University of Cape Town (UCT)
Universiteit van Kaapstad

South Africa

The University of Cape Town’s research magazine

The University of Cape Town’s research magazine

The University of Cape Town’s geographical vantage point at the tip of Africa offers an exhilarating research environment that combines excellence with impact.

As a leading research university (1st in Africa THE, QS, 2017-18; 171 in the world THE 2017-18), UCT is one of the best places in the world to research Africa-specific problems, from the chemistry of malarial drug discovery to the development of urban Africa. We have strong collaborative networks across the globe, and often form a nexus of partnerships between researchers in the global north and global south, particularly Africa. UCT is the first university in Africa to join the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU). It is therefore not surprising that we attract researchers — from postgraduates and postdoctoral fellows to leaders in their field — from all over the continent and the world.

Experts in the southern skies

UCT is fast becoming Africa’s astronomy and cosmology hub. It includes global leaders in their field, such as Professor George Ellis, who co-wrote The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time with Stephen Hawking; Professor Michael Feast, who published his first paper in Nature at 21 and his most recent at the age of 87; and Professor Russ Taylor, who is leading our involvement in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project and the big data challenges it brings.

Climate and development

UCT has extensive interdisciplinary expertise in conservation, climate adaptation and community conflict. The AXA Research Fund awarded its first research chair in Africa to the director of the African Climate & Development Initiative, a leading interdisciplinary research group. The Percy FitzPatrick Institute was identified as a Centre of Excellence (CoE) in Birds as Keys to Biodiversity Conservation in 2004; UCT ranks 3rd in the world in ornithology (CWUR 2017). The Future Water Institute builds on UCT’s substantial research footprint in water and encompasses the skills and resources of 10 different departments across six faculties.

Healthcare for Africa

In a country that faces four epidemics, where most countries only have one or two, UCT has developed unique expertise in addressing healthcare in Africa. The Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM) and the Drug Discovery and Development Centre (H3D) have produced ground-breaking research, particularly in HIV, TB and malaria. A Wellcome Centre for Infectious Diseases Research in Africa (CIDRI-Africa) – the first of its kind in Africa – will be established at UCT. In 2017, UCT received the highest number of direct awards, as well as the highest amount of funding, from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) of any other higher education institution outside the US.

Read the latest issue of Umthombo, our magazine featuring research stories from across the university. Umthombo is the isiXhosa word for a natural spring of water or fountain. The most notable features of a fountain are its natural occurrence and limitlessness. Umthombo as a name positions the University of Cape Town, and this publication in particular, as an undepletable well of knowledge. In the context of the Cape Town water crisis, Umthombo represents hope itself.

University of Cape Town retains sole responsibility for content © 2018 University of Cape Town.

1 July 2018 - 30 June 2019

Region: Global
Subject/journal group: All

The table to the right includes counts of all research outputs for University of Cape Town (UCT) published between 1 July 2018 - 30 June 2019 which are tracked by the Nature Index.

Hover over the donut graph to view the FC output for each subject. Below, the same research outputs are grouped by subject. Click on the subject to drill-down into a list of articles organized by journal, and then by title.

Note: Articles may be assigned to more than one subject area.

AC FC
149 15.16

Outputs by subject (FC)

Subject AC FC
Earth & Environmental Sciences 31 7.07
Life Sciences 45 4.81
Physical Sciences 76 2.56
Chemistry 6 1.62

Highlight of the month

Leaky caves help chronicle human evolution

© Ali Majdfar/Getty

© Ali Majdfar/Getty

Rainwater dripping into caves millions of years ago has helped create the first regional timeline of fossils in the Cradle of Humankind.

Caves in South Africa have produced an abundance of fossils of our ancestors, but the age of these fossils is debated, making it tricky to fit them into human evolutionary history.

A team that included researchers from the University of Cape Town used uranium–lead analysis to date flowstones across eight caves in the ‘cradle’. These layers of calcium carbonate, now sandwiched between fossil-rich sediments, formed from rainwater seeping through the rocks and dripping onto the cave floor. The flowstone ages represent six short — and evidently very soggy — intervals between 3.2 and 1.3 million years ago, and the fossils accumulated during the much drier phases in between.

Although gaps in the fossil record remain, flowstones provide useful insights into local climate variability in prehistoric Africa.

Supported content

  1. Nature 565, 226–229 (2019). doi: 10.1038/s41586-018-0711-0

View the article on the Nature Index

See more research highlights from University of Cape Town (UCT)

More research highlights from University of Cape Town (UCT)

1 July 2018 - 30 June 2019

International vs. domestic collaboration by FC

  • 7.82% Domestic
  • 92.18% International

Note: Hover over the graph to view the percentage of collaboration.

Note: Collaboration is determined by the fractional count (FC), which is listed in parentheses.

Affiliated joint institutions and consortia

Return to institution outputs