DST/NRF Research Chairs in


Astrophysics and Space Physics (SARChI)  

The research focus for this chair is on high-energy astrophysics and gamma-ray, multi-wavelength and multi-messenger astronomy.

The activities in astronomical observations focus on our participation in the High Energy Stereoscopic System (H.E.S.S.), the world's largest gamma-ray observatory, located in Namibia. The theoretical work revolves around high-energy processes involving the acceleration of particles to ultra-high energies and multi-wavelength radiation and neutrino production associated with them, primarily in the vicinity of black holes. Boettcher has established and chairs the South African gamma-ray astronomy programme, which co-ordinates gamma-ray and multi-wavelength astronomy and high-energy astrophysics activities in 6 institutions in South Africa and Namibia. This programme provides excellent opportunities for students and postdocs to network with colleagues in Southern Africa and around the world through our direct involvement in the international H.E.S.S. collaboration.

Director/Leader: Prof Markus Boettcher


SA-NAM Bilateral Research Chair in Astronomy and Astrophysics (SARChI) 


This is a Chair of Multiwavelength Astronomy.  Like the Research Chair in Astrophysics and Space Physics, this Chair is also involved with the High Energy Stereoscopic System (H.E.S.S.), but activities expand into optical and radio astronomy. Research is primarily observational, focusing on multi-wavelength observations of active galaxies. In addition to H.E.S.S., this chair is also involved in the MeerKAT project and will build an important bridge between the gamma-ray and radio astronomy communities in southern Africa.

Director/Leader: Vacant


Biofuels and Other Clean Alternative Fuels (SARChI) 


The main objective of this chair is to develop waste-based biorefinery. As our population increases there is more and more waste being generated and by using these waste for fuels and chemicals we’re not only making alternative green fuels but also reducing the waste. Waste treatment is already a vast problematic subject globally, with our research in place, waste can be transformed into usable feasible products. 

Many of the chemicals that we use in South Africa comes from fossil-based backgrounds such as petrol, diesel, and coal, our aim is to get replacements for these fossil fuels, since they are not renewable sources and their emissions are harmful to the environment. A major advancement of the bio-products we’re producing is that their emissions are not nearly as dangerous to the environment as the impact of fossil fuels. 

One of the biggest reasons for this chair is not just to develop the research, not just to get the papers out and do the conference presentations, but also to develop pilot plants that can demonstrate how the technology works.

One of these pilot plants is the only continuous Hydrothermal liquefaction plant in Africa hosted at faculty of engineering of the NWU, the only one in Africa and the largest one in the world. The purpose of the plant is to use waste, especially landfill waste, municipal solid waste or sewerage waste and to transform it into various other bio-products, one of the products that come out is bio-oil. Bio-oil has potential to replace 32% of our diesel imports at the moment. So if you think about your pocket and how much you pay for petrol, it makes a huge impact on the petrol price. 

Another product that comes from our plant is called biochar. We use the biochar to produce green coal and we have estimated, that it can replace 23.8% of coal demand in South Africa. The upside of biochar is that it not unhealthy for the environment, therefore it has the potential to help ESKOM stay within their emission limits when used as green coal.

Director/Leader: Prof Sanette Marx


Cities, Law and Environmental Sustainability (SARChI) 


Our research chair focuses on several aspects of urban development in the South African, African and international context. The team of researchers aims to improve municipal governance in South Africa, amongst other, focusing on matters of spatial planning, municipal service delivery and the development of bylaws.

Director/Leader: Prof Anél du Plessis


Coal Research (SARChI)      


The SARChI coal research chair, situated in the Faculty of Engineering at the North-West University, has been designed in accordance with a ‘cradle-to-grave’ value-addition project portfolio framework. The focus is on fine coal processing, coal utilisation optimisation, and waste utilisation. Numerous novel studies are included throughout the programme, with the quest being to explore new horizons for coal utilisation. Coal-specific fields such as fine coal dewatering fundamentals, coal breakage, briquetting/extrusion of fuel rods, tar formation and destruction, molecular modelling, catalytic gasification, pyrolysis studies, reaction kinetics, trace element behaviour, low smoke fuels, coke synthesis and coal cogeneration are being investigated.

Director/Leader: Prof John Bunt


Nuclear Engineering (SARChI)


The DST/NRF SARChI Research Chair in Nuclear Engineering is the only research chair in nuclear engineering in South Africa. The aim of the chair is to do world-class research and contribute to the training of highly qualified nuclear engineers to serve the needs of the country. The main emphasis is on the new generation of light water reactors and high temperature gas-cooled reactors with improved safety and efficiency features. The team focuses on the computer modelling of the neutronics, heat transfer and fluid flow of the reactors and the associated systems. The chair collaborates closely with selected international and national partners such as the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute and the Nuclear Energy Company of South Africa. Members of the chair are also involved in a research programme under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The research outputs of the chair published in journal and presented at conferences enjoy wide spread international recognition. The chair has also made valuable contributions regarding the current debate on nuclear energy in South Africa.

