Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science



Senior Administrative Officer: Ms Erinda Cooper

Tel: +27 (0)21 808 3172




Postgraduate programmes

(Visit the links below for Calendar information on the programmes' curricula)

Programmes in Chemistry - 

BScHons in Chemistry

MSc in Chemistry

PhD in Chemistry

DSc in Chemistry

Programmes in Polymer Science - 

BScHons in Polymer Science 

MSc in Polymer Science

PhD in Polymer Science

DSc in Polymer Science

About the Department

The Department is one of the pre-eminent research departments in chemistry in South Africa and engaged in a wide range of research areas, including the largest research effort in polymer science in the country. It is also the only department at a South African university offering a BSc degree with a focus on Textile and Polymer Science.

The Department hosts two research chairs as part of the South African Research Chair Initiative (SARChI) in:

  • Nanostructured Functional Materials, and
  • Advanced Macromolecular Architectures.

In addition, the Department also hosts the SASOL research chair in Analytical Polymer Science.

Fields of research

In the Department emphasis is placed on interdisciplinary research but the broad research themes can be classified as follows-

Analytical chemistry: State-of-the-art instrumental techniques are used and new methods are developed to analyse components in complex mixtures, such as South African wines. Research topics include separation science and semiochemistry. Research into the chemistry and separation of the Platinum Groups Metals (PGMs) in the context of the important PGM mining and refining industry in South African is being carried out using a variety of techniques such as modern molecular (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) and atomic (inductively coupled plasma) spectroscopic techniques. Specific focus on novel speciation, separation and recovery methodologies and the use of nanomaterials is at the core of this research effort.

Inorganic and organometallic chemistry: Research initiatives focus on applications in local industry and medicine and include the development of new homogeneous catalysts and techniques for the characterisation of precious metals and their complexes, ligand design and platinum metals chemistry.

Physical chemistry: Research is focused on the use and application of computational techniques to study the structure and properties of isolated molecules, crystalline systems, and chemical reactions with high-level computational mode.

Organic chemistry: The focus of this discipline involves the synthesis of small organic molecules with distinct functions. This includes the preparation of functional ligands for the development of new selective catalysts and the design and synthesis of small molecules for medicinal chemistry applications in areas such as malaria, HIV-AIDS and cancer.

Polymer science: As the only chemistry department in the country with an in-depth focus on postgraduate training in polymer science, the University is uniquely positioned to do high-quality research in many of the various areas encompassed by the field, including analytical polymer chemistry, polymerisation methodology and polymer fibres (smart or functional textiles and nanofibres). Research areas include new polymers (free radical polymerisation and coatings; structural properties of polyolefins; advanced macromolecular architectures); polymer characterisation; electrospinning and nanofibre yarns.

Supramolecular chemistry and materials: The focus of groups in this research area is to design, synthesise and characterise new functional materials, particularly porous materials that can be used for gas sorption with application in gas storage and separation. While there is a strong emphasis on application, such new materials often provide interesting insights and lead into other areas of chemistry.