Are you considering pursuing a career in the natural sciences, but unsure which career options there are? On this page, we provide an overview of career options in the biological mathematical and physical sciences, as well as focus on some of the latest and newest developments in the field of science, such as bioinformatics, biomathematics, data science and machine learning.
We encourage all our students to follow-up on their three-year BSc degree with a postgraduate qualification. This will enable you to gain recognition (and registration where relevant) as a professional scientist with the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions (SACNSP).
Are you passionate about Geography but not sure whether you can make a career out of it? Or are you a computer geek who wants to contribute to a healthy environment? Have you ever wondered how satellites have changed our world?
Then you should consider studying Geoinformatics, where we combine geography with geospatial technology and computer science to solve a wide range of problems, from detecting oil spills in marine environments and conserving the environment, to unearthing ancient archaeological sites.
What is Geoinformatics?
Geoinformation Science (GISc) is "the science of where". GISc combines the science of geography with geospatial technology and data science to develop and use information science infrastructure to address problems in agriculture, disaster management, environmental management, social sciences, urban planning, insurance, marketing and logistics, as well as geosciences and related branches of engineering. A geospatial practitioner will analyse geographic information through spatial analysis, geospatial data science and geovisualization of geocoded big data captured through aerial photogrammetry, satellite earth observations, spatial methods and computational capabilities. Web mapping and cartography are ways to represent the outputs of geospatial analysis and modelling.
Geoinformatics at Stellenbosch University
SU offers a three-year BSc-degree in Geoinformatics, followed by a one-year BSc Honours-degree in Geoinformatics. This combined four-year programme is accredited by the South African Geomatics Profession Act and provides graduates with immediate registration as a GISc Professional-In-Training. Further opportunities exist in postgraduate studies in the form of Masters and PhD degrees. The Geoinformatics modules are also available as electives in many other BSc programmes.
As a GISc practitioner, earth observation specialist, spatial data analyst, geospatial developer or research scientist, you can work for government or in the private sector, as commercial consultant, or work at a wide range of research institutions.
Do you want to know more?
Contact Catherine Liederman at firstname.lastname@example.org
+27 21 808 3218
Ready to apply?
Contact Maambele Khosa, recruitment officer, Faculty of Science
What do I have to study to become an astrophysicist?
Most universities do not offer an undergraduate programme called "astrophysics". Astrophysics is normally a postgraduate field of study, following on an undergraduate programme focusing on the fundamental principles of Physics.
It is, however, important that your undergraduate exposure will enable you to further your studies in any Physics field of study. Stellenbosch University is well positioned, as our undergraduate programme offering is based on international standards concerning the fundamental principles of Physics. We give students a comprehensive introduction into classical and quantum mechanics; electromagnetism; statistical physics; and special relativity, enabling you to study on a postgraduate level in your preferred field.
Our postgraduate offering is aligned with our main research directions, namely: theoretical physics; laser physics; and nuclear physics. There are certain theoretical aspects of astro physics that easily fit into the framework of both nuclear physics, as well as theoretical physics, although very project-specific. Thus in a nutshell: should you complete an undergraduate programme in Physics at Stellenbosch University, you will be in a very good position to pursue further postgraduate studies in any chosen speciality at any univeristy, locally or internationally.
From previous experience we do know that first-year students seldom have a thorough understanding of a specific speciality field. Your academic path is mainly a result of your exposure and experience. It is therefore always wise to expose students to all aspects of Physics to ensure that he or she has as many postgraduate options to choose from as possible.
What is bioinformatics?
New Bioinformatics Honours-programme at SU
Stellenbosch University's Faculty of Science now offers a programme in Bioinformatics and Computation Biology that will take you from undergraduate to from undergraduate to undergraduate and postgraduate programme in Bioinformatics and Computation Biology.
The new BSc Honours-degree in Bioinformatics and Computation Biology offered by the Faculty of Science at Stellenbosch University (SU), and starting in 2021, will prepare students for a stimulating and internationally competitive career in Bioinformatics.
Described as data science applied to biological data, bioinformatics involves skills in coding, data storage and statistical analysis, combined with a thorough understanding of biochemistry, genetics and microbiology.
This inter-disciplinary programme will cater for students who majored in Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, Statistics, Computer Science, Biochemistry, Genetics, Microbiology, Molecular Biology or other suitable majors.
According to Prof Hugh Patterton, director of SU's Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology and coordinator of the programme, modern research in biology, which increasingly employs parallelised techniques that can generate terabytes of multi-dimensional data, is simply not possible anymore without the computational approach of bioinformatics.
The programme brings together a number of prominent researchers from their respective fields of expertise, including the Division of Human Genetics and Molecular Biology, the Department of Biochemistry, the Department of Genetics and the Wine Biotechnology Institute.
SU's Faculty of Science currently also offers training in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology from an undergraduate level. The foundation disciplines in the Inter-disciplinary BSc-degree programme (Stream: Bioinformatics and Computational Biology) will prepare you for a BScHons, MSc and eventually a PhD in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology. Full information on the undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes are available in the Faculty of Science Calendar (Part 5) and on the Centre for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology website.
More on bioinformatics
Bioinformatics matured as a discipline in response to the requirements of the genome sequencing efforts that started in the 1990s. The analysis of the enormous volumes of genome data required computational approaches to identify genomic features such as genes and regulatory sequences, an exercise known as genome annotation.
The application of computational methods quickly expanded to other areas in biology, and facilitated the study of the expression level of all genes in a cell or tissue, or the level and post-translational modification state of all proteins in a cell. This allows a deep insight into the regulation of the chemistry in a cell.
Bioinformatics also allows the analysis of the evolutionary relationship of species, and the geographic migrations and interaction between species over several millennia, including that of the human cousins Homo sapiens, H. neanderthalensis and H. denisovans.
Bioinformatics can be applied to the fields of agriculture and health care. In agriculture the bioinformatician will be involved in analysing datasets to optimise agricultural practices and management in order to optimise production.
In the field of personalised healthcare, the bioinformatician will apply his or her skills to improvements in diagnosis or therapy. Bioinformatics also allows for the study of the relationship between specific mutations and the presence of defined disease states. This, together with the fact that specific mutations influence the efficacy of a therapy, has ushered in the era of personalised medicine. The application of bioinformatics to the genome data of newborns, for example, will have a revolutionary impact on public and personal health over the next decade.
Lastly, bioinformatics allows for the systematic study of fundamental aspects that define living systems. It aims to define linked chemical equilibria and associated enzyme catalysts in terms of systems, allowing a deeper understanding of the chemistry of life, and also allows the development of new, synthetic life forms, based on the smallest possible genome.