Leading researchers

NRF A-rated

National Research Foundation (NRF) A-rated researchers are international leaders in their field. Just under a third of the country’s A-rated researchers are at UCT.

The NRF's rating system is central to its goal of building a globally competitive science system in South Africa. 

An A rating is awarded to leading international researchers. UCT currently has 35 A-rated researchers (listed below in alphabetical order).

For more information on the NRF ratings, visit the NRF website.

  • Professor Igor Barashenkov

    Department of Mathematics and Applied Maths, Faculty of Science

    Professor Barashenkov received his MSc from the Moscow State University and a PhD in mathematical and theoretical physics from the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna. His research interests include nonlinear dynamics and theory of nonlinear waves, in particular solitary waves, localised patterns and vortices. Barashenkov's early research projects focussed on the so-called dark solitons.

    After moving to UCT, he turned his attention to solitons in resonantly-forced dissipative systems. More recently he pioneered studies of the parity-time symmetry in nonlinear systems of optics and atomic physics. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa (FRSSAf) and was awarded the Harry Oppenheimer Fellowship in 2004.

  • Emeritus Professor Eric Bateman

    Department of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences

    Emeritus Professor Bateman has an MBChB and a Doctor of Medicine degree from UCT. He is also a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and a life fellow of UCT. His research interests include:

    • the pharmacology and management of asthma
    • chronic obstructive airways disease and tuberculosis
    • community-based interventions to improve the care of patients with chronic respiratory diseases.

    He serves on the editorial/advisory boards of several international journals and is a recipient of many local and international awards which include the President’s Award from the European Thoracic Society for his global contribution to respiratory medicine.

  • Emeritus Professor William Bond

    Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science

    Emeritus Professor Bond is chief scientist for the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON). He is an ecologist with broad interests in the processes most strongly influencing vegetation change, including fire, vertebrate herbivory, atmospheric CO2 and climate change. In addition, he has worked on plant-animal mutualisms and on plant form and function. Particular research interests include grasslands and savanna ecosystems, and winter-rainfall shrublands.

    He has served on the boards of the South African National Botanical Institute (SANBI) and Cape Nature and on the editorial boards of several journals. He is a foreign associate of the US National Academy of Sciences and has an H-factor of 74.

  • Professor Frank Brombacher

    Department of Pathology, Faculty of Health Sciences

    Professor Brombacher received a PhD bursary from the late Nobel laureate Professor Georges Köhler of the Max Planck Institute for Immunobiology in Germany. He has made important contributions in the areas of immunology, infectious diseases, bio-engineering and health technology.

    In a joint venture with Prof Gottfried Alber and Prof Hoffmann-LaRoche, he was granted a patent on the use of IL-12p40 as an immune-stimulant in 1999.

    Brombacher currently holds the DST-NRF Research Chair for Immunology of Infectious Diseases in Africa and is the scientific coordinator for the African International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology.

  • Emeritus Professor Douglas Butterworth

    Department of Mathematics and Applied Maths, Faculty of Science

    Emeritus Professor Butterworth heads the Marine Resource Assessment and Management (MARAM) Research Group. He has acted as a consultant on fisheries management issues to 11 other national governments, and also to fishing industries in 10 countries. He has served as a national representative or invitee in his personal capacity on the scientific committees of 11 international fisheries organisations.

    His research covers many marine species, including anchovy, hake, krill, lobster, orange roughy, sardine, seals, tuna and whales. He has received a number of prestigious awards, including the South African President's National Orders award of the Order of Mapungubwe (silver) for contribution to the betterment of the environment and sustainability of fisheries.

  • Professor Kelly Chibale

    Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science

    As director of UCT’s Drug Discovery and Development Centre (H3D), the main thrust of Professor Chibale’s research can be described as drug discovery for communicable parasitic and bacterial diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis.

    Using a variety of approaches to clarify how new drugs work, Chibale and his laboratory have contributed fundamental scientific knowledge. Among other achievements, Chibale and his team identified the enzyme of the human malaria parasite that is the target for MMV048, an antimalarial clinical drug candidate. MMV048 marks the first time that an international drug development effort led by Africa has taken a small molecule from screening through to human clinical trials.

  • Emeritus Professor David Chidester

    Department of Religious Studies, Faculty of Humanities

    Professor Chidester is a prolific writer and an internationally acclaimed scholar in the field of comparative religion. His interests lie in the relationships between religion and globalisation, religion and popular culture, religion in society and the problems of social cohesion.

