recently Professor Askew was made an Associate Editor of the African Journal of Research in Mathematics, Science and Technology Education. He is currently President of the Mathematical Association of the United Kingdom.

Prof. G Hart

Gillian Hart is Distinguished Professor in the Humanities Graduate Centre at the University of the Witwatersrand, and Professor of the Graduate School in Geography at the University of California, Berkeley.  She is currently working on a set of essays for a book on resurgent nationalisms and populisms in South Africa, India, and the United States since the end of the Cold War.  The most recent essay, entitled “Why Did it Take So Long?  Trumpism through Southern Lenses”, suggests how analyses of South Africa and India can shed new light on Trumpism in ways that speak to urgent political debates around class, race, gender, and other dimensions of difference.  Her prior books include Power, Labor, and Livelihood: Processes of Change in Rural Java (1986); Agrarian Transformations: Local Processes and the State in Southeast Asia (1989); Disabling Globalization: Places of Power in Post-Apartheid South Africa (2002); Gramsci: Space, Nature, Politics (2013); and Rethinking the South African Crisis: Nationalism, Populism, Hegemony (2014). 

Prof. S Vice

Samantha Vice joined Wits Philosophy Department as Distinguished Professor in 2015.  Her work ranges widely in the fields of ethics, social philosophy and aesthetics. Since the publication of her article, ‘How Do I Live in This Strange Place?’ (2010), she has focused on issues of white privilege and the possibility of leading an ethical life in contexts of systematic injustice.  She has also published papers on goodness and beauty and plans to continue exploring their relation, particularly in contexts of apparent hopelessness and justified pessimism about our place in the natural world.  Other work includes co-edited collections on film and ethics, and on aging, and papers on a wide variety of ethical topics, including cynicism, optimism and the meaning of life, animal beauty, impartiality and partiality, and the philosophy of Iris Murdoch.

Prof. I Vladislavić

Ivan Vladislavić is a Distinguished Professor in the Creative Writing Department at the University of the Witwatersrand. He is the author of eight books of fiction, including the novels The Restless Supermarket, The Exploded View and Double Negative. Among his more recent publications are the story collection 101 Detectives and a set of reflections on writing called The Loss Library. He has written extensively on Johannesburg, notably in the documentary text Portrait with Keys. His early stories appear in the compendium volume Flashback Hotel. He sometimes works with visual artists and has edited volumes on architecture and art. He has also published a monograph on the artist Willem Boshoff. His work has won many awards, including the Alan Paton Award for non-fiction and Yale University’s Windham-Campbell Prize for fiction.


Prof. A Forbes


Prof. C Henshilwood


Prof. F Luca

Professor Florian Luca is a mathematician who specializes in number theory with emphasis on Diophantine equations, linear recurrences and arithmetic functions. He has made notable contributions to the proof that irrational automatic numbers are transcendental and the proof of a conjecture of Erdős on the intersection of the ranges of the Euler function and the sum of divisors function. He has co-authored over 600 papers with more than 200 co-authors as well as various books. He is an Editor in Chief in "Integers" and "Research in Number Theory" and an editor of the "Notices of the American Mathematical Society". He is a fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (1998),
Guggenheim Foundation (2005), and the recipient of the Research Distinction of the South African Math. Soc. (2017).

Prof. B Scholes

Prof Bob Scholes is a systems ecologist with a particular interest in the savannas of Africa. He is among the top 1% of environmental scientists worldwide based on citation. He has led several high-profile studies (eg the Assessment of Elephant Management, the Strategic Assessment of Shale Gas Development, the Global Land Degradation and Restoration Assessment) and large research campaigns (eg SAFARI 2000 and the Southern African Millennium Assessment). He was an author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 3rd, 4th and 5th assessments. He has been on the boards of the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry, the South African National Parks and South African National Space Agency. He is a Member of the South African Academy, a Fellow of The World Academy of Sciences,  Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences, Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa, an NRF A-rated scientist, and a winner of the National Science and Technology Forum Lifetime Contribution to Science Award. 

Prof. R Sheldon


Prof. R Smith

Roger Smith was born in Cambridge, England and came to South Africa in 1976 after graduating in Geology and Zoology from Manchester University. He gained his masters from University of the Witwatersrand and doctorate through the University of Cape Town. In 1983 he joined the South African Museum as curator of Karoo Palaeontology and is one of only 2 museum-based researchers in South Africa to have been awarded an A- rating by the National Research Foundation. He retired in 2016 to take up a 5-year professorship at Wits. He is currently working on several projects under the general title of “Palaeoecology of Gondwana”. Roger’s research is field-based and integrates palaeontological and sedimentological data into palaeoenvironmental reconstructions of ancient landscapes- especially concerning the dramatic changes that took place in the Karoo Basin during the End-Permian mass extinction event.

Over the past 15 years Roger has participated in several collaborative research expeditions to Eritrea, Niger, Lesotho, Namibia, Madagascar, Antarctica, Zambia and Tanzania, mostly funded by the American National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society. These studies are ongoing with field projects in Tanzania, Zambia, Argentina, Brazil and Antarctica currently in progress

Prof. F Thackeray

Professor Francis Thackeray is a palaeo-anthropologist who obtained his PhD in anthropology at Yale.  He is undertaking research on Plio-Pleistocene fossils from Kromdraai and other caves in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site near Johannesburg, and has a particular interest in hominins attributed to Australopithecus, Paranthropus and early Homo. He developed the concept of "sigma taxonomy" (as opposed to alpha taxonomy), in the context of a probabilistic definition of a species, recognising that boundaries between species are not always necessarily clear.  He has applied this approach to hominin fossils from South Africa, East Africa and Europe. The application of a morphometric method (using skull measurements) led to the recognition that there was not a clear boundary between neanderthals and Homo sapiens. This was recognised even before ancient DNA analyses indicated that there had been interbreeding between the two taxa.  Professor Thackeray has also undertaken research on prehistoric art in southern Africa, associated with linguistics and ethnography.  He is a former Director of the Institute for Human Evolution at the University of the Witwatersrand, and former Director of the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History.  Currently he is an Honorary Associate of the Evolutionary Studies Institute at Wits.

Prof. C Vogel


Engineering and the Built Environment

Prof. T Igusa


Prof. M Postema

Prof Dr Michiel Postema HDR, Pr.Phys (* Brederwiede, Netherlands, 1973), received an MSc degree in geophysics from Utrecht University, Netherlands, in 1996, a PhD in the physics of fluids from the University of Twente, Netherlands, in 2004, and a DSc in life sciences from the University of Tours, France, in 2017. He was granted an Emmy Noether Research Group at Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany, in 2009. In 2010, he obtained the Chair in Experimental Acoustics at the University of Bergen, Norway. He was appointed Professor and Head of the Department of Ultrasound at the Institute of Fundamental Technological Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in 2016, and Le Studium Fellow at the University of Tours, France, in 2017. He has been Visiting Professor at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, since 2015, and Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the same University since 2017.

Professor Postema is Associate Editor of Applied Acoustics (Elsevier), the IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control (IEEE), and Ultrasonics (Elsevier). His particular expertise lies in analysing medical micromaterial behaviour under sonication and in high-speed photography. He also explores non-medical applications of bubbles and droplets in sound fields. At Wits, he concentrates on red blood cell manipulation and sonic malaria treatment.