The Science Faculty is a grouping of 14 Departments and two associated research Institutes (The Institute for Water Research, IWR; and The Institute for Environmental Biotechnology, EBRU). The departments can be grouped into broad areas including the biological sciences (Botany, Human Kinetics & Ergonomics, Ichthyology & Fisheries Science, Zoology, Entomology and Microbiology), the earth and environmental science (Environmental Science, Geography and Geology) the chemical sciences (Biochemistry, Biotechnology and Chemistry) and the mathematical and physical sciences (Computer Science, Mathematics, Mathematical Statistics and Physics). Although these groupings exist, the boundaries are not clearly defined and some departments and staff are active within more than one group. Indeed Departments and staff in Departments collaborate with colleagues from all the other faculties in teaching, research and community engagement. Further details about the Departments and research institutes can be found on their own web pages.
The Departments are mostly small with five to 10 staff and the total academic staff complement of the Faculty is 102. Our academic staff are well qualified and more than 80% have a PhD. Our departments are well supported by technical staff.
The Faculty is led by a full time Dean with the support of two part time Deputy-Deans and a Faculty Officer. Go to People for further details on the Faculty leadership team.
The Dean and Administration Officer have offices in the Schonland Building at the front of the Botany Department.
While we do not have a vision and mission statement, we believe that:
The Science Faculty is:
- Learned, and characterised by learning and scholarship in all that we do;
- Fit for purpose;
- Characterised by collegiality (relating to or involving shared responsibility and power) and a real concern for the wellbeing and success of others;
- Forward looking.
The purpose of the Science Faculty is:
- To educate, and through education help create the next generation of critical thinking, ethical scientists, researchers and citizens;
- To research, and through research answer important questions that advance knowledge and improve quality of life;
- Through education and research, promote transformation.
As a Faculty, our focus is firmly on Teaching & Learning and Research with Community Engagement cutting across our activities.
Teaching & Learning:
We offer four undergraduate degrees:
BSc: The ordinary first degree is taken over three years and the key feature of the BSc is its flexibility. Within the confines set by the timetable, it is possible for students to combine subjects in myriad ways to create curricula that meet their particular interests. This flexibility includes allowing students to take a major subject from commerce, the humanities and law such that students can major in environmental science and anthropology, biochemistry and law or geology and economics. As a Faculty, we appreciate the value that can be added by allowing students some flexibility when choosing their subjects. The BSc does not set out to educate or train a student for a particular career but rather allows for the construction of a knowledge and skills base that prepares a student for a wide range of possible careers or advanced study in their chosen subject. Emphasis is on discipline specific knowledge and skills as well as the cross cutting skills including experimental design, data collection, analysis and interpretation, and scientific communication, that form the essential base for research. The flexibility in curriculum design creates an opportunity for students to decide if they are attracted to transdisciplinary academic training and education.
BSc (Inf Sys) and BSc (Sof Dev): These two degrees are designed to meet the needs of students who wish to combine computer science with some commerce subjects, and to apply their computing expertise in a commercial environment. The curriculum has little flexibility and combines commerce subjects, computer science and information systems. Both degrees share a similar structure but the BSc (Sof Dev) includes a fourth year which is equivalent to an Honours degree. In first year, students take three commerce subjects (economics, accounting and management) with computer science and some maths and statistics. In both degrees, students take computer science and information systems in second year and computer science in third year. In the BSc (Inf Sys), the second major can be chosen from a range of subjects while in the BSc (Sof Dev), the second major must be Information systems. The BSc (Sof Dev) includes a fourth year which is equivalent to joint Honours in computer science and information systems.
BScF: This is the Science Faculty Foundation Programme (extended studies programme) which aims to give access to students whose educational, socio-economic or other experiences have not fully prepared them for university study.
BSc (Honours): All Departments offer at least one Honours course and in most cases, there is a strong emphasis on original, independent research. The Honours degree creates the pipeline into further postgraduate studies and an emphasis on research skills is appropriate.
MSc and PhD: At least one Master’s and one PhD degree is offered by each department. Some departments offer Master’s by course work & thesis as well as by thesis alone and some Departments offer Master’s and PhD in several disciplinary areas.
Most departments are characterized by large and vibrant postgraduate schools. With almost 90% of the staff with PhDs and the remainder with a Master’s level qualification, departments are well equipped to train and educate up to the PhD level.
Members of staff from a range of departments offer short courses. These are typically applied in nature and provide training to meet the needs of a particular audience. In some cases the content is relevant to undergraduate and postgraduate students who may register for the course.
In 2013, the Science Faculty had 767 undergraduate students and 681 postgraduate students.
Access and Success
Students are admitted to the Science faculty based on their performance (APS) in school leaving examinations and a range of additional factors. When the APS is above 40 points, the additional factors play a lesser role, but for students with points between 35 and 40 we look very carefully at all of the socio-economic information that is available and make a decision.