    He has written extensively on religion in South Africa, North America, as well as on religion and education. He is a two-time winner of the American Academy of Religion's Award for Excellence in Religious Studies”. In 2005, he received the Alan Pifer Award for Social Research.

  • Professor Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan

    Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science

    Professor Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan is a palaeobiologist in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Cape Town. She is a global expert on the microscopic structure of the bones of extinct and extant vertebrates.

    Her work has been recognised by several highly acclaimed awards, including an NRF President Award in 1995, and the South African Woman of the Year Award in 2005.

  • Emeritus Professor Jean Cleymans

    Department of Physics, Faculty of Science

    Emeritus Professor Cleymans has made considerable contributions to the area of plasma and particle physics with a particular focus on relativistic heavy ion collisions. He obtained his doctorate in physics at the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium and his post-doctoral thesis at the Universität Bielefeld in Germany. His research work currently focuses on the phase diagram separating nuclear matter from quark matter and exploring areas of high baryon density.

    Cleymans was instrumental in establishing the SA-CERN programme, the successor to the UCT-CERN Research Centre. He also contributed to the SA-Joint Institute for Nuclear Research with Russia and was leader of the UCT-ALICE Collaboration at CERN. Cleymans has been the recipient of a number of awards throughout his career, including the Alexander von Humboldt Research Prize in 1999.

  • Professor Keertan Dheda

    Department of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences

    Professor Dheda, head of the Division of Pulmonology at UCT, focuses on the design and evaluation of user-friendly diagnostic tools and interventions for drug-sensitive and -resistant tuberculosis (TB).

    Dheda led a multicentric study in four countries involving more than 2 500 patients to evaluate a new user-friendly urine-based diagnostic test (urine LAM). This was the first controlled study to evaluate the benefit of the LAM test in reducing mortality and the findings underpinned the WHO guidelines regarding its global rollout.

  • Emeritus Professor George Ekama

    Department of Civil Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment

    Professor Ekama has 35 years of research experience into activated sludge systems at UCT. Over the years he has been at the forefront of developments in BNR-activated sludge systems modelling, filamentous bulking, and secondary settling tank design and modelling.

    He has published over 150 research papers on these subjects and he and his research group have co-authored the International Water Association Scientific and Technical Reports. He regularly teaches courses for local authorities and industry, both nationally and internationally. He is a fellow of several institutions including the Water Institute of Southern Africa and the Royal Society of South Africa.

  • Emeritus Professor George Ellis

    Department of Mathematics and Applied Maths, Faculty of Science

    George Ellis is emeritus distinguished professor of complex systems in the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics. He co-authored The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time (1973) with University of Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking, and is considered one of the world's leading theorists in cosmology. In 2004 he won the Templeton Prize.

    From 1989 to 1992 he served as president of the International Society on General Relativity and Gravitation. He is a past president of the International Society for Science and Religion. He was also awarded the Order of the Star of South Africa by Nelson Mandela in 1999. In 2007, he was elected a fellow of the British Royal Society.

  • Professor Jill Farrant

    Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, Faculty of Science

    Professor Farrant is the world’s leading expert on resurrection plants, "which come back to life" from a desiccated, seemingly dead state when they are rehydrated. She investigates the ability of many species of these plants to survive without water for long periods of time – looking at the molecular, biochemical and ultrastructural to the whole-plant ecophysiological. She uses a unique comparative approach and works with many different species of resurrection plants and a variety of tissues.

    Farrant's ultimate goal is to find a way to develop drought-tolerant crops to nourish populations in arid, drought-prone climates. Her research may also have medicinal applications.

  • Professor Bruce Hewitson

    Department of Environmental and Geographical Science, Faculty of Science

    Professor Hewitson is a climatologist with an eclectic range of interests including electronics, geography, meteorology, and even ethics. His core "discipline" is regional climate (change). Based at UCT since 1992, he now manages the Climate System Analysis Group (CSAG) research group. He is also engaged in international activities, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) , the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), and research. His research interests include climate modeling, climate change, downscaling, and analysis methodologies. Beyond this Hewitson has extended interests in appropriate technology, scientific capacity building, and the science-society interface.

  • Professor George Janelidze

    Department of Mathematics and Applied Maths, Faculty of Science

    Professor Janelidze obtained his DSc from the St Petersburg State University in 1992 where he was the first DSc in category theory in the former USSR. Later, he was a visiting professor at a number of institutions in Europe, North America, and Australia. He was appointed as professor at UCT in 2004, and became an honorary member of the A Razmadze Mathematical Institute of the Georgian Academy of Science.

    Janelidze has published extensively and is the editor of four international journals. His current research is devoted to various topics of categorical algebra, including abstract Galois theory, with applications in classical algebra, geometry and topology.

