In its Strategic Plan, the department has affirmed the central importance of the sub–disciplines of Inorganic, Organic and Physical Chemistry, and their applications in synthesis and analysis. These three themes constitutes the essential pillars of the discipline of Chemistry. The department has consolidated and strengthened its research activities into the research thrusts outlined below.

These thrusts are underpinned by interdisciplinary research and collaborative industry partnerships.

  • Biophysical and Structural Chemistry

    This thrust deals with the physical and theoretical techniques used in the study of molecular structure and interactions in solution. Researchers within this thrust are leading experts in spectroscopic, X-ray diffraction and computational methods

    Examples of current research projects:

    • Formation of kidney stones
    • Antimalarials

    (Egan, Jackson, Naidoo, Venter, Ravenscroft, Rodgers)

  • Chemistry Education

    This thrust aims to promote and develop research in chemical education to improve student learning and the staff-student dynamic. It includes curriculum design both in theory and in the laboratory, writing and communication, and the application of technology to enhance chemistry education.

    (Davidowitz, Edmonds-Smith)

  • Supramolecular Chemistry

    This thrust focuses on the chemistry of molecular assemblies and the intermolecular bond and is central to:

    • Separation of close isomers
    • Manufacture of sensors
    • Homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis
    • Drug transport
    • Preparation of drug polymorphs
    • Storage of volatile compounds

    UCT Chemistry is one of very few laboratories in the world that studies the physical chemistry of supramolecular compounds. Specific projects within the research thrust include the encapsulation of insoluble drugs to enhance their bioavailability and the synthesis and characterization of open framework structures for use as selective filters and specific catalytic activity.

    (Bourne, Caira, Nassimbeni, Oliver)

  • Synthetic and Medicinal Chemistry

    This thrust explains how the sub–disciplines of synthetic organic and bio–inorganic chemistry relate to the topic of disease in general and is aligned with various bioscientific disciplines, including biotechnology and drug development and has a strong cluster of research activities in fields such as antiviral compounds, including those for HIV/ Aids, tropical diseases including malaria, tuberculosis as well as arthritis.

    (Caira, Chibale, Egan, Gammon, Hunter, Jackson, Ravenscroft, Jardine)

  • Transition Metal Chemistry

    Within this research thrust, investigations are conducted into the design and synthesis of new transition metals and organometallic compounds with application to catalysis, medicines and materials. Current research projects include the synthesis of cyclopentadienyl metal compounds which catalyse the oligomerisation and polymerisation of alkenes, and the preparation of new organometallic anti-cancer and antimalarial agents.

    (Hutton, Smith)