Department of Microbiology
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Administrative Officer: Ms Wendy Wentzel
Tel: +27 (0)21 808 5847
(Visit the links below for Calendar information on the programmes' curricula)
About the Department
The department has a history of more than 50 years and maintained a high research profile for over three decades with a focus on bacteriology, mycology an environmental research, with applications thereof in the food, pharmaceutical and bioenergy industries. The research on industrial important yeasts has already gained international recognition and locally developed wine yeasts are already produced internationally. Research on the production of bacteriocins by lactic acid bacteria enjoys international recognition and EntiroTM, a commercial probiotic product that has been established in the local market, is also being marketed internationally. There is also a strong research interest in water microbiology, microbial ecology, especially biofilms and interactions, as well as the identification of major microbial taxa on fynbos biome.
The Department of Microbiology hosts two research chairs:
- the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) research chair in Biofuels and other clean Alternative fuels; and
- the ERWAT Research Chair in Wastewater Management.
Fields of research
Bacterial research: This broad field include projects on the molecular biology of bacteria and their plasmids; lactic acid bacteria, their taxonomy, their use in fermented foods, the bacteriocins that they produce and their industrial, veterinary and medical applications.
Fungal and yeast research: We investigate the diversity and heterologous expression of enzymes used for the degradation of plant material in fungi and yeasts, with a broader focus on the production of biofuels and application of enzymes in food processes. Other projects focus on enzyme discovery and engineering and improved gene expression in fungi and yeasts. There is considerable overlap in studying the activity of plant degradation enzymes, application of other industrially important enzymes, yeast physiology and genetics.
Environmental research: focuses on microbial communities of fynbos soil, with emphasis on selected genera such as Cryptococcus, Mucor, Fusarium and Penicillium. Water-related research focusses on the monitoring and optimisation of domestic rainwater harvesting tanks, profiling of waterborne pathogens for antibiotic and metal resistance, water treatment and sanitation, as well as water resource management and utilization. The latter extends to environmental science, specifically to assess the various demands (e.g. for food production, energy) on natural resources.