At SU, we are committed to achieving excellence in research and scholarship, and to ensuring that our work contributes to the well-being of society. This section features profiles of some of our prolific researchers whose work is featured on this site. Some of them are world leaders in their respective fields. New profile features on some of our many innovators, postdoctoral students and emerging researchers will be added regularly.

Dr Uhuru Portia Phalafala

Dr Uhuru Portia Phalafala focuses on black geographies and critical ecological studies from the perspective of black life, which has always been entangled with the natural environment. "The very understanding of the self and who we are and how we relate to the living environment is part of black life," she says.

Prof Servaas van der Berg

Seeking to understand the twin scourge of poverty and inequality in South Africa, and figuring out how best to combat it would become the main focus of Prof Servaas van der Berg’s initial studies and, later, his academic career.

Prof Xanthe Hunt

Prof Xanthe Hunt’s vision is to transform South Africa’s public mental health services landscape, especially for the two vulnerable population groups that her work focuses on: the youth and people with disability.

Prof Thulani Makhalanyane

While advances in genomic sequencing have shed some light on microbes’ precise contribution to life on our planet, very little is known about the composition and function of Africa’s microbial communities in particular. Fortunately, this knowledge gap is being addressed by Prof Thulani Makhalanyane’s novel research on African microbes, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses.

Prof Elmi Muller

In 2022, surgical pioneer Prof Elmi Muller took over the reins from Prof Jimmy Volmink as dean of Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS). This appointment is yet another milestone in a career that is already marked by many formidable achievements.

Prof Jonathan Jansen

Few A1-rated academics can, among their outputs and citations, list that their tweets in support of Springbok rugby were quoted in newspapers. But such is the public following of Prof Jonathan Jansen, distinguished professor in education at Stellenbosch University (SU) and president of the Academy of Science of South Africa.

Prof Novel Chegou

Prof Novel Chegou is this year’s winner of the Royal Society Africa Prize, an annual award by the United Kingdom’s national science academy that recognises the innovative contribution of an African research scientist. Chegou is being honoured for his work in the fields of pulmonary and extrapulmonary tuberculosis.

Prof Robin Warren

Tuberculosis (TB) researcher and distinguished professor Rob Warren was never an A-symbol scholar at school, and even struggled academically at times. Yet, after studying biochemistry, he found his purpose in research – so much so that, in 2022, the National Research Foundation awarded him an A1-rating, recognising him as a world leader in research on strains of the bacterium that causes TB.

Prof Leslie Swartz

One day, long after A-rated researcher Prof Leslie Swartz of Stellenbosch University’s (SU) Department of Psychology has retired, a practical symbol of his dedication to the disability cause will remain: an elevator in the Krotoa Building on the main campus. Swartz first started advocating for better wheelchair access to the multi-storey building when he joined SU in 2001.

Prof Len Barbour

One of distinguished professor Len Barbour’s happy places is a well-appointed basement workshop in the De Beers Building on Stellenbosch University’s (SU’s) main campus. Here, he builds equipment to use in his world-class research projects in the field of supramolecular materials chemistry. More specifically, he and others in SU’s Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science study how to design and use porous crystalline materials as minute ‘storage units’ for fluids or gases.

Prof Mark Cotton

HIV is the infection that defined the late 20th century, says paediatrician Prof Mark Cotton – a clinician and researcher who has been helping shape, strengthen and define care for HIV patients, especially children. His world-class expertise in this regard was yet again acknowledged in 2022 when he received another A1-rating from the National Research Foundation.

Prof Tulio de Oliveira

In COVID-19 history, Stellenbosch University (SU) bioinformatician Prof Tulio de Oliveira will be remembered for first detecting the Beta variant of SARS-CoV-2 in late 2020, and then the Omicron variant a year later. The latter happened a few months after he moved from the University of KwaZulu-Natal to SU’s School for Data Science and Computational Thinking and Centre for Epidemiological Research and Innovation (CERI).

Prof Johan Cilliers

“I’m a bit of a pyromaniac,” confesses theologian Prof Johan Cilliers in jest. Professionally, though, terms such as ‘aestheticist’, ‘philosopher’, ‘Biblical interpreter’ and ‘hermeneuticist’ best describe Cilliers, the first permanent staff member of Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Theology to receive an A-rating as world-class scholar from the National Research Foundation.

Prof Willem Visser

Some would say that computer scientist Prof Willem Visser has built a career on fault-finding. Others point out how his well-honed skills in identifying bugs or errors have saved them from serious blunders. Visser has been so innovative in the fields of model checking, software testing and analysis, and static defect analysis that, in 2022, he received his second A-rating from the National Research Foundation.

Prof André Weideman

To some, ‘Schrödinger’ and ‘Faddeeva’ are mere surnames. To Stellenbosch University distinguished professor André Weideman, they are two of the core mathematical terms that he has worked with during his 40-year career in applied mathematics.

Prof Sandra Liebenberg

A sketch of women protesting, drawn on A4 printed court documents, depicts the struggles of many to ensure the socio-economic rights of all South Africans. It also celebrates Stellenbosch University (SU) distinguished professor Sandra Liebenberg’s career as a lawyer, A-rated human rights law researcher and mentor to a younger generation of jurists.