Sky Science Sees University of the Western Cape Beat Big Names in Nature Ranking

The University of the Western Cape (UWC) is top in Physical Science in Africa‚ according to a ranking by science journal Nature.

The Nature annual index of peer-reviewed journal research bases its scores on the number of papers in a select group of prestigious high-impact journals‚ taking into account the percentage contribution of the university in each paper.

For the 2016 Nature Index‚ covering the period 1 June 2015 to 31 May 2016‚ UWC is ranked number 1 in Physical Science in Africa.

The universities of Cape Town (UCT)‚ KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN)‚ Wits and North-West (NWU) round out the top five.

Rhodes University just pips the Cadi Ayyad University in Morocco and the Cape Town-based African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) comes in ahead of the British University in Egypt. Stellenbosch University takes 10th spot.

UWC said one of the key factors for its top ranking is its work in astronomy‚ due to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA)‚ the world’s largest astronomy installation.

“UWC has built a world-class research group in SKA Astronomy‚” says Prof Roy Maartens of the Department of Physics and Astronomy‚ who holds an SKA Research Chair. “We are making a major contribution to SKA research in South Africa and internationally‚ and this is reflected in UWC’s top ranking in Nature Index.”

UWC is also home to two other astronomical research chairs‚ as well as the Centre for Radio Cosmology that aims to fully exploit the use of the next generation of radio telescopes for measurements in cosmology.

The university says it is also making strong impacts in other areas of physical science‚ including experimental nuclear physics and solid state physics.

“UWC is the only African university to be leading an experiment at the world’s largest particle accelerator‚ the Large Hadron Collider‚” says principal investigator Nico Orce‚ Professor of Nuclear Physics‚ whose team is conducting groundbreaking research into the forces that hold nuclei together.

The solid state physics group hosts a multi-zone chemical vapour deposition system‚ unique on the African continent. “This system allows us to improve the performance of silicon-based solar cells‚ while reducing the manufacturing costs‚” says project leader Christopher Arendse‚ Professor of Experimental Condensed Matter Physics.

The university also boasts over 20 current postgraduate students in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

“UWC has given me the opportunity to learn state-of-the-art research techniques and to build international links for my research‚” says Siyambonga Matshawule‚ a PhD student in astronomy who has recently been appointed as a lecturer in Physics & Astronomy. “And now I can assist in the development of more young scientists‚ helping them to contribute to innovation through science in South Africa.”

Source: Times Live

Find AIMS rankings: 19th in general nature subjects in Africa9th in South Africa and 12th in Africa in Physical Sciences.