As a Faculty, we monitor success rates every year so that we can detect changes, highlight success and deal with problems.
At first year level important indicators are the average number of credits gained per student, the percentage of students passing fewer than 4 credits (the minimum needed to avoid exclusion) and the percentage passing 6 or more credits (at least 6 credits are required to move into second year). About 70% of students pass at least 6 courses in their first year. At the end of second year about 85% of students are in a position to complete the following year and in third year more than 80% of those who are expected to complete their degree do so. Of those who complete their degrees, about 70% do so in the minimum time.
For further details on undergraduate degrees and courses go to http://www.ru.ac.za/v3facultyofscience/studying/undergraduate/
Research and Postgraduate Education:
Research and postgraduate education are core activities in the Science Faculty.
Between 2003 and 2012, total weighted outputs (research papers and graduating Master’s and Doctoral students) increased by 96%. There has been a 108% increase in the number of postgraduates (MSc & PhD) graduating between 2003 and 2013 and an 88% increase in papers (2003-2012). In April 2014 we graduated 39 PhDs and 103 Master’s students.
47 of our academic staff have an NRF rating and we have two A rated scientists.
We host seven SARChi Research Chairs in the following areas:
- Medicinal Chemistry and Nanotechnology: Distinguished Professor T. Nyokong http://www.ru.ac.za/nanotechnology/
- Marine Ecosystems: Distinguished Professor C. McQuaid http://www.ru.ac.za/zoologyandentomology/staff/christophermcquaid/
- SKA Chair in Radio Astronomy Techniques and Technologies; Professor O. Smirnov http://www.ru.ac.za/physicsandelectronics/radioastronomycentre/
- Insects in Sustainable Agricultural Ecosystems: Professor S. Compton http://www.ru.ac.za/zoologyandentomology/staff/stevecompton/
- Interdisciplinary Science in Land and Natural Resource Use for Sustainable Livelihoods: Professor C. Shackleton http://www.ru.ac.za/environmentalscience/staff/staffacademic/charlieshackleton/
- Marine Natural Products Research: Professor R. Dorrington http://www.ru.ac.za/bm/people/academicstaff/dorrington/
- Science Communication: Professor J. Limson http://www.ru.ac.za/biotech/people/staff/profjanicelimson/
Visit the departmental web sites to learn more about our research
Our research is strengthened by close collaboration with research institutes and facilities in the region including SAIAB http://www.saiab.ac.za/, SAEON http://www.saeon.ac.za/ and the Albany Museum http://www.ru.ac.za/albanymuseum/.
Community engagement is not infused equally across the Science Faculty but is a very important part of the lives of many of our staff. It is seen in its various forms through the faculty and a few examples are highlighted below.
There is increasing interest in the Science Faculty in engaged research, in which the research involves close co-operation with the community that will contribute to, and benefit from the research. Engaged research begins at the start of a research process, and the research questions, methods and process are co-created with the community. The researchers benefit from the deep contextual knowledge of community participants and this increases the likelihood that the research outputs and outcomes will be used by the community.
In service learning is not widespread through the faculty and is certainly more easily instituted in some departments rather than others. Good examples are seen in Entomology, Chemistry and Human Kinetics & Ergonomics.
Interactions with Scholars
- staff and students from many departments interact with scholars in an effort to broaden knowledge and better prepare the scholars for entry to university. An excellent example is the Khanya Maths and Science Club, the aims of which are to develop a passion for maths and science amongst learners most of who come from schools that are not equipped to teach these subjects properly. staff and students from the Chemistry Department co-ordinate, run and teach at the Khanya Maths and Science Club and Classes are held every Saturday morning.
- Rhodes University Maths Experience: The Rhodes University Mathematics Experience is an afternoon of competition, enlightenment and fun for High school learners of the Makana District of the Eastern Cape. It is held in February every year on the Rhodes University campus. The inaugural event was held in February 2012 and attracted around 270 learners from Grades 8 – 12 from schools surrounding Grahamstown. The following year, the event grew to close on 400 learners and indications suggest that this trend could continue. At this stage, schools are limited to five participants per grade. Three papers are set: one for Grade 7 and 8 learners, one for Grade 9 and 10 learners and one for Grade 11 and 12 learners. For ease of marking, the answers to all the questions are simple numerical ones. Prizes include calculators, books and money and Rhodes University bursary. In 2014, a new prize of a fully funded trip to either the SKA or the South African National Space Agency Observatory at Hermanus was awarded to the top learners from an under-resourced school.
- Internships: A number of staff and Departments invite learners from Grahamstown schools to spend time in research laboratories.
- Pollutant’s Tale: This is an interactive display that illustrates some aspects of global warming and the effects of pollution and has been taken to schools in the Eastern Cape Province by staff and students in the Chemistry Department.
Popularisation of Science
This takes many forms through the faculty, from the contribution of popular articles to newspapers and magazines, to the presentation of displays and workshops at SciFest, and popular talks to schools and the Grahamstown community.