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.

  • Professor Linda-Gail Bekker

    Department of Medicine, Faculty of Health Science

    Professor Linda-Gail Bekker is a physician-scientist with a keen interest in HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and related diseases. Her research interests include programmatic and health service research around antiretroviral roll-out and TB integration and the prevention of HIV in women. She is passionate about community development and engagement and is both deputy director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre and chief operating officer of the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation.

    She is principal investigator of the UCT Clinical Trials Unit funded by the US National Institutes of Health and is actively involved in the work of its associated clinical research sites and networks.

  • Professor Vasco Brattka

    Department of Mathematics and Applied Maths, Faculty of Science

    Professor Vasco Brattka is a leading researcher in computable analysis, collaborating on the development and establishment of the research field of Weihrauch complexity. Prof Brattka obtained a PhD in Computer Science from Hagen University, Germany. He joined the University of Cape Town as Head of Department in 2004 and later appointed Associate Professor in 2009. He is also an Honorary Research Associate at UCT and Professor of Theoretical Computer Science and Mathematical Logic at the Universität der Bundeswehr München, Germany. 

    He has chaired the Steering Committee of the international conference series Computability and Complexity in Analysis since 2008 and has co-edited a handbook on the topic. He was also the Editor-in-Chief of Computability – The Journal of the Association CiE. Prof Brattka’s awards include the Silver Medal of the Kurt Gödel Research Prize Fellowship and the Shoenfield Prize of the Association for Symbolic Logic.

  • 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.

  • Professor Michael Claeys

    Department of Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environments

    Professor Claeys’ research focuses on catalysis for energy applications, including the Fischer-Tropsch process. This technology lies at the heart of South Africa’s synthetic fuels and chemicals industry, and plays an increasingly important role worldwide in the production of future green fuels and chemicals from sustainable sources.

    Claeys occupies important leadership roles in various catalysis societies, committees and advisory boards. He is also the director of c*change, the South African Department of Science and Innovation/National Research Foundation Centre of Excellence in Catalysis. Under his leadership c*change has established a strong national and international catalysis network.

  • 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 is a fellow of several institutions including the Water Institute of Southern Africa and the Royal Society of South Africa.

  • 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 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 Renee Kraan-Korteweg

    Department of Astronomy, Faculty of Science

    Prof Renée Christine Kraan-Korteweg is an expert in the area of large-scale distribution of galaxies, the Zone of Avoidance, systematic HI surveys, cosmic flow fields, and galaxy evolution, and internationally recognised for her work in unveiling the galaxy distribution hidden by the Milky Way. Currently a Senior Research Scholar and Emeritus Professor at UCT, she has played a leading role in the establishment and promotion of astronomy, first at the University of Guanajuato, Mexico and then at UCT. As Head of Astronomy at UCT, she was key in establishing an internationally recognised radio astronomy group which now leads many of the large survey projects that are pursued with MeerKAT. 

    She served as Vice-President of the International Astronomical Union and, since 2019, as Science Committee member of the recently formed African Society of Astronomy. She received the Special Commemorative MeerKAT Award from the Minister of Science and Innovation and In 2021, as well as the African Network of Women in Astronomy Senior Award.

  • 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 Tommie Meyer

    Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Science

    Co-director of the national Centre for Artificial Intelligence Research (CAIR), Professor Tommie Meyer is also the leader of the Knowledge Representation and Reasoning group at UCT and the director of the Artificial Intelligence Research Unit (AIRU) – CAIR UCT node. Prior to this he held positions at the CSIR in Pretoria, National ICT Australia (now Data61), the University of New South Wales in Australia, the University of Pretoria and the University of South Africa.

    Meyer is recognised internationally as an expert in knowledge representation and reasoning, a subarea of artificial intelligence, focusing on belief revision and non-monotonic reasoning (NMR), as well as their application to description logics (DL).

  • 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 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 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.

  • Emeritus Professor Crain Soudien

    School of Education

    Emeritus Professor Crain Soudien’s lifelong research has focused on the sociology of education. His work looks at social difference, with particular attention to the questions of race, class and gender. He is currently writing a history of the idea of race. This will be his fourth book. He has also co-edited more than seven books and published over 210 articles, reviews, reports and book chapters. 

    Soudien – who is a professor in UCT’s School of Education – has been honoured as an Extraordinary Professor at the University of Pretoria and holds an honorary professorship at Nelson Mandela University. 

  • Professor Claire Spottiswoode

    Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science

    A researcher in the field of Ecology and Environmental Science, Professor Claire Spottiswoode’s work focuses on the ecology, evolution and conservation of species interactions. Her team’s research aims to understand how the process of coevolution, both antagonistic and mutualistic, contributes to the adaptation and diversification of biodiversity. Prof Spottiswoode obtained her BSc and Honours degrees in Zoology and Botany from the University of Cape Town. She completed her PhD in Zoology at the University of Cambridge, followed by a series of research Fellowships at Cambridge, where she remains a Principal Research Associate. She is currently the Pola Pasvolsky Chair in Conservation Biology at UCT. 

  • 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 Giona Tuccini

    Department of Italian Studies, Faculty of Humanities

    Professor Tuccini specialises in the field of mysticism and religion in Italian literature (poetry and prose), medieval/early-modern Italian authors, as well as in Italian prose, cinema and drama of the 20th century, in particular on Pier Paolo Pasolini and Enrico Pea, of whom Tuccini is an undisputed authority.

    Tuccini’s research and leadership skills have seen him filling a number of important advisory roles. These include serving as co-editor of the book series “Novecento Inquieto”, and as panellist and research specialist for the scientific evaluation of Italian research of the Italian Ministry of Universities and Research. 

  • Emeritus Professor Dirk van Zyl Smit

    Department of Public Law, Faculty of Law

    Emeritus Professor Dirk van Zyl Smit was a Professor of Criminology at UCT from 1982 to 2005. In recent years, he has also been a visiting professor at Humboldt University in Berlin and the Catholic University of Leuven, and a Senior Fulbright Research Fellow and later a visiting Global Professor at New York University School of Law. In 2008, he was awarded an honorary doctorate in law from the University of Greifswald, Germany.

    Van Zyl Smit is the author of more than 140 academic works, including Life Imprisonment: a Global Human Rights Analysis (with Catherine Appleton), which received the European Society of Criminology Book Award and the Outstanding Book Award of the Division of International Criminology of the American Society of Criminology.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Professor Alphose Zingoni

    Department of Civil Engineering

    Professor Alphose Zingoni’s research has focused on the development of analytical methods for shell structures in engineering, the innovative use of shells in civil engineering, studies of symmetry in structural engineering, and the development of group-theoretic formulations for various problems in structural mechanics. After completing his MSc and PhD degrees at Imperial College London, he started his academic career at the University of Zimbabwe, where he became Dean of the Faculty of Engineering in 1997. He moved to UCT in 1999, was promoted to Full Professor of Structural Engineering and Mechanics in 2003, and served as Head of Department from 2008 to 2012. Prof Zingoni has authored over 100 peer-reviewed articles and four engineering books, including the award-winning “Shell Structures in Civil and Mechanical Engineering“, now widely used in many countries around the world. 

    He is the founder of the SEMC series of international conferences, held in Cape Town every three years since 2001. He has served on the editorial boards of several leading international journals in engineering. Among his honours are Fellowships of the Institution of Structural Engineers (London), the International Association of Bridge and Structural Engineering (Zurich), and the South African Academy of Engineering. For 3 years in a row (since 2020), he has been included in Stanford University’s list of top two percent scientists in the world.