Division for Research Development
Welcome to Stellenbosch University

SA Research Chair in Mathematical and Theoretical Physical Biosciences

Prof Cang Hui of the Department of Mathematics holds the SARChI Chair in Mathematical and Theoretical Physical Biosciences. This Chair aims to establish the multidisciplinary field of mathematical and theoretical physical biosciences as a distinct research strength in South Africa. This would support the existing research activities in this field at SU and AIMS SA and stimulate interaction.


The Chair has four focus areas:

(i) Biodiversity informatics aims to develop key concepts and metrics for describing biodiversity patterns, with research topics including occupancy downscaling, biodiversity upscaling, quantitative zeta diversity, zeta metrics for functional, genetic and phylogenetic diversity, temporal turnover, multi-species co-occurrence, and spatially explicit theory of biodiversity entropy. Since 2019, in collaboration with several research consortiums, several major articles have been published in Nature, Nature Communications, Nature Ecology & Evolution, Science Advances, PNAS, and other flagship journals, on mapping global biodiversity patterns of forests, detritivores, and pollinators.

(ii) Spatial dynamics explores spreading and distribution models with tractability and realism, with research topics including landscape demography, effects of stochasticity and noise on persistence and coexistence, invasion dynamics, and transient spatial dynamics. In 2017, the book Invasion Dynamics was published by Oxford University Press. The Chair is continuously involved in the invasive alien species assessment by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

(iii) Evolutionary game theory deepens understanding of trait evolution with adaptive dynamics, with research topics including evolution of phenology, dispersal, niche breadth and multi-functionality of traits, as well as modelling of universal branching phenomena. In 2018, the book Ecological and Evolutionary Modelling was published by Springer. The Chair continuously serves as the trustee of the International Initiative for Theoretical Ecology (IITE, London). The Chair also serves as the coordinator for the SU-AIMS Biomathematics Honours Programme.

(iv) Ecological networks are self-organised Open Adaptive Systems (OAS), exhibiting distinct network structures and architectures while providing ecosystem services. Models have thus been developed to imitate the emergence of the architecture and functioning of real-world networks, with research topics including adaptive interaction switching, coevolution, stability criteria, and network transition at criticality. In 2022, the book Invading Ecological Networks was published by Cambridge University Press. The Chair is also part of a UK NERC project on Global Insect Threat-Response Synthesis (GLiTRS), providing a comprehensive and predictive assessment of the pattern and consequences of insect declines.

user.pngProf Cang Hui

For more information visit: https://math.sun.ac.za/hui