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UCT's strengths in astronomy
07 December 2009
UCT is the only South African university with an astronomy department.
The university has implemented a research strategy that focuses its resources into strategically selected clusters of activity and postgraduate training. This includes accredited research groups that operate as clusters of research excellence, one of which is Extragalactic Astrophysics and Cosmology.
From a department of three academics, one postdoctoral research fellow and a handful of graduate students, the department has grown to a complement of 10 academics, 22 postgraduate students, and four postdoctoral research fellows.
The astronomy department hosts another SARChI Chair in Astrophysics and Space Science, awarded to Professor Erwin de Blok in 2007. His appointment resulted in a significant growth in the number of postgraduate students and postdoctoral research fellows and the establishment of a research group specialising in extra-galactic radio astronomy. De Blok is also a member of the MeerKAT International Science Advisory Committee.
The department implemented an astrophysics undergraduate programme in 2005 which has been very successful in attracting black South African students. Of the 43 students registered for an astrophysics major at UCT this year, 74% are black and 35% are women.
To date the National Astrophysics and Space Science Programme, partly hosted at UCT and which is open to all African students, has graduated 86 honours and 36 master's students.