Director/Leader: Prof Jat du Toit


Early Detection and Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in Africa (SARChI)  


Prof Schutte is the South African Research Chair (SARChI) in the Early Detection and Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in South Africa – hosted by the Hypertension in Africa Research Team (HART) at the North-West University. She is also the Medical Research Council Unit Director for the Unit: Hypertension and Cardiovascular Disease; and founding Director of the Hypertension in Africa Research Team (HART). The research chair and her team focus on conducting clinical and epidemiological research in mainly the black South Africa population who suffers from a high prevalence of hypertension and cardiovascular disease. They strive to turnaround the upward trend in hypertension development in Africa. They are looking to find alternate ways to prevent hypertension not only by improving the early detection of disease but also by population-wide approaches to significantly reduce risk.

Director/Leader: Prof Alta Schutte


Other research chairs


EDTP SETA research chair in early childhood education

Prof Rosemary has been appointed as the ETDP-SETA Chair of Early Childhood Education and Professor Bongani Bantwini is the Professor of Schooling. Their brief was to investigate the supply and demand of scarce and critical skills in these two important sectors. Their findings showed the need for improvement in qualifications of stakeholders in the ECD sector and correct utilization of teachers in their subject areas at schools. Training needs to be monitored across the board with a view to standardization and better quality control. Finally, all stakeholders need to be accountable for the implementation of the ECD policy and teachers need greater agency in the development of policies, not only through union representation.

Director/Leader: Prof Rosemary Wildsmith-Cromarty


World Trade Organisation Chair (WTO)          


The World Trade Organisation (WTO) Chair holder, Prof Wilma Viviers, is the International Trade, leader of the Trade and Development (TRADE) research focus area and NRF-rated researcher at the North-West University, Potchefstroom campus. The Chair’s research focuses on Export promotion, Competitive Intelligence and Economic development to ultimately improve and promote South Africa’s export opportunities. The Chair is nationally and internationally known for her publications in the fields of Competitive Intelligence and Export promotion that appears in more than 50 peer-reviewed journals, book chapters and national policy reports. 

Director/Leader: Prof Wilma Viviers


UNESCO Chair on Multimodal Learning and OER (Open Educational Resources)


The research for this Chair will focus on multimodal learning (a blending of face-to-face and e-learning modalities) as well as the multiliteracies required for culturally appropriate and effective learning within an environment that is conducive to self-directed learning and Open Educational Resources (OER) (peer-reviewed shared online resources that include material, books, videos, lessons and even full courses).

The purpose of the research chair is to (1) build networks in Southern Africa around OER and multimodal learning, (2) build capacity at the NWU and in Southern Africa, (3) train and develop academic expertise among staff concerning multimodal learning and the creation and use of OER as well as (4) doing research on OER and multimodal learning.

Director/Leader: Prof Jako Olivier


ESKOM EPPEI Specialisation Centre for Emission Control


Studies at the Eskom EPPEI Specialisation Centre for Emission Control aim to:

  1. Quantify the existing emissions from Eskom power stations of greenhouse gases and pollutants;
  2. Optimise mitigation technologies for particulates, SO2 NOx, CO2 and Hg for South African coal conditions and characteristics, with a strong emphasis on particulate and SO2 control in the immediate future; and 
  3. Understand the physical environment of the emissions as well as the atmosphere into which they are released. Of particular interest is the impact of emissions on air quality, long-term deposition to the biosphere and hydrosphere and contributions to the atmospheric greenhouse gas load.

Director/Leader: Prof Dawie Branken

DST/NRF Albertina Sisulu Research Chair in Nursing Science (SARChI)


The SANOPSys SARChI-Albertina Sisulu Chair in Nursing Science aims to take back the lead in nursing science by empowering current nurses in management and leadership positions and identifying and capacitating future nurse leaders across all sectors, hospitals, and disciplines of nursing science in South Africa. The aim of the research is thus to develop a South African Institute of Excellence (IoE) in scholarship and training related to leadership and governance in nursing science.

The chair’s objectives include collecting a national database of nurse experiences, in order to develop interventions, strategies, and policies to improve nurse outcomes, nurse qualifications, and the recruitment and retention of nurses. Also, a first-ever national database of patient safety and satisfaction is planned. Data from these objectives will also be used to develop forecasting models that can be used to assist with the planning of nurse staffing ratios, skills mix, distribution and allocation of human resources in healthcare facilities.

Director/Leader: Prof Siedine Coetzee