  • Professor Harold Kincaid

    School of Economics, Faculty of Commerce

    Professor Kincaid is director of the Research Unit in Behavioural Economics and Neuroeconomics (RUBEN). At RUBEN, Kincaid has been involved in studies looking at the prevalence of gambling in South Africa, and at problem gamblers and at-risk gamblers. He is the co-editor of Distributed Cognition and the Will: Individual Volition and Social Context and What Is Addiction?

  • Professor Hans-Peter Kunzi

    Department of Mathematics and Applied Maths, Faculty of Science

    Professor Hans-Peter Kunzi received his master's, PhD and habilitation degrees from the University of Berne in Switzerland. After postdoctoral years at Virginia Tech, US, and UCT, he worked for several years as a lecturer and researcher in Switzerland, at the Universities of Berne and Fribourg. The research of his Topology Research Group lies mainly in the field of analytic and categorical topology, focusing on frame theory and asymmetric topology.

  • Professor Gary Maartens

    Division of of Clinical Pharmacology, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences

    Professor Gary Maartens is both head of clinical pharmacology at the University of Cape Town and a chief specialist physician at Groote Schuur Hospital.

    As a young specialist doctor, he worked in Cape Town during the early ’90s, witnessing first-hand the HIV epidemic in South Africa and realised much research needed to be done. Today Maartens is an international authority on the therapeutic aspects of HIV-associated TB, drug-resistant TB and antiretroviral therapy in resource-limited settings. 

    He has published over 200 peer-reviewed papers, was the founding president for the South African College of Clinical Pharmacologists, and in 2015, was awarded a gold medal by the Medical Research Council of South Africa for outstanding contributions to medical research.

  • Professor Rajend Mesthrie

    School of African and Gender Studies, Anthropology and Linguistics, Faculty of Humanities

    Professor Mesthrie is the research chair in the School of African & Gender Studies, Anthropology & Linguistics (AXL). He is a past president of the Linguistics Society of Southern Africa (2001-2009) and a past head of the Linguistics Section at UCT (1998-2009). He was elected honorary life executive member of the Linguistics Society of Southern Africa in 2012. He is currently an executive member of the International Society for English Linguistics and an elected member of the SA Academy of Science. He has published widely in the field of Sociolinguistics, with special reference to language contact and variation in South Africa.

  • Professor Valerie Mizrahi

    Department of Pathology, Faculty of Health Sciences

    Professor Mizrahi is the director of both the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM) and the Molecular Mycobacteriology Research Unit of the South African Medical Research Council, and also head of the UCT node of the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Biomedical TB Research. Mizrahi’s research team is internationally recognised for its work on aspects of the physiology and metabolism in Mycobacterium tuberculosis of relevance to TB drug discovery and drug resistance. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and the Royal Society of South Africa. Her major awards include the 2000 Unesco-L’Oréal Women in Science prize for Africa and the Middle East, and 2013 Christophe Mérieux Prize. She is also Senior International Research Scholar of the HHMI.

  • Professor Elmi Muller

    Division of General Surgery

    Professor Muller is recognised as a global authority on kidney and liver transplantation and is a trailblazer in the field of organ transplantation in HIV-positive patients. Currently the head of the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Division of General Surgery, she initiated a Donation after Cardiac Death programme in 2007 and a transplant programme for HIV-positive patients utilising HIV-positive donors at Groote Schuur Hospital in 2008.

    She is a past president of the South African Transplantation Society and incoming president of the international Transplantation Society (TTS). She has been involved in many transplant-related outreach and educational programmes for the public and medical profession.

    She has collaborated with many international leaders including professionals from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), Johns Hopkins University (United States of America) and Lund University (Sweden). Her research influenced the HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act in the USA, a law that modified the rules regarding organ donation between HIV-positive individuals.

    Her work had been published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet and several other high impact journals.

  • Emeritus Professor Timothy Noakes

    Department of Human Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences

    Emeritus Professor Noakes (MBChB, MD, DSc (Med) in Exercise Science) teamed up with Morné du Plessis to found the Sports Science Institute of South Africa (SSISA) in the early 90s. Noakes has an H-index of 71. In 2002, he was awarded the International Cannes Grand Prix Award for Research in Medicine and Water for his work on exercise-associated hyponatraemia (EAH). In 2008, he was elected an honorary fellow of the Faculty of Sports and Exercise Medicine (UK), the first foreigner recognised as such. That same year, he received the Order of Mapungubwe (Silver) from the President of South Africa. In 2012, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the NRF and in 2014 the Gold Medal of the Southern African Association for the Advancement of Science.

