UWC Biotechnology

UWC Biotechnology, The simplest definition of biotechnology is “applied biology” through the application of biological knowledge and techniques to develop products or services. It may be further defined as the use of living organisms to make a product or run a process. By this definition, the classic techniques used for plant and animal breeding, fermentation and enzyme purification are to be considered biotechnology.

The term is also used to refer to the newer tools of genetic science. In this context, biotechnology may be defined as the use of molecular methods to modify the genetic materials of living cells so that they will produce new substances or perform new functions. Examples include recombinant DNA technology, in which a copy of a piece of DNA containing one or a few genes is transferred between organisms or “recombined” within an organism.

Biotechnology is at the forefront of the knowledge economy. In its broadest sense, it is the commercial exploitation of living organisms or their components.

Biotechnology aims to apply the latest molecular techniques to modern-day problems in industrial and environmental situations. Fundamental research in these areas will help to shape the development of the industrial world.  UWC’s international reputation for research enables us to teach at the cutting edge of biotechnology. Students work in close collaboration with research-active scientists on problems of real significance, making use of the considerable research expertise and facilities available on campus.

Biotechnologist tend to be

  • Innovative
  • Curious
  • Meticulous
  • Independent workers/thinkers
  • People who love science and nature and are eager to make a positive contribution to their natural and social environment

Skills acquired

  • Research techniques
  • Scientific writing skills
  • Use of Biological databases
  • Ability to work under pressure
  • Presentation skills


  • B.Sc. (Biotechnology)
  • B.Sc. Honours (Biotechnology)
  • M.Sc. (Biotechnology)
  • Ph.D.

UWC Supports Sustainability


The Department of Biotechnology at UWC, is unique in South Africa, has a proud history of graduating students and in developing leading scientists.

The Department of Biotechnology is dedicated to excellence in undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and passionate about research.  The department currently encompasses fourteen full-time members of staff in teaching and research and more than 120 postgraduate students.  Current specializations include Agricultural and Food Biotechnology, Environmental Microbiology, Metagenomics, Applied Genomics, Forensics, Nanotechnology, Structural Biology and Pharmacogenetics.  It is accommodated in the University’s new Life Sciences Building, providing state of the art research facilities and equipment.

The Department has fourteen academic staff members, each of whom has a research laboratory space to carry out a wide variety of molecular, biotechnology and general microbiology projects.  There are several indicators that reflect the strong research focus of staff and students of the Department. 

While UWC provides an excellent infrastructure, staff members of the Department receive good financial support from statutory bodies such as the National Research Foundation (NRF), Innovation Fund, THRIP, PlanBio Trust, Medical Research Council and the Water Research Commission.  Our research is further supported by way of contracts and sponsorships from industry and foreign funding sources.

Staff and students produce approximately 25-30 refereed research publications per year in quality international journals.  The consistent output of papers and research students is recognized in the high average level of researcher evaluations by the NRF.  Staff of the Department is active in a large number of national and international activities.  These include duties as editor and membership of editorial boards of journals.  Staff members serve on the Councils of the South African Society for Microbiology, the Royal Society of South Africa as well as committees of the International Union of Microbiology Societies (IUMS) and several other international scientific committees.

The undergraduate Biotechnology program consists of three main streams and offers excellence in laboratory techniques within the following disciplines:

Microbiology – the study of microorganisms, including viruses, prokaryotes and simple eukaryotes, today, most of the work in microbiology is done using methods from molecular biology.

Biochemistry – studying the molecules and chemical reactions catalyzed by enzymes that take place in all living organisms, thus the chemistry of life.

Molecular Biology – the science of studying the genetic composition, and mechanism of living organisms at the molecular level, it historically refers to the understanding and manipulation of genes (DNA).

This programme of study provides an appropriate academic background for a professional career in the traditional and emerging biotechnology industries. Standards are high but career prospects are excellent.  Graduates are likely to qualify for technical and research assistant positions within fundamental and applied research positions in Research Institutes and Universities, Biotechnology companies, Agricultural and Food companies, the brewing, dairy and other traditional fermentation industries, pharmaceutical manufacturers as well as diagnostic facilities in medicine and agriculture

Contact Person

​ ​Ms Francis Starkey

Administrative Officer 

Tel : 021 959-2215

Fax: 021 959-2557

Email: fstarkey@uwc.ac.za

Postal Address

Department of Biotechnology

New Life Sciences Building, 2nd Floor, Core 1

University of the Western Cape

Modderdam Road

P/Bag X17




Department of Biotechnology

New Life Sciences Building, 2nd Floor, Core 1

University of the Western Cape 

Modderdam Road