Centre of Excellence for Nutrition (CEN)

The Centre of Excellence for Nutrition is a research entity that focuses on the current nutritional problems in South Africa, Africa and Worldwide. Our slogan - ‘From Molecules to Society’ indicate how we use scientifically based research to understand and give solutions to nutritional problems in people. 

The general research theme at CEN is ‘Nutrition in the Life Cycle’. We address the improvement of life quality throughout an individual’s whole life, from birth to old age, by focussing on nutrition and food intake. 

Our vision is to be leaders in the development of scholars in Africa. We strive to empower researchers to do ground breaking work, with our 5 well-equipped laboratories with advanced instruments and technology. Our overall goal is to use our scientifical research findings to give solutions and opportunities that can improve nutrition in the life cycle of people, thereby improving the health of the people of South Africa and Africa.

Centre Director:  Prof Marius Smuts

Centre for Space Research (CSR)

People have always been curious about space. Since the dawn of time, humankind has been fascinated by the night sky, telling stories of the stars and their constellations, always trying to understand our place in the cosmos. What we do at the Centre for Space Research is simply a continuation of that primordial impulse to understand the universe around us, using the tools of science to investigate phenomena in space ranging from galactic-scale events, down to what is happening in our own solar system. In this way we attempt to find answers to some of humanity’s fundamental questions. Our primary focus is on space-related research. Broadly, the research done here falls into three main categories: space physics, astronomy, and astrophysics. Some work we do also focuses on the development of innovative technologies.

Within these categories we provide world-class training in fields such as multi-wavelength astronomy, star formation, high-energy astrophysics and heliospheric physics, to mention but a few examples. Our MSc and PhD students have the opportunity to become part of a team that includes world-renowned, as well as up-and-coming young researchers, who are assisted by dedicated support personnel. As a result of this, our former students are highly regarded both locally and abroad.

Centre Director: Prof Christo Venter

Centre of Excellence for Pharmaceutical Sciences (PharMaCen)

Pharmacen is a research entity with a clear focus on drug research and development in Africa. Our mission is to conduct innovative research, to generate new scientific knowledge and to apply our research findings in the development of advanced pharmaceutical products and technologies.

Our research is aimed at providing solutions to health problems, developing drug delivery systems and the discovery of new medicines to address health-related issues facing societies globally. 
Our focus is to deliver skilled post-graduates with advanced levels of training in scarce skills and relevant experience. We have numerous established researchers of whom 19 are NRF rated researchers.
With more than 40 year’s experience in pharmaceutical research, our members are widely recognised in their fields of expertise and serve on several international expert committees and editorial boards. We have also established relationships with major pharmaceutical companies such as Boehringer Ingleheim, Johnson & Johnson, Meggle Pharma, Aspen pharmaceuticals and several others. This contributes to our research efforts and facilitates the practical application of our findings. Furthermore, collaborations with pharmaceutical companies provide the opportunity to address health issues that are relevant to Africa. For developing countries such as South Africa, drug research that may improve the quality of medical care is particularly relevant. 

Centre Director: Prof Lesetja Legoabe

Hypertension in Africa Research Team (HART)

The dynamic scientists in HART are committed to broadening the understanding of diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels, especially in black South Africans where death from cardiovascular disease is reaching alarming proportions. HART has established itself as one of the most prominent centres focusing on hypertension research in sub-Saharan Africa. The research excellence of HART is acknowledged by the South African Medical Research Council (MRC), where HART also hosts the prestigious MRC Extra Mural Unit for Hypertension and Cardiovascular Disease. Furthermore, HART also hosts a Research Chair (SARChI) funded by the National Research Foundation. 

The mission of HART is to be nationally and internationally recognised for excellence in hypertension research. We aim to do this by driving research excellence in hypertension prevention, implementing existing and new scientific knowledge through community engagement and to have an impact on public health. With cardiovascular disease overtaking HIV as the main cause of death of South Africans, HART’s research is well-placed to firstly develop a better understanding of the unique cardiovascular risk profile of the South African population. Through population-based and clinical studies from children to the elderly, new findings are geared towards better treatment and prevention of hypertension in the South African population.

In order to facilitate this research, HART hosts the Hypertension Research and Training Clinic along with a Research Laboratory with state-of-the-art equipment. Our academic research and support staff are also skilled to perform the various skills required in large research projects. Our research is endorsed by the Department of Health, and with investment by the NWU, public and private sector HART is placed in the ideal position to conduct high-quality scientific research. We thereby wish to promote the health status of all South Africans and to influence health policies in order to promote cardiovascular health in South Africa.

Centre Director: Prof Carina Mels

Centre of Excellence in Carbon-Based Fuels 


The vision of the Centre of Excellence in Carbon-based Fuels is to be the leaders in developing carbon-based fuels for improvements in energy efficiency, operational reliability and availability, as well as in minimising the carbon footprint by reducing the impact of emissions in general in the South African energy offering.

The mission of the Centre of Excellence in Carbon-based Fuels is to conduct research and train scientists and engineers in the energy sector, develop new knowledge and strengthen the advantages that South Africa already has in the energy sector.

The research will be centred on the preparation, pre-treatment and production of coal and biomass-based liquids, solid and gaseous fuels, as well the beneficiation of associated products and the mitigation of the impact of the use of coal and biomass as energy source, not omitting the environment. It is therefore a cradle-to-grave approach to ensure the optimum use of fuels to obtain energy, with the conservation of the environment in mind.

Centre Director:  Prof Hein Neomagus