  • Emeritus Professor Gerald Nurick

    Department of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment

    Emeritus Professor Nurick has been working in the field of impact dynamics for over 20 years. During this period he has supervised over 35 MSc and PhD graduates. He has over 100 academic publications covering the following topics: impact and blast dynamics; crashworthiness; material properties at high strain rates; metals and composites; human response and survivability; impact on sports equipment; and comminution.

    Nurick is on the editorial board of the International Journal of Impact Engineering and the Latin American Journal of Solids and Structures. He has also served on the international scientific committee of numerous conferences around the world.

  • Professor Chris Reason

    Department of Oceanography, Faculty of Science

    Professor Reason is involved in research relating to southern hemisphere climate variability, southern African rainfall variability, mesoscale and coastal meteorology, tropical meteorology and oceanography, severe weather, ocean-atmosphere interactions, and ocean and atmospheric modelling. His professional affiliations include the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) – Indian Ocean Panel; Argo – Geophysical research letters; the International Journal of Climatology, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) publications committee; American Meteorological Society; chair of committee on Southern Hemisphere Meteorology and Oceanography; and the  South African Society for Animal Science (SASAS) council. 

  • Professor Daya Reddy

    Department of Mathematics and Applied Maths, Faculty of Science

    Professor Reddy has a PhD from Cambridge University. His research interests lie at the intersection of continuum mechanics, applied functional analysis, and numerical analysis and computing. His research programmes address some or all of the following issues: the formulation in mathematical terms of problems in continuum mechanics; studies of the well-posedness of such problems; construction by computational means of approximate solutions; and studies of the quality of such approximations. He also has a serious involvement in finite element analysis.

    Recent major interests have been in the areas of plasticity, biomechanics, and mixed finite element methods. Awards include the National Order of Mapungubwe (bronze). He is president of the Academy of Science of South Africa; co-chair of the InterAcademy Council; executive committee member of the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP), a global network of the world's science academies; and president-elect of the International Council for Science.

  • Professor Donald Ross

    School of Economics, Faculty of Commerce

    Professor of economics, Don Ross, was the first dean of a South African commerce faculty to be awarded an A-rating by the National Research Foundation. He was dean of UCT's Faculty of Commerce from 2010 to 2015. Ross's research unites economic methodology, experimental economics and econometrics, cognitive science and the philosophy of science. He is also programme director for methodology at the Centre for Economic Analysis of Risk (CEAR) at Georgia State University in Atlanta.

  • Professor Peter Ryan

    Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science

    Professor Peter Ryan is director of the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, which forms the core of a DST-NRF Centre of Excellence using birds as keys to biodiversity conservation. He completed his MSc and PhD in zoology at UCT. After a short stint teaching at the University of California Davis he returned to UCT in 1993 to coordinate the very successful MSc course in conservation biology.

    Ryan’s broad research interests centre on understanding and managing environmental issues that affect birds, including plastic pollution at sea, island restoration, impacts of fisheries on seabirds, and infrastructure impacts on terrestrial birds. In addition to more than 300 peer-reviewed papers, he has written 12 popular books on birds and the wildlife of sub-Antarctic islands.

  • Professor Edward Rybicki

    Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, Faculty of Science

    Professor Rybicki is director of the Biopharming Research Unit (BRU) in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology. After completing a PhD in virology, he rose through the ranks to become a professor in microbiology in 2003. He is a founder member of the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM). In 2015, he received the first deputy vice-chancellor’s Award for Achievement in Innovation. His areas of expertise are vaccines, plant expression systems, plant biotechnology and virus diversity.

    Rybicki is an inventor on some 17 patent families, with around 44 country patents published.

  • Distinguished Professor Philippe-Joseph Salazar

    Department of Private Law, Faculty of Law

    Distinguished Professor Salazar is a graduate in philosophy, politics and literature from École normale supérieure and the Sorbonne (Paris). He is a distinguished professor of rhetoric at UCT and director of the Centre for Rhetoric Studies. He is a former director in rhetoric and democracy at Jacques Derrida's foundation, Collège International de Philosophie, Paris.

    He is a life fellow at UCT and has held a continuous A1 rating since the academic research rating agency of South Africa's inception. He is the 2008 laureate of the Harry Oppenheimer award.

  • Professor Mark Solms

    Department of Psychology, Faculty of Humanities

    Professor Solms is best known for his landmark discovery of the brain mechanisms of dreaming, and for his interest in the integration of modern neuroscience with psychoanalytic theories and methods. He is currently professor in neuropsychology at UCT, a lecturer in neurosurgery at St Bartholomew’s and the Royal London School of Medicine, and director of the Neuropsychoanalysis Center of the New York Psychoanalytic Institute.

    He is widely published and his Clinical Studies in Neuro-Psychoanalysis won the Gradiva Award for Best Book, science category. His latest, The Brain and the Inner World, is a best-seller, translated into 13 languages. The American Psychiatric Association named him International Psychiatrist of the year in 2000.

  • Professor Dan Stein

    Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, Faculty of Health Sciences

    Professor Stein (BSc, MB ChB, FRCPC, FRSSAf, PhD, DPhil) is professor and chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, and director of the Medical Research Council (MRC) Unit on Anxiety and Stress Disorders. His research focuses on the psychobiology and management of the anxiety disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and social anxiety disorder.

    Stein’s work has been continuously funded by extramural grants for more than 15 years. He is a recipient of the International College of Neuropsychopharmacology (CINP)’s Max Hamilton Memorial Award for his contribution to psychopharmacology, and of CINP's Ethics and Psychopharmacology Award for his contribution to the philosophy of psychopharmacology.

  • Professor Andrew Taylor

    Department of Astronomy, Faculty of Science

    Professor Taylor, a leading radio astronomer, holds a joint research chair at UCT and the University of the Western Cape. Taylor has extensive expertise in wide-field polarisation, cosmic magnetism and big data. He has played a prominent role in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project since its inception, and co-authored the first SKA science case.

    He is currently the chair of the Canadian SKA consortium and represents Canada as one of the national members on the board of the SKA organisation. He has served as the founding executive secretary of the International SKA Steering Committee, and vice-chair of the International SKA Science and Engineering Committee.

  • Emeritus Professor Brian Warner

    Department of Astronomy, Faculty of Science

    Brian Warner, past vice-president of the International Astronomical Union, is emeritus distinguished professor of natural philosophy at UCT. He is a member of the South African Academy of Science and an honorary life member of the Cape Town Historical Society. He is fellow of the Third World Academy of Science as well as fellow of the University College London. He is honorary fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa. His career spans some 50 years and has produced a prodigious scientific output, and one of his books, Cataclysmic Variable Stars, is considered definitive in its field.

  • Professor Patricia Whitelock

    Department of Astronomy, Faculty of Science

    Professor Whitelock is a core member of the Astrophysics, Cosmology and Gravitation Centre. She is also the former director for the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO). Her research into stellar evolution, galactic structure and the stellar content of Local Group galaxies has helped to broaden the frontier of astronomy worldwide. She has taken special interest in how pulsating red giants can be used as distance indicators, helping to establish the distances of various galaxies and to study the structure of our own. In 2000, she was appointed a fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa (FRSSAf).

  • Professor Robert Wilkinson

    Department of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences

    Honorary professor in the Department of Medicine, Wilkinson (MA, PhD, DTM&H, FRCP) is director of the Clinical Infectious Disease Research Initiative (CIDRI) and a full member of the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM). He has established an enviable track record in the study of infectious diseases, particularly TB (mycobacterium tuberculosis) and HIV. He has shed considerable light in areas such as TB-HIV drug interaction and early detection of treatment response. He is a Wellcome senior fellow, professor in Infectious Diseases (Imperial College London) and group leader of the Francis Crick Institute Mill Hill Laboratory, London.

  • Emeritus Professor Robin Wood

    Department of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences

    Robin Wood is the director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, CEO of the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation and professor emeritus of medicine at UCT. Wood is a world leader in the field of HIV and AIDS research. The South African Medical Society gave him a lifetime award for his services to HIV research. He was also a member of the governing council of the International AIDS Society, and a founding member of the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society. Wood has led the production of several South African national guidelines on the use of antiretrovirals.

  • Professor Heather Zar

    Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Faculty of Health Sciences

    Paediatric pulmonologist Professor Zar is head of the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health and director of the Division of Paediatric Pulmonology at the Red Cross War Memorial Childrens' Hospital. She has a PhD from UCT on respiratory illness in HIV-infected children. Her research focuses on child lung health and uses a translational approach to apply complex technology to clinical problems using a wide range of methodologies. Areas of research interest include childhood tuberculosis, pneumonia, HIV-associated lung disease, asthma and the development of a low-cost spacer device.

    She holds leadership positions in a number of national and international organisations including the vice-president of the Pan African Thoracic Society (PATS) and the president-elect of the South African Thoracic Society (SATS). In 2014 she received the World Lung Health Award from the American Thoracic Society (ATS).